By Anna Walsh
In the middle of May on a weekend where much of Boston was attending high school and college graduations, a small festival put on its third iteration at the House of Blues. Throngs of fans zigzagged through crowds heading to Fenway Park to arrive at Lost Evenings III.
Lost Evenings is essentially a retrospective of Frank Turner’s career thus far, though he would not jump to characterize it that way. Turner took every possible opportunity to thank the festival organizers, crew, charity volunteers, other musicians, his fiancée, and the audience for making Lost Evenings III come together. His genuine gratitude and awe was visible, particularly on the final night of the festival. Still, Lost Evenings was four straight nights of headlining Frank Turner shows, so he and his band, the Sleeping Souls, were the undeniable centerpiece.
Great effort went into making the shows feel like a real festival, from hosting a daily open mic, panels, and tattoo sessions, to having a second stage in the basement of the House of Blues where smaller acts played all weekend.
I appreciated that Lost Evenings allowed people to participate as little or as much as they wanted in the “festival” activities. I was hanging out with my mom in Boston and thus missed many of these extraneous activities, but several people told me that the panels were informative, the open mic was fun, and the tattoo shop did great work.
Also worth noting is that charity was a huge aspect of the festival, with tables set up every day by local organizations. Proceeds from virtually every aspect of the fest went to the Ally Coalition, which uses musicians’ visibility to raise funds for the fight for LGBTQ+ equality, particularly for youth.
In between sets on all four nights, the guys from Koo Koo Kanga Roo emceed and played various games like Frank Turner trivia and crowd surfing races, which increased audience participation directly before bands would come on.
The first night of Lost Evenings III was Turner’s acoustic set, opened up by several acts including Loudon Wainwright. As a career songwriter from a family of musicians, Wainwright distinguished himself through his strong stage presence, using nearly as much time telling jokes and stories as he did playing songs. He was definitely the right choice to warm up a crowd teeming with excitement.
Turner’s set that night was one big singalong, complete with songs so deep in his catalog I had all but forgotten them. There’s something extremely cathartic in remembering a song as it’s being played, and I found an old comfort and newfound respect for Turner’s work in this acoustic format.
Night two was the one that attracted me to buying tickets to Lost Evenings in the first place: a lineup of Cory Branan, The Hold Steady, and then Turner with his full band celebrating the 10th anniversary of his second album, Poetry of the Deed.
Cory Branan is a Nashville kind of musician, a true rocker with twangs of country in his songwriting. I’d never seen him live
but eagerly anticipated it. I expected him to play his softer rock but instead got a blistering, pumped up set of his songs bolstered by electric guitar and big drums. In Frank Turner’s words, Branan’s musical abilities “made every guitar player in Boston feel a bit small.”
After Branan came The Hold Steady. If you haven’t seen them live, you really ought to look into it. The show was amazing. They only play a few shows per year, and catching just one will change your life.
By the time Frank and the Souls came out, the mood inside the House of Blues was jubilant. Poetry of the Deed is the album that rocketed Turner to success in his native England, and it’s no surprise much of the crowd on night two knew each and every song word for word.
In addition to playing all the songs on the album itself, Turner and the Souls played several B-sides and covers that he released around the same time, including a stripped-down version of Springsteen’s “Thunder Road.” This was a unique treat for the audience and filled out the band’s stage time.
I’ll admit that I didn’t attend the third night of Lost Evenings, dubbed the Be More Kind World Tour set. I had already seen Turner on that tour, and PUP, a band whose newest album, Morbid Stuff, is so refreshingly honest new album that I quickly became addicted to it, happened to be in town. I was, genuinely bummed to miss War on Women, however, who opened for Frank on Saturday and is one of the best hardcore bands around.
Finally it was Sunday, and after a nice meal in Boston’s Chinatown with my mom, I headed to the House of Blues for the final time. I was much sadder than I expected to be that the weekend was coming to a close. Somehow by simply attending these shows, I had nearly reconciled the certainty I felt as a teenager and the entropy that comes from growing into adulthood. By the end of night four, I was sure I had.
I arrived in the middle of Skinny Lister’s set, an anticipated British band that was a longtime tourmate of Frank Turner and the Sleeping Souls. They play a raucous hybrid of Celtic punk and folk, complete with a flagon of ale passed around toward the end of the set.
After them came Against Me!, whom I have seen play every kind of room, from a warmup show with an audience of 20 in a college cafeteria to a sold-out arena opening for Green Day. Their energy is the same every time: through the roof. This show was no exception, and because of their broad popularity, you would have thought they were the headliner.
But of course, the fearless leader of Lost Evenings came on with the Sleeping Souls for their final set, themed as a Greatest Hits set.
The final set was phenomenal. It was a nonstop ride through many of the songs that instantly convert unsuspecting people into feral Frank Turner fans. Old friends and new danced, swayed, screamed, and sang for a completely earnest band playing their hearts out. It made the ending of my lovely weekend more sweet than bitter, and I returned home blissful and hopeful.
Lost Evenings III was clearly a success for all involved, and Turner has already announced that the 4th annual festival will take place in May 2020, in Berlin, Germany. If you find yourself in the area, you should find yourself at the shows.