Six Years Since Wembley: Fans and Xtra Mile Remember Frank Turner's Landmark Arena Show
"Were we supposed to be there? It felt like we had broken in!" – Dani Cotter, Xtra Mile Recordings.
Six years ago today, Frank Turner headlined Wembley Arena. It was a culmination of six years of hard graft. Since releasing Campfire Punkrock in 2006, Frank had been on the road taking on small rooms and building up his credentials and fanbase. Reaching Wembley Arena must have seemed an insurmountable task some days playing to a 100 or so people. Even his most ardent supporters, of which I was one, were shocked and ecstatic with each mile marker passed. Sold out the Camden Barfly, where he recorded the album version of 'The Ballad of Me and My Friends'. Sold out the Kings Cross Scala. Sold out Shepherd's Bush Empire, immortalised on the live DVD and download album Take to the Road. Each step seemed like the crescendo, the plateau, the fabled glass ceiling. Not because we didn't think he could do it but because, more than anything, we were suspicious of getting too excited and the industry somehow letting us down in some way. We'd never been the in-thing. We weren't meant to get that far. Who's allowing THIS? Of course it had way more to do with Frank and those who heard him, picking up new fans through word-of-mouth, radio play and friends taking loved ones to shows. It turns out that there is no limit if you keep going, forget your own restrictions (and ignore those implied or explicitly set by others) and before you go out searching, don't just decide what you will find.
Wembley Arena, then. Everyone turned out (except for me, I was living in Australia at the time). Friends, family, journalists and critics, distribution staff, tour managers, and of course, fans. All extensions of the XMR family made it and it felt like a triumph. Read how people felt at the time below and enjoy remembering a monolith of gigs in the annals of Frank's career.
"Going to Wembley was one of the most rewarding and thrilling experiences of my life, and kickstarted a love affair with the city of London, and the people in the community surrounding Frank and Xtra Mile Recordings as a whole." – Valerie Gritsch, Xtra Mile Recordings
Also, to celebrate this anniversary, we've taken 30% off all the Frank Turner at Wembley merchandise in the shop until the end of May. So grab something from there to reminisce with us.
Valerie Gritsch – Keeper of the Xtra Mile Social Media Kingdom
In the fall of 2011, Frank Turner announced he’d be headlining Wembley Arena. A clear and amazing milestone in his career. I joked about flying over for it from New York City - which I thought was hilarious, especially since I was broke and had never set foot on a plane before. Yet after a lot of encouragement from my friends, and a lot of hustling to raise the money for flights and accommodations, I was booked up to fly to London by myself. My first flight ever, alone, transatlantic and I was planning to meet up with a ton of people I had never actually met in real life before. I was very lucky the Frank Turner fan community was not full of psychotic murderers!
I was met at Heathrow by a friend I made through Tumblr. I met more over the course of the trip, at the Barfly (RIP) for Xtra Mile’s Night Before Wembley bash with the likes of Dave Hause, Ben Marwood, Jim Lockey, Crazy Arm and Billy Fucking Bragg playing. On the morning of the 13th, I left my hotel and went down to the arena to queue all day with all my internet-friends-turned-real-life-friends. People I had only seen as avatars, as screen names, as comments on Facebook. This community I loved and was a part of that wasn’t tangible, was suddenly all around me outside the legendary venue.
When the show started, I left my new friends as they all had general admission tickets and I had a seat. I sat alone watching Beans On Toast, Dan Le Sac vs Scroobius Pip, and of course Frank Turner and the Sleeping Souls. I was all alone in this sold out arena but had never felt so connected to thousands of people before in such a way. I cried as the confetti shot out at the end of the night, singing along to my favorite songs with strangers who felt like lifelong friends, who I never saw again. Going to Wembley was one of the most rewarding and thrilling experiences of my life, and kickstarted a love affair with the city of London, and the people in the community surrounding Frank and Xtra Mile Recordings as a whole. This simple, silly, bizarre trip to see an artist I loved in another country changed my life in such a powerful way.
Dani Cotter – Xtra Mile Recordings
Six years since Wembley? Feels like it should be longer. So much has changed and happened since then. Frank has obviously gone on to do bigger and better things – play bigger rooms all over the world, have gold selling albums, and with Xtra Mile signing a deal with major label Polydor to release Frank’s records, he has become a household name.
But six years ago it was just the small team of XMR, Frank and the Sleeping Souls, the touring crew and the extended family who had been with him since those early days of a solo career. Together we had somehow helped Frank progress from playing small pub shows to bigger and bigger rooms over the course of four album campaigns and now, on the morning of 13 April 2012, we were standing in Wembley Arena laughing at the ridiculousness of it all. Were we supposed to be there? It felt like we had broken in! It was the first time Frank had ever been to an arena concert. You wouldn’t have known. Frank and the band filled the room like it was a house party. Everyone in the venue felt like they had in some way or another helped get Frank and the band to that point. We were perpetually the underdogs, never on trend or considered cool. And yet here we were, selling out Wembley, with critics from all the broadsheets scribing reviews and journalists from key press doing interviews. DJ Steve Lamacq played between acts. Billy Bragg supported! Beans On Toast wrote a new song and crowdsurfed to the bar.
A celebration. A triumph. A fucking great night out. In my top ten gigs of all time. And a career highlight. Thanks for an excellent memory Frank.
Pauline McAllister – Beans on Toast’s mum
I am not your average Frank Turner fan. I am old. In fact, I am old enough to be his mum. My youngest son and Frank are besties and there's only one year between them. It's through him that I discovered Frank. My son used to run the music at a pub in London, and it was here mainly that Frank went 'solo' from Million Dead. I guess I must have seen Frank at this pub as I went there quite often, but I don't actually remember that. When his first album came out I was hooked - and still am. I've witnessed mainly from afar (but also attended many gigs) his rise from small venues to what can be called The Ultimate – Wembley in London. What a feat; but so well deserved. Pure talent and hard work had paid off.
I was lucky enough to have a splendid vantage point for this brilliant gig. My son was opening the show so I was privileged to be on the guest list. And what a show it was! Frank had the crowd in the palm of his hand (as always). Great atmosphere. Brilliant energy. Just the best. When Frank sings the track 'Dan's Song' live he often calls someone on the stage to play the harmonica part. At the festival Blissfields, the previous summer, he spotted me at the front of the crowd and told me to come up and do it! How I ever got over the barrier and up on to the stage I'll never know, although I do remember a very discreet hand from a security guy giving assistance, plus another one bending over and telling me to stand on his back. I am no lightweight! That was my five minutes of fame. So, back to Wembley. As he starts the song, I'm thinking 'can't help you this time Frank, I'm too far away' But it was okay, he had his own mum waiting in the wings to do the job. "So who gave the best performance?", I hear you ask. Well, you should have been at both and you would have come to your own conclusion. The whole evening was as good as it could be and I shall remember it for a very long time.
Nick Hartley-Smith – Fan and XMR Market Rep
Amazing to think that its now six years since Frank played his first arena show at Wembley. Having got tickets sorted the day they went on sale, it became a day of celebration. From Beans On Toast opening the show, Dan Le Sac vs. Scroobius Pip ripping the roof off the arena, and Billy Bragg handing his folk troubadour baton over to Frank, the whole show felt like it was the day where everyone came together. Most people you spoke to at the time didn't know who this bloke was that had sold out Wembley but everyone in that arena partied as one. It didn't feel like there was anyone there that hadn't seen Frank in a venue where he was close enough to sweat on you, and as such it became a celebration of the underground, of the underdog. While not the first time I'd seen him (or by any stretch the last!) it's still one of the most impressive shows I've seen in an arena. No fancy stage effects (except a bit of confetti and some streamers at the end) but a focus on the power of these songs that the 12,000 fans sang back as loud as they could. That was what the whole day was about. As many arenas as Frank has played since, nothing feels as wonderful as that first arena show.