LIVE REVIEW: Turnstile @ ULU, London (13/03/2020)

Credit: Jimmy Fontaine

Date: March 13th 2020
Venue: ULU, London
Support: Gag / Glitterer


In the midst of the current COVID-19 pandemic, and the subsequent cancellation of many tours, bands on the road have been left in quite the predicament.

Several artists have understandably cut their runs short in order to return home promptly in light of the newly imposed travel ban, with even one of tonight’s scheduled support acts pulling out a mere few hours before the doors open.

What was originally slated to be the final UK date of the aptly named Share A View tour, will now be the very last night, with shows in both the Netherlands and Belgium being postponed. Therefore, tonight in London is, in a sense, a chance to dance the anxieties and stress away.

In this regard, Glitterer [8] couldn’t be a more perfect opener. The solo/side-project of Title Fight vocalist/bassist Ned Russin takes a startlingly unique and sparse approach to punk. While songs are markedly brief (most barely touching the one minute mark), the underlying layers of shimmery synth and electronica coalesce into a sound both familiar and fresh.

With no backing band in sight, all eyes are placed solely on Russin, who moves and juts around the stage with a jagged intensity and fragility. In some ways, it can almost be interpreted as performance art, with the character of Glitterer being brought fully to life in what can best be described as the most tragic, emo karaoke ever. It’s strange and passionate, but admittedly not to everyone’s taste.

On the other hand, Gag [7] inject a lethal dose of venom into the atmosphere. Switching out vulnerability for sheer menace, the group rip through a dizzying array of crust and grind infused punk. Offering a set made up predominately of tracks from their 2016 debut, ‘America’s Greatest Hits’, the added intensity of a full band bleeds into the crowd, sparking a momentous and chaotic energy that rarely ceases.

Vocalist Adam Barnes rasps and snarls in a grotesque manner that echoes Attila Csihar of Mayhem in terms of sheer inhumanity. When the frontman isn’t climbing railings and beams, he’s bounding the stage like a caged animal. All hell breaks lose when the band rip into fan favourite, ‘Pretty Boy’, inciting some of the most intense moshing of the entire evening. A concise and strategically short set, things seem to end just as they get going. When factoring in the brevity of their material and the styles the band deal in, it makes total sense.

The Turnstile [9] tribe have made a name for themselves as one of the most intense and energetic bands in modern music, and tonight is no exception. Harnessing the unified frustration of all those in attendance, the five friends from Baltimore turned hardcore darlings have one single item on their agenda – escapism.

With the opening chugs of ‘Fazed Out’, a palpable sense of energy lifts the crowd, both physically and emotionally. Stage-diving, crowd-surfing, and mosh pits are nothing out of the ordinary at a show of this nature, but it’s the positivity and camaraderie in which they’re displayed that’s a true testament to Turnstile. There’s arguably not a more motivating and ‘feel good’ band in hardcore; their angst riddled but ultimately hopeful anthems are deeply resonant and timely. Big singles, such as ‘Real Thing’ and ‘I Don’t Wanna Be Blind’, are met with precisely the same devotion as earlier, deeper cuts like ‘Canned Heat’ and ‘The Things You Do’.

Agile, curly-haired, and endlessly endearing frontman Brendan Yates rarely has his feet on the ground. He jumps, bounces, spins, moves and shakes like a man simultaneously listening to ten songs at once. His vocals are enraged yet earnest. There’s no growling or a single “bleugh” to be had here. This is hardcore that openly wades in its massive debt to the nineties, highlighting everything from the surf-rock tinged chugging guitar lines to the prioritisation of groove and bounce over beatdown. Indeed, several songs owe as much to early Beastie Boys and Rage Against The Machine as they do to the likes of Minor Threat.

Yates professes his immense love and gratitude, reminding us all to be kind and spread love always. It’s a refreshing message from a band routed in a genre so often perceived as endlessly nihilistic or aggressive. Enigmatic bassist Franz Lyons takes over lead vocal duties for closer, ‘Moon’, while Yates dances off like a man possessed.

By maintaining a sense of community that has taken them from basement shows to signing with major label Roadrunner Records, Turnstile continue to prove why they’re the most intriguing, unique, and genuine band in hardcore today.