- by Zach Johnson (Texacaliago) Rating: Release Date: Label:
Los Angeles is an interesting city.
It’s interesting, because, for a city with seemingly so many positive attributes (beautiful weather, gorgeous beaches/scenery, a storied history, vibrant music scene, etc.), it seems to get a lot of negative reviews, mostly from people that don’t live there of course.
Granted, for someone who lived in San Francisco for 5 years (a city with a notoriously contemptuous attitude toward LA), and who has called Chicago home for almost a decade now (whose nickname “The Second City” blatantly ignores LA’s status as the actual 2nd largest city in the US), it’s probably fair to say I’ve gotten more exposure to LA-haters than perhaps the average fellow.
Certainly sounds like it could be a case of sheer jealousy, especially considering your typical Angelino couldn’t seem to care less about the criticism and is much less apt to throw shade at other great cities across the land, but I digress.
Whatever the case, for this Chicago-based reviewer, I personally couldn’t have been happier to be back in my old state of California, on a mini-vacation in the City of Angels, and catching a Turnstile show at the El Rey Theater seemed like the perfect icing on the cake for my final night in LA for a while.
But truth be told Turnstile were not in-fact the headliners that evening. That distinction belonged to Virginia Beach’s Turnover, an emo-ish dream-pop/rock outfit (with a shoegaze flavor) that apparently was more popular than the aforementioned Turnstile (probably due to their strikingly more tame/accessible sound).
Frankly, it seemed like a bit of an odd pairing, considering that Turnstile shows have a reputation for being a wildly unhinged/physical experience (more on that in a moment). But when you looked at the broader bill, and the supporting acts in particular, odd pairings kind of seemed to be the point.
Take the opening band Candy, for instance, another Virginia-based (Richmond) band with a blisteringly heavy hardcore sound. They were actually the tie-breaker to lure me out to this show, and their opening set did not disappoint. While I found them on the whole to be a tad too one-dimensional for my liking, the raw power and ferocity of their performance was undeniable and did a good job of whetting the appetite for all the Turnstile fans eager to mix things up in the pit. And shoutout to their lead singer/screamer for rocking a very old-school Schitzophrenia-era Sepultura shirt.
Candy’s abrasive performance was contrasted quite sharply by Portland, Oregon’s the Reptaliens, who were essentially the polar opposite in sound and style. Whereas Candy’s sound was harsh and ugly, the Reptaliens were sleek, groovy, soft, and beautiful, thanks in large part to frontwoman Bambi Cole’s quirky and enthusiastic stage presence. The band’s set actually kicked off with a rather tall individual in an alien mask giving a suitably bizarre opening spiel, which set the tone for their generally spaced-out performance. Although a tad too sedate/pedestrian on the whole, their performance was aesthetically pleasing, subtly peculiar, and generally easy on the ears, so it offered up the perfect “yin/yang” sandwiched between testosterone-fueled performances by Candy and Turnstile.
And when I say Turnstile’s performance was “testosterone-fueled” that may be a bit of an understatement. This should come as no surprise to those familiar with the band’s live shows, where hardcore slam-dancing and high-flying stage-diving acrobatics are integral parts to the Turnstile experience, and this show was certainly no exception. In fact, some of the aforementioned stage-diving acrobats were so impressive/ambitious that they could have given the Olympic gymnastics team a run for their money. I couldn’t help but picture a panel of side-judges holding up their proverbial “9.6s” and “9.9s” for dudes doing full-fledged backflips from the stage into the crowd. The stage-diving was so prevalent that you really had to pay close attention to the action to avoid a possible concussion or sprained neck (I actually think I saw my life briefly flash before my eyes while dodging a fellow flying toward me from the stage in a full-on Bruce Lee-inspired dropkick). Thankfully I moved, and as you can imagine, movement was a big part of the Turnstile show. Their often downright danceable version of heavily rhythmic hardcore riffs are like catnip for moshpits/crowdsurfing (and of course the aforementioned stagediving). Live versions of "Generator" (which kicked off their set), "Drop", "Keep It Moving", and "Gravity" (which closed the set) were just some of the highlights, and helped fuel the intensity of their show, which was quite an experience. It was a lot of fun basically, although almost absurdly unhinged at times. Safe to say both myself and the fellow Turnstile fans at large got their money’s worth.
For yours truly, the show was effectively over at that point, but I figured I would stick around to at least check out some of Turnover’s set. While their music is pretty easy on the ears and occasionally affecting, it’s affecting in a privileged-suburban-kid pouting/staring-longingly-out-his-bedroom-window type of way, so suffice to say I kind of find it hard to relate to these days (without feeling embarrassed about it anyway). But I’ll admit a few of their songs are minor guilty pleasures of mine, and lucky for me they opened their set with a couple of them (“New Scream” and “Dizzy on the Comedown”). As they performed those songs with a Pee-Wee’s Playhouse-inspired animation backdrop playing behind them, it only served to drive home the feeling that this band’s music is really tailor-made for sensitive teenagers and college kids struggling with the transition from adolescence to adulthood. I suppose there’s a time and a place for that type of music, a generational thing if you will, so like most music, it's highly subjective. Although Turnover are good at what they do, I'm not entirely sure what they do, is good. Coming from a Turnstile fan, it's all a matter of taste I suppose, but whatever the case, I ended up bailing mid-set, as it was all just a tad too gushy/emo-ish for me to handle after a few songs.
But overall, it was certainly a rewarding and fun evening at the El Rey, a study in contrasts really, which I appreciate. Turnstile are a ridiculously infectious band to (slam) dance to, so highly recommend checking them out live if that’s your thing. Cheers to new-school hardcore keeping the scene alive and well. Turnstile are certainly the leader of the pack on that front, and they proved it in emphatic fashion that night in LA.