There’s no better punk band right now than Turnstile. I know, that’s a big statement, but after seeing their Love Connection tour stop in Toronto on October 4th, I am absolutely sure of it. Based on their groundbreaking new record, GLOW ON, this tour is proof to the naysayers that hardcore punk rock isn’t going anywhere and solidifies their place as the crème de la crème of the genre. Still don’t believe me? They were tapped as the openers for Blink-182’s North American reunion tour next year and if that isn’t the coveted punk co-sign, I don’t know what is. When I told my American friend that I was going, he jealously said, “Going to a Turnstile show is like going to the Met Gala these days,” and my goodness was he ever right. The openers, JPEGMafia and Snail Mail, set the tone from the beginning allowing Turnstile to further build on the hype for a fever pitch headlining set. Leaving the venue elated from the hardcore live energy, I finally understood why the show sold out within seconds. Turnstile’s love connection to Toronto made for the craziest crowd experience I’ve ever had (so far).
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Before I get to Turnstile, I must talk about the astoundingly good openers. Hitting the stage first was Peggy himself, aka JPEGMafia, screaming into the mic as he performed “Jesus Forgive Me, I Am A Thot”. Peggy’s energy was off the charts and made a venue that was only half-full at the time feel like a sold-out arena. If anyone wasn’t on board with his in-your-face approach, they were quickly won over by his performance of “BALD!” as he shouted out his fellow bald friends in the audience while spraying water at everyone else. After performing fan-favorite “1539 N. Calvert” at the barricade, he did an autotune cover of Carly Rae’s “Call Me Maybe”, queueing the first sing-along of the evening. Then, to ring in the spooky vibes of October, he asked the venue to cut all of the lights so he could perform “Rainbow Six” in complete darkness while the crowd began the first mosh pit of the evening. Before heading out, he screamed “Well I go hard like TIMMY” as he performed his verse from Denzel Curry’s “Vengeance”. I have to give JPEG his flowers as I’ve never seen an opening artist take advantage of the moment as much as he did. His opening set converted me into a full-time fan and left me rapidly searching for his upcoming concerts because the next time he’s in town I’ll definitely be there.
Next up was Snail Mail, fresh off the release of her critically-acclaimed new record Valentine. While I admit she felt a tad out of place on this tour, her set silenced my doubts immediately as she opened with “Pristine”. Right away, it all made sense. Lindsay Jordan’s punk-rock demeanor is perfect for this tour. From laughing during songs to playing a broken guitar on “Heat Wave”, her carefree attitude completely sold me. “Can you turn up my guitar? Nevermind, fuck it!” she would tell the sound engineer throughout the show. In a world where everything is so rehearsed, Lindsay’s sincerity felt refreshing. She closed the set with “Valentine”, and affectionately looked at the crowd as she sang the final words “I adore you”. Once again, I was floored by the energy that was in the room, and the headlining act was yet to come on. Powering through a cold that the band caught while playing in the rain in Brooklyn the night before, Snail Mail perfectly set the tone for what was to come.
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Every great band has their walk-on music. Green Day has “Blitzkrieg Bop”, Metallica has Ennio Morricone’s “The Esctasy of Gold”, and The Beaches have Avril Lavigne’s “Girlfriend”. But if there’s one song that gets the crowd ready for a hectic night of moshing, it’s Whitney Houston’s “I Wanna Dance With Somebody”. Promptly at 9:05 pm, the lights dimmed and the already-warm crowd excitedly belted out the chorus of the Whitney classic as the first round of crowd-surfing began. As the song faded out, the night transitioned into one of the most intense concert experiences of my life. The band quickly took the stage as the subtle bassline and hi-hats of the “Holiday” intro rang through the room. Standing still at the mic was Brendan Yates, waiting for his queue to officially start the show. The last few seconds of the intro played out and Yates ran to the front of the stage and screamed “NOW IT’S A HOLIDAY”. When I tell you the crowd erupted, it erupted. Water bottles exploded in the crowd, mosh circles began, and fans surfed the crowd instantaneously. In the hundreds of shows I’ve seen, this was something else entirely different. The connection between Turnstile and their fans was evident by how in sync the energy was. When Turnstile screamed, the audience moshed even harder—it created an atmosphere that was electrifying.
Playing a perfectly crafted setlist of past favorites and GLOW ON heavy hitters, Turnstile blew the roof off of the venue. The moshing was on another level, putting even the rowdiest Playboi Carti fans to shame, and didn’t settle down for a second. Early highlights included “BLACKOUT”, “Real Thing”, and “UNDERWATER BOI”. Every time a track from GLOW ON was played, the crowd screamed every single word, proving that the record is destined to be a hardcore classic. The brief but fulfilling 55-minute set was immaculate. From the dazzling guitar playing and tight drumming to the pitch-perfect vocals and crowd interactions from Yates, it was everything I wanted from a punk-rock show. Drummer Daniel Fang even did a five-minute solo mid-set while a massive circle pit broke out in the crowd. As the set came to a close, the band played their anthem “MYSTERY” before concluding with “T.L.C. (TURNSTILE LOVE CONNECTION)”. As the crowd chanted “I want to thank you for letting me see myself / I want to thank you for letting me be myself”, I remembered what makes punk shows so great to begin with. The feeling of community, sharing a collective release of energy, and forming new friends is expected—but experiencing a life-changing show is rare. I walked away reveling in the cathartic emotions the show evoked, wishing I could see it again, as I thought to myself—there’s no better punk band right now than Turnstile. If reading this gave you hardcore punk fomo, check out the rest of their tour dates here.
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