LIVE REVIEW: Turnstile @ House Of Vans, London (26/10/2018)

Credit: Jimmy Fontaine

Date: October 26th 2018
Venue: House Of Vans, London
Support: Big Cheese / Wicca Phase Springs Eternal


Maryland hardcore crew Turnstile have been riding a wave of critical acclaim recently, assisted massively by their latest record, ‘Time & Space’. Anyone here at their London show tonight is very fortunate, not only to be witnessing one of the hottest bands in hardcore, but tonight’s admission was based on the luck of the draw after names were placed into a ballot.

Tonight’s venue, House Of Vans, is certainly unorthodox to some degree. You walk through various spaces, including a dark room with skate ramps, a room with art displays, and much more. Some may scoff at this, but given that Turnstile blend a lot of outside elements into their music, it seems fitting for them to hold a more restricted show here.

Kicking things off is Leeds’ Big Cheese [7], an outfit with no pretension. Rooted in 1980s American hardcore stylings, they inspire a frenzy down the front. The strength in this set is determined heavily by their metallic riffage and groove-heavy drumming. For an opening act, it’s impressive that they’ve got the crowd going this well.

There’s little to point out here other than their trademark, but they’ve certainly helped generate some fervour. Songs like ‘Tower To The Sun’ are demonstrative of their no-nonsense approach, bringing some raucous fun, and it’s nice to see a band of this ilk not relying heavily on stoic, macho posturing.

Adam McIlwee (formerly of Tigers Jaw), who now performs under the moniker of Wicca Phase Springs Eternal [2], was always going to be up against it tonight. But, as much as diverse bills are a good thing on principle, many other crossover acts would’ve been far better suited to this billing than what’s on show.

With acts such as nothing,nowhere. gaining popularity recently, it’s understandable that some people are gravitating towards something like this, but those people can’t be populating greatly here. Some samples near the beginning of the set perk the ears, but it quickly nosedives into a plethora of tedium. A vocal delivery resembling a sedated, near-comatose Tom DeLonge combined with generic trap beats falls on deaf ears, and then some.

This is utterly, utterly flat, and it couldn’t be more cynically concocted to sound current if it tried. If you think this is harsh, ask numerous other attendees. They’ve decided that talking amongst themselves, or fucking off to the bar are both much more preferable options to enduring something that functions best as a general anaesthetic.

And now for a much-needed burst of excitement. Before Turnstile [8] hit the stage, ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ plays over the PA, and you know that they’re getting the crowd ready for something special. ‘Real Thing’ opens the show with its instantly recognisable guitar riff. The crowd shouts back the words, as is the case for ‘Generator’ and ‘I Don’t Wanna Be Blind’. It seems that everyone present is slamming into one other and losing themselves in reckless abandon, and it’s easy to see why Turnstile have earned their recent acclaim and adoration.

Their songs bring plenty of aggro, yet there’s an instantaneous, positive-energy bounce to their songs, and the sludgy coda to ‘Time & Space’‘s title-track sounds menacingly brilliant. There are also plenty enough cuts from their 2015 debut ‘Nonstop Feeling’ making an appearance, such as ‘Blue By You’, but Turnstile could play anything and this crowd would love it.

The only real negative is that the set feels like it’s over too quickly. Rather than play a self-indulgent encore, the band announce their last song ‘Moon’ and, of course, many sing-along, crowd surf, and slam into one another. Bassist Franz Lyons has no problems replicating the feel of this song into a live setting. Given how the vocal delivery of the song and the punk rock fury behind it seems like a juxtaposition on paper, it’s telling of how good the song is when Turnstile can end a show this manner.

The band have shown that they can share very much in common with old school bands like Bad Brains and go far beyond hero-worship. Only Code Orange seem to have got more attention in terms of current hardcore bands, but given by how many people in this room love and care deeply about Turnstile, they deserve to go even further towards stardom on the next album cycle.