Turnstile lets San Antonio be themselves at the Aztec Theatre

A recap of the best hardcore show of the year

Cesar Soto, Staff Writer

Rating: 4.5 stars

The pits opened up and never closed as the world’s fastest-rising hardcore band, Turnstile, stopped in San Antonio as part of their Love Connection Tour on Friday, Nov. 11. The sold-out Aztec Theatre was the perfect venue, feeling both incredibly intimate and wildly insane with the most explosive energy from both the band and the fans from start to finish.

After the first opener, Fugitive, was Snail Mail, the project of Baltimore-based musician Lindsey Jordan. The indie rock sound of her music was highly unlike the music Turnstile plays, but it was nice to see the band bring musicians on the tour that they enjoy, especially given the hometown connection they share. The performance had its hiccups, with quite a few instances where Jordan would stop to call out to the sound technicians to make changes. There was also a moment where she told the crowd to wake up, saying something along the lines of them looking bored but her being even more bored playing. 

Although the music she and her band played was impressive, with Jordan’s vocals being an excellent highlight throughout, her annoyance with the crowd made the atmosphere not as exciting as it could have been for Turnstile’s opening act. Nevertheless, the crowd still expressed their approval with many cheers throughout her set.

At 9:10 p.m., it was time for Turnstile to begin their headlining performance. Before the band even touched the stage, the set began with Whitney Houston’s “I Wanna Dance With Somebody” blaring over the speakers, already getting the crowd jumping and singing along. The band appeared to thunderous cheers and opened with “HOLIDAY,” the first song of their hour-long setlist. They went on to play some of their older songs like “Real Thing” and “Big Smile,” which the crowd really responded to, but the majority of tracks were from “GLOW ON,” the album that led to their major breakthrough success this year.

The pit at the Aztec Theatre is not the largest, but initial concerns about how much space there would be for mosh pits were quickly squashed. The entire crowd understood the assignment, with nonstop moshing from the left to the right of the pit. The limited space didn’t allow for more classic hardcore moshing, but the intensity was certainly always there, with lots of crowd surfing and shouting from the fans who knew just about every lyric to every song.

The Baltimore-based band continued with “BLACKOUT,” featuring the nastiest breakdown of the night, and “UNDERWATER BOI,” one of the calmest songs in contrast to the others. Yet, no matter the overall mood of the tracks, frontman Brendan Yates fully delivered with not only his vocal performance but the sheer amount of fun energy he brought to the stage, dancing around free-spirited without a care in the world. 

The other band members — Franz Lyons on bass, Pat McCrory on guitar, Daniel Fang on drums and Greg Cerwonka filling in on lead guitar during the tour — also contributed to what was an incredible-sounding hardcore show. Even Lyons and Fang had their moments to shine. Lyons spotlighted his underrated vocals on the songs “Moon” and “NO SURPRISE,” and Fang received an exceptional drum solo in the middle of the set when he kept going with no apparent end in sight.

After the crowd’s loudest singalong came and went with “ALIEN LOVE CALL,” the show started to reach its finish with “MYSTERY,” the intro track to “GLOW ON” that ensured the crowd still had enough in the tank to finish things out. Introducing the final track of the night, Yates gave a farewell to the crowd, thanking them for coming, for taking care of each other and for being themselves, which everyone from the balcony down to the pit felt so strongly. It tied perfectly into “T.L.C. (TURNSTILE LOVE CONNECTION)” — the song that best defines Turnstile as a band.

With Yates encouraging the crowd to “shake this whole place up,” they did so accordingly, opening up some of the largest pits of the night, with the band capitalizing on that excitement by firing massive confetti cannons into the crowd. It made for a delightful sight that further emphasized the feelings of love and acceptance that characterized their entire performance. Then as if there wasn’t enough love in the Aztec Theatre, before exiting the stage, Yates jumped up to the front of the pit in front of all the fans as they screamed the lyric, “I want to thank you for letting me be myself.”

What has been great about the band’s success is that they have made music that, while accessible to large groups of people, is still fundamentally hardcore music, and the crowd treated it as such on this night. While feeling slightly short for a headlining set, the full hour that they played was some of the most intense and dedicated performances you will ever see from a band on stage, and the energy that the Aztec Theatre crowd gave back to them matched that same level of intensity. As they continue to play festivals and head out on their opening tour dates for Blink-182’s arena shows, it will be no surprise to see Turnstile grow even more heading into 2023. Based on how they performed in San Antonio, it is absolutely deserved.