For the musical acts fortunate to be so successful, there’s a point on the popularity scale past which a small club show becomes almost impossible. But the diverse musicians who call Baltimore home take a certain pride in the Charm City that can effectively convert the unthinkable into a feasible idea.
Turnstile blew minds with the short notice late last week that it would be performing a hometown show on Monday night and that it would be at, of all places, Ottobar — a beloved old stomping ground of the skyrocketing hardcore band and a venue with a capacity of about 350.
It was a wild proposition from a group that’s been touring with Blink-182 to open sold-out arena shows and just two days prior played to tens of thousands at the first Sick New World Festival in Las Vegas.
In what was a benefit with all proceeds given to Baltimore Youth Arts on May 15, Turnstile erupted across an epic, raging set that will go down as a show for the ages and undeniable proof of how an outfit can zoom to such great heights so swiftly.
Some fans had waited in line for the better part of the day in hopes of buying one of the few tickets released for sale at the North Howard Street venue, and the long queue had formed early in the evening as those wishing to gain entrance mixed with people lucky enough to secure a ticket when they’d gone on sale online the previous Friday morning.
Stream Turnstile’s most recent studio album, Glow On from 2021, via Spotify:
Once inside, few could believe what was about to unfold, and conversations echoed a similar sentiment: it could be a long time before a band with the current stature of Turnstile — a 2023 Grammy nominee in three award categories, invited to perform all over the globe — ever plays such an intimate show again.
But once the music began, Ottobar burst into an electrifying scene that longtime fans were saying was a throwback to earlier Turnstile days, which was likely the plan as the band squeezed this gig in between major road dates.
Within the first few notes of “TLC,” which was released as the band’s fifth EP before its inclusion on 2021’s acclaimed GLOW ON, fans had already begun scurrying onto and launching themselves from the stage. Chaotic movement mixed with intense, pounding instrumentation and flickering lights to create commotion and mayhem on the lower level.
Bodies of all sizes, big and small, and from all walks of life — one chap had his foot in a cast boot — hurled themselves from the stage in a stunning display that marvelously epitomized the zeal of Baltimore’s music community, where all sounds seem to coexist, thrive and — thanks to venues like the storied Ottobar and various community spaces — bring different people together.
Most of the folks there Monday night were drenched in sweat, and some even bled a little before being quickly helped by staff. With water flung in any direction, it stirred up the warm air to cast vapors into the venue space, making it an extravaganza to behold and a fulfilling experience for those lucky enough to be there.
Even up in the narrow balcony, patrons thrashed and screamed along with lead vocalist Brendan Yates, who himself leapt onto the fervent and diverse audience early in the evening before being hoisted back on stage, just narrowly avoiding a collision with a random speedster who was gaining momentum for yet another dramatic vault.
Yates was of course alongside bassist “Franky” Franz Lyons, guitarist Pat McCrory and drummer Daniel Fang — Yates, Lyons, and Fang were part of the original core to form the band in 2010, and McCrory came on in 2016 to play rhythm guitar before recently picking up lead duties.
With Brady Ebert, another founding member, departing the group just last fall and McCrory taking on his responsibilities, the touring squad now features rhythm guitarist Meg Mills, who was also on stage at Ottobar as Turnstile presented a prime slice of its catalogue in a festive, unforgettable manner.
Watch the official music video for Turnstile’s track “HOLIDAY” via the band’s YouTube channel:
Local music dignitaries were on hand, too, — Lindsey Jordan was there enjoying the show — and a number of successful musicians or artists from Baltimore to New York and beyond were essentially leading the way in stagediving and crowd surfing like seasoned veterans.
The tireless May 15 set would include a choice batch of the enormous, volatile and provocative tracks that comprise the band’s heralded third studio album, including raw, blistering versions of songs like “ENDLESS,” “DON’T PLAY,” and “FLY AGAIN.”
Takes from the first two albums — 2016’s Nonstop Feeling and 2018’s Time & Space — were gassed-up for the occasion as Turnstile showed its sound to be expanding and certainly not limited to what might define the hardcore genre. As some have pointed out, they could in fact be reshaping it.
Through the hysteria of Monday’s hour-long performance, Yates conveyed his and the band’s gratitude to those in attendance, Ottobar, and, of course, the night’s beneficiary, Baltimore Youth Arts, an art and entrepreneurship program serving 14- to 22-year-olds who are involved in the juvenile justice system.
Revisit Turnstile’s 2018 studio album, Time & Space, via Spotify:
Spotlighting more material from the latest album, the night eventually included the illusory, lonesome Blood Orange collaboration “ALIEN LOVE CALL,” and as anticipated it featured overpowering editions of “BLACKOUT” and “HOLIDAY,” a fitting closer for the high-level roughhousing taking place from start to finish.
A city recognized for its collective, thriving music scene, Baltimore has so much to pride already. But for a world-famous band with so much push to look back and return home to party with what looked like a whole bunch of friends, all for a good cause, the Charm City received a major tip of the cap from this thrilling, cutting-edge team of musicians.
While it isn’t likely Turnstile soon returns to the small venues of its hometown, the band does swing back through later this month to play on significantly larger stages — Capital One Arena on May 23 and Baltimore Arena on May 26.
7/Keep It Moving
The Real Thing
ALIEN LOVE CALL
Here are images of Turnstile along with the night’s opening act, JIVEBOMB, performing at Ottobar the night of May 15, 2023. All photos copyright and courtesy of Casey Vock.