Sworn In

Last month the Barcelonan night club Bikini received a visit from Frank Turner, who is usually described in his native UK as a folk singer, though his music is about as close to folk as the oeuvre  of Chuck Palahniuk is to that of Beatrix Potter. He also swears like a plastered trooper ("Let's hear it for David fucking Bowie!") which might seem a bit of an imposture given that he comes from what sounds like a refined background (his father is a City investment banker and Turner himself went to Eton). A background he must have abandoned as soon as he came of age, given that his songs sound like a cross between CRASS and Billy Bragg; laced with autobiographical honesty, they deal in part with his once heavy drinking, his wobbly personality ('uncomfortable me'), his youthful anarchism and failed love affairs, and their lyrics are better than good. One tiny sample: 'I'm sick and tired of people who are living on the B-list/They're waiting to be famous and they're wondering why they do this/And I know I'm not the one who's habitually optimistic/But I'm the one who's got the microphone here so just remember this/Life is about love, last minutes and lost evenings/About fire in our bellies and furtive little feelings'. All this delivered with an energy that's like being slapped in the face with an electric eel. Now, I'd been listening to him for over a year so knew more or less what I was in for when he ran onto the Bikini's stage, but my jaw dropped when after the first two openers he addressed his audience in perfect Catalan and then, reading from a sheet of paper, sang a short improvised song in that same language. Only about half the audience were from here (the rest were mainly British and American) but they cheered Turner's gesture with the same unmistakable enthusiasm that the rest of the audiences on his European tour will doubtless cheer his surely inevitable greetings in Dutch, Danish, Czech, Polish and so on. In other words, the reaction of the Catalans in the Bikini – who weren't waving any flags and almost certainly didn't all think alike politically - was, quite simply, normal. Nobody can know for sure exactly where the massive pro-indy demonstrations of the last four years and the current pro-indy majority in the Catalan parliament will take us, but they have at least achieved one thing: we are definitely on the map and so we can as good as take ourselves for granted, which is a considerable relief after having been deliberately kept hidden for so very, very long. So thank-you, Frank Turner. On your next visit, here's hoping you'll pack the Palau Sant Jordi.

Matthew Tree, Catalonia Today, abril del 2016


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