Maryland punks Turnstile have been steadily growing their profile over the last decade. Formed in 2010, they’ve quietly been influencing new music by everyone from metal mainstays Mastodon to hyped Gen-Z pop-punks Pinkshift, scoring spots on TV commercials for mega brands (Taco Bell, anyone?) and building a dedicated fanbase off the back of their dynamic live performances and the presence of the impossibly magnetic frontman Brendan Yates. On the opening night of Riot Fest in Chicago on Friday, they proved exactly why they’re becoming Kind Of A Big Deal.
Just two years ago at the same festival Turnstile were placed in a 2pm time slot. This year they were rightly upgraded to a coveted spot just before the night’s final act on the festival’s largest stage. Their set showed that frankly, they should’ve been headlining.
With banger after banger – 18 songs in all, including a handful of tracks from 2021’s Glow On, as well as some cuts from 2018’s Time & Space and their 2015 debut Nonstop Feeling – they proved they’re right on track to becoming one of the biggest alternative bands in the world. Having recently earned Grammy nominations and support slots on arena tours with punk mainstays like My Chemical Romance and the reunited classic lineup of Blink-182, as well as performing on Jimmy Fallon’s Tonight Show and Tiny Desk concerts on NPR, they’re a band in the midst of transforming from local hardcore band to massive crossover success. But, even while Glow On showed the band at their most eclectic and expansive (Yates admits his influences run the gamut from Bad Brains to Enya) they’ve not compromised their art or sound yet.
This evening they played late enough that only power pop duo Tegan and Sara were playing at the same time. Most of the 50,000-strong crowd wisely opted for Turnstile. Crowds were also growing as fans gathered to catch headliner Foo Fighters, who were scheduled immediately afterward on an adjoining stage. Turnstile’s set may have reminded those Foo Fighters fans of what their favourite band used to be – energetic, hungry and poised to take over the world. From set opener Mystery, Yates blew every other band who had performed that day clean off the stage with his energy, ripping off his shirt early on, spinning and contorting himself across the stage to the rhythm of drummer Daniel Fang, guitarist Pat McCrory and bassist Franz Lyons. Glow On’s Endless followed, before Time & Space’s Come Back For More, by which point Yates’ shirt was long gone, disappeared into a frenetic crowd.
Packing 18 songs into an hour means you’ve got to be a tight musical operation, something Turnstile have proved they are over and over again at this summer’s various festival performances. In Chicago, an hour passes in a flash, and many in the crowd plead for more after set-closer T.L.C., (Turnstile Love Connection) draws their performance to an end. For Turnstile and this Riot Fest crowd, a new love connection was certainly made. Turnstile will be back. Only next time, they’ll be headlining.