Frank Turner played a surprise set at London’s squatted 12 Bar Club earlier this evening (February 2).
The Soho venue was closed earlier this year, but has been occupied by a group of squatters called ‘Bohemians 4 Soho’ since January 23.
Turner appeared in the beleaguered Denmark Street venue’s back room at the event organised by SupaJam, standing on a table and playing an acoustic guitar without the assistance of a PA to a packed out crowd. Frank Turner’s set included covers of Jamie T’s ‘Sheila’, Billy Bragg’s ‘New England’ and he opened with ‘Heart of the Continent’ by John K Samson of Canadian band The Weakerthans.
Since the Bohemians 4 Soho group took over the property in January an injunction order has been posted on the venue doors banning parties, the playing of music and distribution of alcohol. Despite this, starting at 8.30pm, Turner performed a boisterous 16 song set, which included singles ‘I Still Believe’, ‘The Way I Tend to Be’, ‘Recovery’, ‘Peggy Sang the Blues’, ‘The Road’ and ‘Photosynthesis’.
Speaking to NME, Turner – who acted as ambassador for the recent Independent Venue Week – explained his reasons for playing the show. “The most important thing to say is that I know it’s a losing battle,” said Turner. “We’re not going to save the 12 Bar – the 12 Bar’s going to go. The reason that I’m here today is partly because I’ve never actually played the 12 Bar, but it’s a way of saying goodbye. Also, I think it’s important in life to stand up and be counted for the things that you care about.”
He continued: “We’re outnumbered and outgunned, those of us that care about Denmark Street, but we’re not worthless, we’re not meaningless and it’s important to say, every now and again, ‘I think this is bullshit’. More value should be placed on the venues in which our culture takes place. If this was an opera house, this wouldn’t be happening, but it’s a rock and roll bar.”
The closure of the 12 Bar Club follows that of Soho’s Madame Jo-Jo’s, which was shut at the end of last year. “Cities change, that’s part of what I love about living in London, it’s an organic place and things change all the time, but there’s just less and less reasons for anyone interested in alternative culture to come to Soho now,” commented Turner. “But while you can’t stem the tide, you can stand in the middle of it with your arms folded and go ‘I do not support this’. In Britain, rock and roll is the runt of the litter as far as culture and the arts is concerned and I think that’s bullshit, not least because unlike quite a lot of the arts, we’re not government subsidised.”
Frank Turner played:
‘Heart of the Continent’
‘If Ever I Stray’
‘The Real Damage’
‘I Knew Prufrock Before He Got Famous’
‘The Way I Tend to Be’
‘Peggy Sang the Blues’
‘Four Simple Words’
‘A New England’
‘Love Ire & Song’
‘Plain Sailing Weather’
‘The Ballad of Me and My Friends’
‘I Still Believe’
Creation Records founder Alan McGee’s latest signing Alias Kid performed an acoustic set at the bar last week (January 26).
Since the Denmark Street location opened in 1994, the 12 Bar Club has been a key breaking ground for unsigned artists. The venue saw UK debuts from the likes of Jeff Buckley, Katie Melua, Keane, and Adele, as well as performances from The Libertines and Jamie T.
Meanwhile, a new official outpost of the venue has opened on Holloway Road in north London, at Phibbers pub.