Sometimes you gotta cross state borders to get to the gig. When Turnstile announced their penultimate show this tour would be in Boston—with Snail Mail opening—it was a no brainer to me that I’d board a $20 bus from NYC to Boston to see two of my favorite bands perform together.
Opening the night was Boston local band Fiddlehead. If you haven’t heard of Fiddlehead yet, expect a typical hardcore sound but with some of the most depressing lyrics you’ve heard—and I mean that as a compliment. The second their set started it became clear this was a hometown show for Fiddlehead. Men were throwing themselves over the barricade gleaning for an ounce of lead singer Pat Flynn’s attention from the very first note. The crowd became a performance amongst themselves with their thrashing and bright red faces screaming along that were questionably on the verge of tears.
Snail Mail’s set provided a pocket of peace between two aggressive acts. Lindsey Jordan opened her set with “Heat Wave” a song that always sounds like summer, despite the 30-something degree weather outside. Newer songs like “Headlock,” “Ben Franklin,” and “Valentine” from her 2021 album of the same title were also sprinkled into the set. As you’d guess from a title like Valentine, Snail Mail’s performance was saturated with feelings of heartbreak, longing, and above all, the pain of not being able to get over it sometimes. Snail Mail is always a delight to see live and seeing her perform between two hardcore, more traditionally male-fanbase-having bands made the space feel more comfortable as a girl. When going to see a band like Turnstile and looking around a 95% male audience sometimes you question your safety. That moment Snail Mail took the stage and all the girls in the room came together to have their own moment to jump around and screech about love and insecurity from the female perspective was a moment of decompression, release, and belonging.
Snail Mail’s live band is one in which you can isolate and watch each member on their own. They’re all just good at what they do and you can tell everyone is having fun through shared sideways smiles and wide-eyed glances. Keyboardist Blaise O’Brien especially had the crowd entranced with his Lisa Frank stickered keyboard and banana-shaped shaker that had the barricade hollering each time he brought it out. Despite the sweetness of Snail Mail, there was no lack of crowdsurfing, especially during “Pristine.” My favorite part of watching the set was seeing a small child up on their dad’s shoulders for the whole set, singing along to every word. The spotlight shined on the child up there; it was as if everyone in that room knew this was a new core memory forming. After the set wrapped up the kid burst through the crowd—still on dad’s shoulders—euphoric with laughter and holding the setlist in their hands. Snail Mail was truly for everyone that night.
Before Turnstile’s set began, Whitney Houston’s “I Wanna Dance With Somebody” blared over the loudspeaker. People were grabbing their friends in the crowd, shouting the words in each other’s faces, and before they even hit the stage everybody was dancing. The white lights shuttered and jolted back on casting the room pink. The rippling synth of “Mystery” floated across the venue before erupting with a signature Brendan Yates jump. The band switched up their setlist from the previous night at the same venue to the delight of their fans—but to my dismay. I had to resist the temptation of jumping from the photo pit into the crowd when they sprang into “Blackout” second. I found myself and the other photographers all bopping along to the best of our capacity between the barricade and the stage. There’s a reason this song is now nominated for two Grammy awards—and it’s somehow not for Yates’ erratic dance moves. The band took a breather with “Underwater Boi,” which they lead into with an acapella twist. It’s songs like these that make Turnstile a genre-defying band. You have a crowd go from moshing to holding shoulders and swaying with the turn of a beat.
The second they launched into their fourth song “Don’t Play,” I ran from the photo pit, camera still in hand, and got swallowed up by the profusely sweaty crowd joining into their amorphous chorus happily. The band leaned back into their 2018 album periodically playing songs like “Real Thing, “Big Smile,” and “I Don’t Wanna Be Blind.” The pit was a mouth stretched out as wide as possible during “Drop,” a crowd-killing classic, that led fans to almost dare each other to cross foot into the center of the circle like a twisted Red Rover-style recess game. “Fly Again” meshed into a minutes-long drum solo by Daniel Fang that captivated the audience and showed off just how skilled he is. It also gave me enough time to find my friend in the venue and then lose her again in the pit seconds later once “Blue by You” started up; but it didn’t matter because at a Turnstile show everybody in the pit becomes a friend.
Turnstile are a band who will always unabashedly be themselves. I think the only way to describe a Turnstile show is by calling it a community. Everyone cheers each other on, there’s no jeering, there’s no dragging each other down, only lifting up. Just before their final song, self-aware-ly titled “Turnstile Love Connection,” Yates begged everyone to get up on their friends’ shoulders and bask in the carefree glory and happiness that is a Turnstile show. A burst of jarring pink confetti rained over the crowd as we thanked the band, and they thanked us, for letting us be ourselves.
Scroll down for setlists, fan shot videos, pics of the show (photos by Sam Schraub)
Snail Mail setlist: Heat Wave, Headlock, Ben Franklin, Speaking Terms, Thinning, Feeling Like I Do (Superdrag cover), Glory, Full Control, Pristine Valentine
Turnstile setlist: Mystery, Blackout, Underwater Boi, Don’t Play, Real Thing, Big Smile, New Heart Design, I Don’t Wanna Be Blind, Canned Heat, Drop, Endless, Fly Again, Drum Solo, Blue by You, Alien Love Call, Wild Wrld, Holiday, T.L.C.,