In the middle of a blistering opening salvo on single “I Still Believe,” English folk rocker Frank Turner looked out over Canalside’s usual late-week gaggle of bouncing occupants and lyrically considered whether “something as simple as rock and roll would save us all.”
For one jubilant June night? Maybe, as Turner and his Sleeping Souls used their inclusive brand of pint-hoisting punk-folk to turn Buffalo’s riverfront into a jangling bash for the venue’s second serving of this year’s Thursday summer concert series.
For those introduced to Turner through alt radio hits on past albums “Tape Deck Heart” and last year’s “Positive Songs for Negative People,” understanding the Meonstoke, Hampshire native’s artistic trajectory may prove a bit dicey. Most acoustic rock troubadours don’t bloom from post-hardcore bands, but Turner did just that, advancing past his days with Million Dead to redirect his vocal and instrumental aggression in different ways.
Thursday night, Turner and Co. offered its gleefully driving style for those intent on agreeably bouncing to familiar tracks, participating in protest sing-a-longs or simply treating the Canalside occasion as recognition of Turner’s referred-to salvation.
After emerging to establish the night’s tone with the lede-noted opener, the scruffy Turner transitioned into the tandem of “The Next Storm” and “The Road,” joining guitarist Ben Lloyd, bassist Tarrant Anderson, drummer Nigel Powell, and multi-instrumentalist Matt Nasir to set the night’s plan of coerced crowd participation in motion.
Whether demanding clapping and stomping over details of the English Channel on “If I Ever Stray,” appealing to the crowd’s punk rock sensibilities on the DIY-focused “Try This at Home,” or summoning the ghost of Lemmy with a quick take on Motorhead’s iconic “Ace of Spades,” Turner demanded the sometimes-ambivalent Canalside crowd be part of the action. It was a night to engage with Turner and the Sleeping Souls’ cleaned-up street punks. Thankfully, the night’s crowd obliged.
Jumping on cobblestone to memorialize David Bowie on “Polaroid Picture.” Agreeing to a political sit-in during “Photosynthesis.” Dancing during college radio favorite “Recovery” and an encore serving of “Four Simple Words.” The crowd allowed Turner and friends to play conductors during the whole of their thrilling set and, in turn, show them how a genuine 90 minutes of music can allow for exhilarating escape – if only for an evening.
Before Turner came the amplified sexual tension that is July Talk. Accentuated by vocalist Leah Fay and guitarist/growler Peter Dreimanis, the Toronto quartet delivered favorites and new material off forthcoming September release “Touch” with the same carnal ferocity that’s typified the band’s previous local appearances. On new single “Push + Pull,” Fay and Dreimanis presented a more key-led, glittery vibe for Talk.
Juxtaposed with July Talk, the night kicked off via a waterfront hootenanny helmed by Cattaraugus County septet Uncle Ben’s Remedy. Those who arrived fashionably early got to see the Public Choice Battle of the Band winners carve through washboard-accented tracks off new release “Not Far from the Tree,” as well as the only rockabilly-backed verse of Madonna’s “Like a Prayer” likely to be performed in Buffalo this summer.