“Being A Freak” With Felix Hagan & The Family in Hamburg (18.11.2018)

Sing loud
Especially if you can’t sing
Dance like you don’t care at all
And be proud
‘Cos baby you’re the best thing ever ever ever

(Be A Freak ~ Felix Hagan & The Family, 2017)

On Sunday, 18th November amidst my crazy run of Frank Turner shows in November I had the chance to see one of my favourite bands – Felix Hagan & The Family – finally play a gig in Germany. Since then I’ve been incredibly busy with work and knackered from being busy with work, but this weekend I finally felt in the right mindset to write a few words about that gig. That band. This songwriter. They need a bit of introduction, I think.

The first time I ever heard of them was when Frank Turner recommended them in one of the many interviews he does year after year. It might have been 2015 or early 2016. He was full of praise, but Frank praises a lot of bands / artists all the time and it’s hard to keep track. I know I didn’t look them up back then. At the end of 2016 Frank took Felix Hagan & The Family along as support for the UK tour, at which point I finally checked them out and listened to their music, as I had been heading to Eidnburgh for my 20th show in December 2016. I really enjoyed what I listened to, even though their musical style felt a bit all over the place. I don’t mean that in a bad way, not at all. It felt like a wild ride through all kinds of genres and decades actually, with a lot of musical theatre influence. Epic pieces like 1970s Meatloaf. Fantastic arrangements, great musicians and a lead singer with an incredible vocal range. From Youtube clips I had figured they’d be fun live and they definitely were on that night in Edinburgh two years ago. I didn’t pay too much attention to their lyrics at that time though. Their songs were fun to listen to, but that’s about it.

They released the first “proper” full band album in October 2017. It’s called “Attention Seeker” and it’s awesome, because it not just puts a spotlight on their glorious range of pop/rock/glam/punk/musical theatre with amazing arrangments and great instrumental contributation from everyone in the band. Listen to this and more importantly watch this and you might get an idea why their shows are so much fun.

Furthermore the album also showcases what an amazing lyricist Felix Hagan is. With this album there once again were some words that I could relate to and words that made me feel understood and words that made so much sense to me. The last time I felt this way about lyrics / songs was when I ‘discovered’ Frank Turner and look how that turned out ;-). My absolute favourite song on this album is “Be A Freak” and in May I wrote this about it.

The first part of the song feels like Felix had not just glimpsed into my mind but put a scalpel to it and dissected it for the world to see. (Excuse my theatrics here, Felix seem to bring that out in me). The chorus and the song itself is very uplifting and positive, so all in all it’s a song I obviously needed to hear.

It’s still one of my absolute Go-To-Songs, when my mood and my self esteem needs boosting. Which it still needs a lot. I was so thrilled that they played it at their first gig at Lost Evenings in May this year and that furthermore later that night I had the chance to thank Felix for playing it. As they are still a pretty unknown band in the UK I was pretty sure that my chances of me seeing them play a gig anytime soon were slim. Thus I was thrilled when in the summer they announced they’d support Arkells on their Germany / UK tour. And to see that their scheduled fit into my Frank Turner schedule and I only had to spend another night in Hamburg to catch their gig there. In a probably blatant “cry for connection” I tagged the band’s Twitter account merciless in my run up to the show. But it got me in my bandshirt in the front row an acknowledging wave from Tash the moment they got on stage, so it obviously worked :-)

In regards to being a fan of Frank Turner I’ve mentioned a few times how being a fan of his made me leave my comfort zones and do things, I never thought I’d be brave enough or confident enough to do. Similar thing happened for this gig in Hamburg. I knew I’d need to put some glitter on my face because… duh, that’s just what you do fo a Felix Hagan & The Family gig. I knew it’d be the most reasonable to do that in my hotelroom and not with a tiny mirror in the dark outside the venue. That would mean to get on the subway with glitter on my face. Gulp! Of course a part of me was worried that people would stare and worried what they would think of me and all that crap. I made myself do it anyway. Comfort zone my ass! And spoiler alert: Nobody gave a shit! And I had been worrying (only slightly but still) for nothing. Like I do so often.

I was sort of the first person at the venue, at least the first in the queue, because I really wanted to be up front for this probably singular event in my foreseeable future. I had slipped a bit on the cobbled path up to the venue and slightly twisted my ankle, which made me fear I’d not be able to dance and jump the way I’d planned and thus not fully enjoy the show. My ankle didn’t bother me too much during the shows (Felix Hagan & The Family and the Arkells after that) and later when I chatted with the band a bit. It really troubled me on the way back to my hotel when all the adrenalin wore off, but it was okay-ish the next morning and I got home with no trouble operating my car.

Anyway, while I and a few others – Arkells fans – were waiting outside, I could hear the band soundcheck and I was getting all excited, because they did play “Be A Freak” in soundcheck, at least the intro and a few bits. But I was also getting excited in general, hearing all the other songs they played a few chords of or sung a few lines from, because it meant that this was really happenening. They were just on the other side of the wall. Harmonising beautifully.

And what can I say about their gig as such? I had an absolute blast! And I can’t remember the last time I was jumping and dancing and flailing my arms with such disregard of how I would look like and what others might think. In the true sense of the lyrics quote at the beginging of this post. If you are now wondering if I don’t jump and dance at all the Frank Turner gigs I’ve been going to when I feel the need to stress how I danced at this gig? I do jump and dance at Frank gigs, but it is still so very different. Not all of Frank songs are really “danceable” and I’m usually in a much more crowded space, where you can’t move as freely. At this Felix Hagan & The Family / Arkells gig in Hamburg the crowd wasn’t as huddled together, especially not during the support slot. So I had some space to move and dance without a care and I did. Just like I do when I listen to their music in my livingroom. And it was so so much fun to “live” these lyrics

What does it feel like
What is it like to be shameless?
To dance from a to b
Footloose and fancy free
No fear or guilt to restrain us

The way Felix and Tash and Ellie dance and move so wild and energetically on stage also is quite infectious. You can’t just not move and dance along. At least I can’t. I really had one of the best nights this year because of all the energy and the dancing and the lyrics I could relate to and I just wish their set could have been a bit longer. Arkells as the main act were great of course and I had lots of fun singing and dancing with them as well, but it’s Felix’s lyrics I can so very much relate to. So I was a bit more detached emotionally during the Arkells set. Until they sang “Don’t Be A Stranger” and “Handmedowns” of course, because those songs are awesome and move me as well. But that’s a story for a potentially other post. Maybe someday.

After the show of course I wanted to say ‘Hi’ to the band, buy a new all glittery shirt and the CD and have it signed and chat for a bit and I had a lovely time with these guys at their merch table. I even took a photo with Felix, Ellie and Tash but the lighting was a bit crap, so I’m not going to share that here. My photos from the gig turned out ok, I think. I didn’t pay too much attention to changing the camera setting during the show, because I was too busy having fun!

A few days after the gig I was chatting on Instagram with one of the Arkells fans who had been there and at some point that guy wrote something like “It was such a joy to see you dance so enthusiastically during the support band’s set” and I admit that totally threw me off a bit in the first moment. I really suck at accepting a compliment. But I’m working on it and on not letting fear or guilt restrain me so much in the things I do or want to do. And this wonderful inspiring music will surely help me and my mind to get there…

[Here are a few photos, click to enlarge, as usual]

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