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Words and Photos: Turnstile / Citizen / Ekulu / Truth Cult at The Granada

Turnstile. Photo by Aaron Rhodes.
Date: May 14, 2022

The Granada - Lawrence, KS

Code Orange may have played hardcore for the biggest Kansas City area crowd this year while opening for Korn at T-Mobile Center in March. Spy may have played the biggest DIY show of the year when they packed out Farewell last month. But Turnstile played the biggest local hardcore show of the year in Lawrence last week. The continually-ascendant Baltimore band released its third full-length, Glow On, via Roadrunner last year to acclaim from fans and critics alike and has since played on national TV late shows and NPR's Tiny Desk Concerts. Their last Lawrence show reached or neared capacity at the 450-ish cap Bottleneck, so selling out the 1,200 cap Granada well in advance made it a special night before the show even started.

Fans can often get antsy when a show drags on too long or has too many opening acts, but the Turnstile Love Connection tour ran like a well-oiled machine and kept everyone happy for its just-over-three-hour run time. This was partially thanks to the disco and house music hits that played on the PA between every set. Whitney Houston's "I Wanna Dance With Somebody" brought on a major sing-along moments before Turnstile took the stage at 9:15.

Then the venue went completely dark (I'm not sure how they managed to get away with that; there's usually at least one stage light left on when bands request that the lights be cut). Following a bright, pre-recorded synth introduction, the whole room was lit up pink and the band jumped into Glow On's lead single "Mystery." Singing along to the chorus -- "And it's been so long!" -- with over 1,000 fellow fans felt like a triumphant end-of-pandemic celebration. Crowd surfers flooded the barricade.

The band played two-thirds of the new album but made sure to include a few throwbacks from the first two LPs and their Step 2 Rhythm EP. Time & Space lead single "Real Thing" was the second song of the set and its reflections on life's more abstract and visceral moments made for a thoughtful and joyous pairing with the song that preceded it.

The 50-minute set was impressively dynamic. Fast-paced numbers like the rock-n-roll-infused "Big Smile" and the heavy East Coast hardcore anthem "Drop" saw fans unable to stagedive, instead opting to leap from the six-foot tall PA speakers stacked on the floor on each side of the stage. Since most fans were mesmerized by the band, they often didn't see these speaker divers until it was too late. In a gracious gesture, bassist Franz Lyons looked down into one area in the crowd affected by this phenomena with his thumbs up to make sure everyone was hanging tough.


There were also moments of complete zen. "Underwater Boi" and "Alien Love Call" prompted sing-alongs as phones lit up the room and patrons swayed back and forth. The latter, a collaboration with Blood Orange, sounded like a simplified version of a Police ballad (this is a good thing). Vocalist Brendan Yates has honed his clean singing voice and his live performance style in the last several years, expertly moving the mic slightly further from his mouth when a trickier note was coming, allowing the crowd to help out. That's not to say the band is lazy -- far from it. They may be one of the most fun bands in the world to watch right now. I could probably watch them on mute if I had no other choice. Yates, Lyons, and other members of the band are constantly strutting about the stage and executing perfectly-timed jumps and spin kicks without missing a beat.

The night came to a close (no encore; a classic move) with a performance of "T.L.C. (Turnstile Love Connection)." The song starts with a blazing fast, almost Bad Brains-esque punk riff before slowing down to allow Yates and fans to sing a chorus that, with two simple phrases, champions self-love, inclusivity, and the band's many non-hardcore influences by interpolating a Sly & The Family Stone classic: "I want to thank you for letting me see myself / I want to thank you for letting me be myself."

And just like that, hundreds of attendees likely had their mind blown by live hardcore music for the very first time. It was a beautiful thing -- a testament to the vitality of an artform now over 40 years old.

Citizen preceded Turnstile's set with a roughly 35-minute set anchored by songs from its 2021 LP, Life In Your Glass World, and the standalone singles that came before and after it. The Michigan rock band has evolved gracefully over the last decade since emerging as a heart-on-sleeve pop-punk and emo band. The new material that was focused on in this set was a sort of smart, clean pop rock sound, built on muscular rhythms and dance beats, complemented by quick, catchy guitar riffs. Lead guitarist Nick Hamm was grooving, cutting a rug throughout the set while singer Mat Kerekes firmly gripped the microphone stand with both hands, occasionally shaking a tambourine or lifting the mic stand to point it at the crowd. The band headlined The Bottleneck to a healthy turnout earlier this year and previously headlined The Granada nearly five years ago (I'm unsure of that turnout), but this set proved that they have what it takes to pack this room on their own.

New York crossover thrash band Ekulu was only on stage for about half an hour, but they certainly made the most of it. Through face-melting guitar solos, bone-rattling drum fills, and half-rapped vocals, Ekulu proved that hardcore-adjacent metal bands are on an unending winning streak. They even threw in a solid cover of Nirvana's "Territorial Pissings" for good measure. It always feels good to witness a healthy circle pit.

Baltimore post-hardcore revivalists Truth Cult opened the show with a hot 20-minute set that included material from their debut LP, Off Fire, and their latest single "Resurrection." The band's members are clearly Dischord Records scholars, incorporating upbeat melodies and moments of tension similar to those written by your favorite Revolution Summer bands. Frontman Paris Roberts jumped and punched his way through the set with impressive vigor, even hitting the splits at least once.

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