Turnstile's Toronto Love Connection Was Evident Before Their Set Even Started

Phoenix Concert Theatre, May 19

With Citizen, Ceremony, Truth Cult, Ekulu

Photo: Chris Gee

BY Paul DikaPublished May 20, 2022

Since the release of their third LP GLOW ON last August, Turnstile have been a dominant force and keep gaining steam. The Baltimore hardcore mainstays have made countless appearances on year-end lists (including Exclaim!'s Best Albums and Best Songs of 2021), late-night talk shows (with a Jimmy Fallon appearance scheduled a few days from now) and major festival lineups (including Montreal's Osheaga in August). Right now, they're firing on all cylinders, dipping their toes into the mainstream and finding even more success. Riding the wave of milestones and critical acclaim, the Turnstile Love Connection tour rolled through Toronto Thursday night (May 19), where a sold-out crowd packed the Phoenix to experience one of today's hottest hardcore punk bands. 

For their first major North American headlining tour, Turnstile decided to bring with them a robust lineup of bands. Fans who showed up for doors were treated to a whopping four opening acts: New York hardcore act Ekulu, fellow Baltimoreans Truth Cult, punk vets Ceremony and Ohio post-hardcore/post-punks Citizen did their best to hype up fans and set the tone for the evening.

By the time Citizen took the stage, the majority of the sold-out crowd had already packed themselves into the venue. Mat Kerekes and co. blistered through a tight half-hour set dominated by their newer material, which brought a punchy dance-rock energy. For the most part, Citizen stuck to songs off their latest album Life in Your Glass World, however, the Toledo group still mixed in post-hardcore jams "The Summer" and "Roam the Room" from their debut effort Youth to please their old-school fans (of which there appeared to be many). With so many opening bands, Citizen focused on keeping the energy and momentum high, leaving the audience feeling amped and ready for the night's headliners.

While members of Turnstile began to check their gear, those crammed towards the front of the stage started to chant for bassist Franz Lyons, who was kind enough to take a brief pause and sign a fan's poster. As the rest of the band tuned up, stops to briefly wave and acknowledge those trying to get their attention became quite common. As they wrapped up their changeover, Whitney Houston's "I Wanna Dance with Somebody" came over the house music, and seemed to catch the ears of those impatiently waiting. As the song continued, the volume became louder and louder, which encouraged more singing and more dancing from the crowd. Turnstile have always thrived on the connection and community that exists within their live shows, and the pop banger really set the tone for a night focused on the ability to celebrate the return of that feeling. 

Once Whitney wrapped up, the house lights were cut and Turnstile slowly made their way to the stage. Once they were equipped with instruments in-hand, they ripped into GLOW ON opener "MYSTERY," setting the crowd off as lead vocalist Brendan Yates (wearing a T-shirt with "THANK YOU" written across the chest) stepped up to the mic and belted out the song's opening lines. Once he did, it was as if he realized he was no longer needed, and the entire room was able to take over. Yates opted to hold his mic stand toward the crowd during the final chorus, as the room filled with therapeutic screams of "And it's been so long." From then on, and through the rest of their set, the band would allude to the album's themes that emphasize the importance of togetherness and the bonds formed from experiencing live music. For those beginning to return to live events, Turnstile aimed and succeeded at providing a cathartic live experience that elevated their material in a way that's only possible in a live setting.

Banter was sparse, as feedback and water-logged riffs filled the short gaps between songs. Turnstile have always let their music do the talking, and this Toronto show was no exception. The band barreled through about a half-dozen songs, most of which were from the new album, before Yates surveyed the crowd with a thumbs up asking, "Is everyone alright?" Songs like "UNDERWATER BOI" and "BLACKOUT" elicited big reactions, with the latter producing one of the loudest sing-along choruses of the entire show. Following the first batch of songs, the group treated long-time fans with a block of older songs, including several off of 2015's Nonstop Feeling, demonstrating the band's longevity in writing catchy, groove-heavy hardcore tunes.

By the time they had made it to the end of their hour-long set, Turnstile had played through almost the entirety of GLOW ON plus a decent amount of other knee-benders from their back catalogue. Before launching into their last song, Yates came down from the stage and asked people along the barrier their name. Upon returning to the stage, he expressed his appreciation and love for those who were there, matching the gratitude of fans who were finally able to experience one of the most intriguing bands in recent memory.

With that, they launched into "T.L.C. (TURNSTILE LOVE CONNECTION)", sending everyone at the Phoenix into one final frenzy. Yates gave up the mic for others as they collectively shouted a chorus of "I want to thank you for letting me see myself, I want to thank you for letting me be myself". A fitting end to a highly anticipated and long-overdue night for many, fans were left overwhelmingly satisfied. Both Turnstile and their fans gave it their all from the minute the music started, and were rewarded with a unique performance that will reaffirm fans' notions that Turnstile have become a must-see act. On GLOW ON's "NO SURPRISE," they sing, "You really gotta see it live" — as it turns out, they were 1000 percent right.

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