Best of SXSW 2016: Turnstile
Every SXSW showcase has THAT band, usually a young one that packs the room because everyone’s just got to see them but no one has yet. At the Roadrunner Records showcase on the Thursday night of South By, Turnstile were that band; their 2015 release Nonstop Feeling — a combo a Helmet/Quicksand worship and hardcore attitude that placed #1 on my own “Best of 2015” list — turned more than a few heads, and their performance at SXSW night eclipsed even perennial mosh-starters Power Trip and headliners Killswitch Engage.
Turnstile are in the Major Leagues now — although they’re being coy about it, the band recently inked a big deal with Roadrunner — and their performance shows it… sort of.
Like a first-round draft pick who lands with tons of hype and rockets through the Minors before that big league call-up, Turnstile swept into Austin with a whole bunch of bravado, a shitload of power and ample skill but a couple of chinks in the armor that need to be — and will be, I’m confident — worked out over time. To start, the band: tight as a virgin’s butthole and full of an absolutely infectious energy. Main guitarist Brady Ebert and the second guitarist, listed on Facebook as Sean Coo, are the driving force of this band — their riffs are big and chunky, and their style appropriately locked in. Bassist Franz Lyons is perhaps the most entertaining of the bunch to watch, bopping about and running across the stage with a constant smile as wide as Texas. And drummer Daniel Fang is exactly what he needs to be: deep in the pocket. As a unit, they’re exactly that — a visible UNIT — unstoppable and impossible to turn away from.
Singer Brendan Yates is where the live presentation gets rough for me; he certainly has all the tools — the stage presence, the attitude, the ability to write killer hooks in his trademark yelp (speed/arm/average/power/fielding, in keeping with our analogy) — but those tools need some refining. Yates threw the mic down onto the stage after nearly every verse and continually, deliberately, knocked over the mic stands of his background singers (Ebert and Lyons), which not only distracted and detracted from the performance but caused issues for the sound crew, who kept having to deal with feedback issues and were constantly running onstage to fix things. That approach goes over great in basements and DIY halls, but in big venues like Empire, and the ones Turnstile will be playing from now on, it comes off as extremely amateurish and it won’t fly. On top of that, his attitude was a bit much; when you’re Greg Puciato you can stomp around like you own the fucking building and destroy whatever you want, but a little humility from an up and coming band never hurt anyone. I know, I know, “hardcore” and all that, there aren’t supposed to be any rules, yadda yadda — welp, you’re on a major label now, dudes, and you’re playing huge shows: there are rules. It’s nothing a little coaching can’t fix, though; I expect Yates to be a top-tier frontman in no time.
The crowd didn’t seem to care that much, however; Yates had them in a frenzy, moshing and stage-diving throughout the band’s 40 minute set. And despite my qualms, Turnstile as a whole fucking RIPPED it, Yates included. Everyone was buzzing about the performance after the show — it was that good.
Expect big things from Turnstile in the near future. Very big things.