After two years of the pandemic and largely socially distanced gigs, the scenes here feel surreal. Every inch of the sold-out, ram-packed venue hosts a heaving body. Hair is flailed and heads are banged. A succession of fans – many of them upside down, chunky footwear in the air – crowdsurf towards the stage, where they are helped down by security. Some people manage to actually get on the stage itself, launching themselves skyward back into the heaving throng.
The jubilant atmosphere is partly informed by this week’s abandonment of Covid restrictions – only the venue’s powerful new ventilation system suggests anything has changed since 2020 – but also reflects how the Baltimore, Maryland band have become arguably the current hardcore punk scene’s most exciting band. Turnstile certainly stepped up a level with last year’s eclectic third album, Glow On, which combines hardcore with elements of soul, psychedelia and at least one Latin-funk breakdown.
Being unable to tour it until now means Turnstile hit the stage with the ferocity of uncaged wild animals. There is barely a second’s pause between each song, as if the five-piece – all splayed legs and raised hoods – are racing against more than the early curfew. There are briefs forays into electronica and Underwater Boi and Alien Love Call detour into sparkling dream-pop, but with drummer Daniel Fang beating up a storm, live the focus is on riffs and rocking hard.
Bare-chested singer Brendan Yates’s judo twirls and kicks provide an unusual addition to the arsenal of a frontman whose melodically barked vocals are jointly reminiscent of Jane’s Addiction’s Perry Farrell and Killing Joke’s Jaz Coleman. With the singer running on the spot or raising his mic stand above his head, audience participation turns songs into raucous, joyous singalongs.
“It’s good to see so many of you after so long. We love you,” he smiles, before singer and audience sing Turnstile Love Connection’s Sly Stone reference (“I want to thank you for letting me see myself”) together, celebrating the return of the hardcore live experience.