Located in the upper limits of Williamsburg amid scattered warehouses, the Brooklyn Mirage feels like some Silicon Valley bro’s attempt to disrupt live music.
The sound system is so pristine it’s borderline antiseptic, and you have to use a complicated wristband system to pay for $20 whiskey cocktails. The adjacent (and very sleek) food court and merchandise area is larger than the music space, and it’s hard to ignore the feeling that you’re shopping at a high-end wellness boutique that just happens to be hosting the sickest gig in town.
It’s strange seeing Turnstile in a venue like this, watching a band incubated in the basements and DIY venues of Baltimore adapt to the big stages. Since the release of its acclaimed 2021 album, Glow On, the hardcore band has taken punk’s most surly and antagonistic subgenre to places it’s never been and never really considered going. In addition to playing at weird über-clubs that hold 6,000 people, Turnstile’s recent victories include an arena tour with My Chemical Romance, spots at nearly every music festival that still books guitar bands, NPR’s Tiny Desk series, late-night talk shows, spins on rock radio, and an appearance at one incredible wedding. Along the way Turnstile has earned a Taco Bell sync; a supporting slot on Blink-182’s upcoming reunion tour; multiple Grammy nominations; the admiration of Demi Lovato, Miguel, and Billie Eilish; and raves from publications that previously, and pointedly, ignored this sort of thing. (The Ringer had Glow On as the third-best album of 2021.)
They are feral and well rehearsed on this October evening, their savage beats honed to a science. As front man Brendan Yates’s face projects across a video screen bigger than my apartment, he screams the lyrics to “Real Thing” with the control of a seasoned pro and the joie de vivre of a punk who’d die before phoning it in, turning the chorus, “But can I keep it all together / Waiting for the real thing?,” into a call-and-response sermon. The crowd has reclaimed this sanitized space, kicking at the sky in ecstasy at just how much the pit has opened up lately.
From Los Angeles’s Novo to Orlando’s House of Blues, the corporate rock venue is yet another space where hardcore did not, by and large, belong until quite recently—spaces Turnstile has now conquered with ease. In their decade-long journey to becoming the defining rock band of the early ’20s, they’ve paved the way for a new wave filled with peers that they’ve taught to think bigger. It now seems entirely reasonable to wonder, just how big can the pit get?
The story of hardcore is one of constant death and rebirth and more sub-subgenre names than necessary. But the seeds of our current moment began a decade ago with The Wave, a term that started as a joke but then stuck, as sometimes happens. Hardcore bands such as Touché Amoré, Pianos Become the Teeth, and La Dispute began reacting to the bloat of the then-fading MySpace boom, which had found a series of interchangeable groups flooding the scene in hopes of scoring energy drink money.
Many of the best hardcore albums of the ’10s were released via the Boston label Run for Cover. Talia Miller wasn’t a dyed-in-the-wool hardcore person when she took a job as the label’s publicist. But she quickly realized “that it felt like something was happening,” she says.
The world of hardcore punk was built on kids and lifers booking shows wherever they could: basements, VFW halls, Elks lodges, and any other venue where someone had to bring a sound system. For most of its early decades, bands, fans, and venues found each other via word of mouth or scene bibles like Book Your Own Fucking Life!
But the internet had made it easier for bands, DIY venues, and promoters to build a network and provide accessible shows to a community of cash-strapped fans still reeling from the Great Recession. “You would go to these warehouse shows and people were really excited. They were harnessing this energy and creating these DIY spaces. It felt like there was a movement and people were getting behind it,” says Miller, now the director of publicity at famed U.K. label Rough Trade.
But she couldn’t get anyone who wasn’t already on board to pay attention. “It felt like a really big struggle. There was this groundswell of support from fans and people who liked the music, the sales were there, but it felt like nobody in the media took it seriously,” she remembers. “I always felt like that scene and that kind of music had never really been cool. It was always kind of stuffed into the Warped Tour and Hot Topic world.”
The Wave and the associated emo revival of the early ’10s eventually faded and never really had its breakout moment. Nearly all the bands eschewed major labels or once reliably commercial platforms like the Warped Tour, while key acts like Title Fight, Defeater, and La Dispute either broke up or became less prolific as record sales dried up amid the streaming boom. And while many Wave bands were forward-thinking, they were only fitfully interested in things like hooks and melody. “A lot of that music is kind of niche, especially when you compare a lot of these bands to Turnstile,” Miller says, “and Turnstile was not always as accessible as their most recent album. Even though they came out of this hardcore background and have the ethos, when you listen to Turnstile now, a lot of it is like, ‘This sounds like a lot of the stuff in the late ’90s that I grew up listening to on the radio.’”
While there are plenty of abrasive young bands interested in brutality above all else, the newest wave is just a bit less shouty and a touch more sing-y, able to slip in melodies and reach out to people beyond the scene without losing the essential catharsis this music trades in.
With 2021’s Glow On, Turnstile (who declined to comment for this piece) made the right album at the right time, recruiting producer—and former Dr. Dre and Eminem collaborator—Mike Elizondo to make the hooks sparkle and the rhythm section of Franz Lyons and Daniel Fang bounce. Yates’s charisma, and his lyrical preoccupation with resisting the urge to numb yourself with the digital ether, spoke to something about our era. And guest spots from Blood Orange and Julien Baker certainly helped mark the band as forward-thinkers looking to transcend any preconceived labels one might place on them.
Now Turnstile has completed the work that The Wave and like-minded peers—including the Baltimore group Trapped Under Ice (which once counted Yates as a member) and the shoegaze-adjacent Pennsylvania band Title Fight—started a decade before. They’ve killed the Warped Tour hangover stigma and showed that hardcore is the most exciting place in what’s left of rock music these days.
“It feels like the current generation, whether that’s millennials or Gen Z or whatever, they have ownership of this band. I think probably at this point, just numbers-wise, Turnstile is probably without question the biggest hardcore band that’s ever existed, and hardcore right now, just going off Turnstile, probably has a bigger audience than it has, maybe ever,” says Run for Cover’s label manager Tom Chiari. “It’s so fun to think about Turnstile playing to 5,000, 10,000 people on a headline show now and how many kids are going to see their first hardcore show or their first concert at all. I mean, that can be life changing.”
There’s not much of a dressing room at the wonderfully grimy Brooklyn venue Saint Vitus. Instead, James Goodson and I are sitting on the sidewalk just outside the club. Sitting on the ground is a sacred ritual in the religion of hardcore, and Goodson is a lifelong apostle, even as he is hardly a fundamentalist.
It’s late October, and he’s wearing a black hoodie and black jeans, and every time he gets excited, which is often, his thoughtful eyes grow so large they threaten to shatter his black-rim glasses. He’s here to open for his friends in Militarie Gun with his project Dazy. It’s tough, noisy power-pop, sort of like Fountains of Wayne with sleeve tattoos. It’s only sort of hardcore, and that’s fine, because those sorts of designations don’t really matter anymore.
A resident of Richmond, Virginia, the 33-year-old Goodson spent years playing every variation of hardcore or punk you could name. But he was always recording poppier songs he was too anxious to show anyone else. “When the pandemic hit, all these questions that I had in the back of my mind about ‘Are these demos too rough?’ went out the window, and I just started putting stuff out on the internet,” he says.
The result of that first batch of home recordings was the compilation MAXIMUMBLASTSUPERLOUD: The First 24 Songs, a scratchy love letter to distortion itself. He followed it up last year with the brisk and irresistible OUTOFBODY, a sugar rush of hooks, but Goodson’s riffs never let you forget his years of grinding it out on the DIY circuit.
So even if Dazy is a strange fit on this bill and in this scene, after spending a year-plus stuck inside, Goodson needs these hardcore shows as much as the audience does. “There isn’t really anything that can touch hardcore. You’re not gonna see anything else like that live, where people are jumping off each other and the bands are so dynamic,” he says. “If you’re coming out of the pandemic, there’s nothing better.”
Even if the scene is much less uptight about purity tests these days, Dazy would likely get grandfathered into it anyway. For his day job at Let’s Go Publicity, Goodson works with some of the most important bands in the new wave of hardcore, including the anthemically earnest Fiddlehead, the wildly experimental MSPAINT, and scene elders like the hooky and acerbic Drug Church.
But his most important cosign of all comes from the dude he’s opening for this evening. As soon as Goodson posted his first song, Militarie Gun front man Ian Shelton (a former client) immediately texted him, “Is this you? Are you doing this?” Goodson says. “And he started posting about it, and I think he turned a lot of people on to it.”
Sitting outside a coffee shop across the street from Saint Vitus, Shelton’s had a bit of a long day already, as Militarie Gun’s trailer was rear-ended on the way to the gig, but his energy is relentless and infectious.
Shelton sang and played drums in Regional Justice Center, which was named after the institution his brother Max is imprisoned in. Like his friend Goodson, Shelton also underwent an artistic rebirth in the pandemic, pushed by what he calls a compulsive need to make music. “I treated getting the pandemic relief money as a label advance,” says Shelton, 31. “And I just had to treat it like a full-time job because that was all there was at the time. I don’t know what my life would have been without it, because [Militarie Gun] would never have started.”
Militarie Gun’s first two EPs, recently rereleased as All Roads Lead to the Gun (Deluxe), showcase a band that doesn’t really care what methods it uses to get the pit going, or what counts as hardcore anymore. “I was listening to Fugazi and Modest Mouse at the same time,” he says. “I was listening to contemporary hardcore at the same time as Pavement. There never was a separation, but there was a separation in the fact that I think that hardcore bands didn’t really touch that in their sound.”
In theory, hardcore absorbing outside influences and becoming richer as a result shouldn’t feel surprising. But there’s long existed a very loud faction that insists that any deviation from the hardcore template is heresy, and that anything that doesn’t sound like the New York goon squad Madball doesn’t count.
“Bad Brains has reggae songs. Hüsker Dü has acoustic songs. This really boring, hyper-traditional thing came later, and it’s cemented and calcified in a really terrible way, where I think creativity was actively frowned upon,” Shelton says. “I remember if a band tried something, people would say, ‘Oh, that band’s trying to be artsy now or whatever.’
“I think that old guard … you go on these old hardcore Facebook groups or something, and it’s largely griping about Turnstile,” he says. “It shows that something is happening here, that this kind of dying generation that I don’t think did anything creatively for a long time is so upset.”
On their 2015 debut, Nonstop Feeling, Turnstile made propulsive hardcore in the vein of gruff legends like 7 Seconds and Inside Out. They signed with Roadrunner Records, an imprint of Warner Music that focused on heavy metal, and released Time & Space, which earned a rave from The New York Times and a pan from Pitchfork. It wasn’t exactly a commercial breakthrough, but it found them pushing the boundaries of the genre by collaborating with Diplo and homing in on melody. Even then, Turnstile seemed unconcerned with genre purity or criticisms of signing to a major. (In a 2018 interview, Yates told Vice that he “didn’t feel any fear. If this was a record we put out on Bandcamp for free it would have been the same record.”) But by Glow On, you could spot the influence of KROQ staples like Jane’s Addiction, 311, and Rage Against the Machine. It would seem that hardcore has now entered its post-internet phase of liking whatever and not worrying about it.
“They’ve really captured the energy of hardcore shows and made something that is so sweet and just overarching. It’s wicked,” says Graham Sayle, front man of the anthemic U.K. group High Vis. He’s known the members for a while and recently saw them play two nights in a row at London’s prestigious theater the Roundhouse. “It still felt like I’m just hanging out with my mates, just jamming onstage and diving over security. It was sick,” he says. “People from here are just like, ‘This is the most exciting band to see now.’
“And Glow On, that’s the Nevermind of our generation,” he adds.
Like Sayle’s friends in Turnstile, High Vis eschew tough-guy nonsense (he often cries when performing his song “Trauma Bonds,” about his friends who passed too young) and freely color outside the lines, drawing influence from post-punks such as the Wipers and Echo & the Bunnymen. Their song “Talk for Hours” takes the ghost of Brit-pop into the pit, earning frequent comparisons to Oasis. But even though hardcore has evolved, “it’s not that far from the source,” he insists, and people still flock to it because “it’s raw and it captures the energy and authenticity of feeling.
“I think a lot of people who are in hardcore, you don’t have anything,” he adds. “I owe everything to DIY culture. It’s been a long history of amazing bands from this country and people who’ve shown me everything.”
From the hard jangle pop of Baltimore’s Angel Du$t to shoegaze anthems by One Step Closer to the raging garage rock of Truth Cult, the most exciting music in the current wave pulls from various strains of what could largely be considered alternative rock, a genre that until recently had seen better days. Since hardcore loves its subgenre names, let’s dub this stuff alt-core, the impact of hardcore filtered through a genre that needed some new lifeblood in it.
“Rock music in general, it’s just so stale,” Shelton says. “It was dying for such a good reason. It needed something.”
Militarie Gun is the type of band whose album art features a burning RV, and at the gig, they were selling a T-shirt featuring a drawing of a police officer getting stabbed in the face. But Shelton wants it both ways and can write a tune to match his hostility. After signing with Loma Vista—a major indie distributed by Universal Music Group—he’s now labelmates with St. Vincent, Korn, and Sampa the Great, a situation that might have seemed strange a few years ago but now seems as normal as Turnstile getting fast food money. And he’s prepping his next Militarie Gun album for this summer—he calls it “catchy and abrasive [and] everything I ever wanted to make.”
“Selling out is not a concept anymore,” Shelton says, before quoting the sacred text Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping. “If you don’t sell out, people think nobody asked.”
Militarie Gun is the first high-profile hardcore act to sign to a big label in the wake of Turnstile’s success. This is a pairing that makes sense on paper, as Shelton is up-front about his ambition and his band has a clear feel for pop hooks (the recent single “Let Me Be Normal” would have dominated MTV in 1995). Loma Vista, an indie formed by former Warner Bros. Records CEO Tom Whalley, feels like a natural home, as its roster includes ascendant hardcore band Show Me the Body and rapper Denzel Curry (who has worked with Fucked Up and Bad Brains and feels thoroughly hardcore adjacent).
But does this signing signal that the major labels and other large indies are all looking to find the next Turnstile? It’s been awhile since there was a major-label feeding frenzy focused around rock music, as we’re long past the days when dressing like the Strokes or applying a judicious amount of mascara earned you a five-album deal from Interscope.
When the major-label system started reconstituting itself after the Great Recession, it focused on pop and rap, and as rock radio continued to recede in importance, smart, aggressive, but accessible rock music seemed like an endangered species. For a long time, that trend didn’t seem likely to change. But then again, Turnstile didn’t seem likely to blow up until it did. Things don’t change until they do.
It’s way too early to say whether Turnstile has managed to reverse that trend and, heaven forbid, saved rock ’n’ roll or whatever. But the music industry isn’t known to leave money on the table, and insiders do attest that many bands in the hardcore scene are currently meeting with major labels, managers, and producers. Though not everyone is quite as gung ho (and as utterly dismissive of scene politics) as Shelton, there’s definitely something going on.
“With the success of Turnstile, I think we’re definitely going to see more interest from major labels and larger indies courting similar bands. With the majority of these acts coming out of the hardcore and DIY scenes, there is always that lingering fear of being referred to as a ‘sellout,’ but that shouldn’t stop bands from wanting to boost their career in a natural way and earn a full-time living off their craft,” says Alexa Gallo of Wordless PR, which works with key hardcore acts such as Scowl, Regulate, and Zulu. “Authenticity is going to be a big play factor in all of this, making sure a label is aligned with their values and not just focused on pushing out acts seeking a viral moment.”
Signing a band is one thing, but some think that the post–social media music industry has changed too much for anything resembling the grunge and alt-rock feeding frenzy to ever occur again—and that Turnstile might be less of a savior and more of an anomaly.
“Turnstile has absolutely lifted up the hardcore scene and adjacent scenes with how massively popular they’ve become. They have expanded the potential fan base for bands making aggressive music in a way that’s maybe never existed before,” says Run for Cover’s Chiari. “However, that won’t lead to major labels thinking that hardcore music in general is going to experience a commercial breakthrough. Major labels, like many of the traditional music industry gatekeepers—press, radio, and now streaming—have become trend followers as much as they used to be tastemakers. They are looking at data—streaming, TikTok, social media, ticket sales—way more than looking at bands that sound like other successful bands.
“Turnstile was a movement that had been building for over a decade. I think it’s part of the reason they have been able to succeed where others haven’t.”
So maybe we’re about to see a wave of catchy and absolutely ass-whooping hardcore bands capturing the attention of Generation Z as well as of olds who still have fond memories of the heyday of alt-rock radio. But it’s entirely possible that the commercial boom never arrives, that hardcore remains a shared secret among the people who need it, and that this movement taps out at a level that could be described as “a lot of great young bands playing midsized rock venues as a subculture rejuvenated itself.” Which is, to be clear, also a great outcome. Still, Turnstile’s effects are already being felt, as the scene’s leading documentarian can attest.
You may have seen a video of someone getting their drink knocked out of their hand in the pit, or of a gang of teenagers giving it their sweaty all at a rec center, or of a Turnstile release party where, somehow, 50 dudes magically appear and start dancing onstage. Sunny Singh shot all that, probably onstage or while using a drone camera for a second angle, and quite possibly got body-slammed for his efforts.
He’s been posting videos of hardcore shows since 2008 and has published well over 5,000 performances on his YouTube channel, hate5six. It would be hard to name a more qualified expert on hardcore. And he’s never seen it like this before.
“I think it’s stronger than ever. It’s healthier than it’s ever been. And I think that it’s bringing in so much energy,” he says. “Fests and shows in general, not even the big fests, are selling out in 10 minutes, five minutes, two minutes,” he says, pointing to Tampa’s FYA as an example. “The Show Me the Body, Jesus Piece, Scowl, Zulu shows are also jam-packed with young people. Currently on my second night of that tour, and it’s wild to see.”
Singh grew up in Marlton, New Jersey, the son of Indian immigrants, and he began trading and downloading concert videos of Metallica and Rage Against the Machine in the early 2000s. “There was a whole underground community of people who were duplicating and trading these VHS tapes,” he says. “That was my way of living vicariously watching live shows, ’cause I was too young to go.”
He began by taping his friends’ bands and later posted videos shortly after YouTube started, eventually becoming one of the key chroniclers of the ’10s Wave. In 2018, he was officially able to support himself through the channel, his Patreon page, and a hustle that would shame many of the bands he captured. “It’s almost every night that I’m filming,” he says. “I could stop filming today, and I have enough videos edited and ready to be released every day through May of next year.”
Post-pandemic, a new wave of young people have looked for something to call their own. Many of them, Singh observes, have taken ownership of the hardcore scene as artists, fans, or more. “It’s brought out a whole generation of young kids who are just excited about live music in general,” says Singh. “I’m based in Philly, and in Philly pre-pandemic, I was not seeing a lot of new kids coming in. It was kind of like the old guard. And you start to worry, if new blood’s not coming in, there’s not gonna be any new bands. People are gonna start phasing out. But since the shows have come back, every city I’ve gone to, it’s a lot of new kids.”
“The fuck is up, Sonic?” asks Kat Moss, stalking around the Hainesport, New Jersey, parking lot of one of America’s most reliable dispensers of cheese fries. “We’re Scowl, from fucking California. Let’s fucking go.”
Following her demands to “spin this shit in a fucking circle!” the crowd gathered at the Sonic parking lot proceeds with running high-kick moves you don’t often see at fast food establishments, while someone throws firecrackers.
The incongruity escalates from there as Moss continually antagonizes the roving mosh pits, screaming, “Fuck around / and find out” to people who clearly aren’t sure they want to. The video quickly went viral, and a new punk star was born.
Since the release of 2021’s How Flowers Grow, perhaps the most visceral 15 minutes and 34 seconds of music this young decade has given us, the Santa Cruz band has made fans far beyond Sonic, including Post Malone and Hayley Williams. Limp Bizkit invited Scowl on tour, and it’s the only band playing both Coachella and the nu-metal festival Sick New World.
Like its peers, Scowl is as much an alt band as a hardcore one, drawing influence from Sonic Youth, the Stooges, Gorilla Biscuits, and My Chemical Romance and even channeling Snail Mail and Phoebe Bridgers for the melodic standout “Seeds to Sow.”
“I’m not picky,” Moss, 25, says, noting that the genre blurring will continue on the upcoming EP Psychic Dance Routine. “I think the newer ears for hardcore are just more open and, I would say, less puritan about it or judgmental.”
Moss grew up in Sacramento, going to Warped Tour in her teen years and later seeing shows at the hallowed venue 924 Gilman before moving to Santa Cruz. “All my friends were playing in bands, and I was taking photos of bands. I wanted to start a zine and secretly wanted to start a band,” she says. After she mentioned her passing fancy to her guitarist boyfriend, Malachi Greene, he immediately recruited members. “And I was like, ‘Wait, no, I was joking.’”
Moss couldn’t face the crowd for the first six months of Scowl’s existence, but she’s turned into one of the most magnetic performers in her scene. Her stage attire knowingly plays with ideas of how femininity is traditionally performed in music, as Moss favors high-femme accoutrements, and often flowers adorn the microphone stand. It’s a jarring contrast with her bellicose vocals and wildly confrontational lyrics, which often suggest that she’s one rude comment away from a homicide.
As Singh points out, there are more people in the hardcore scene than ever. There are also more different kinds of people in the scene. Exceptions abound, but hardcore has long had a reputation as one of the most dudely scenes imaginable, and the women and nonbinary artists who contributed in previous eras tended to have their efforts minimized, as is often the case.
But the presence of Scowl and their frequent tour partner Gel (which features multiple nonbinary members), as well as Punitive Damage, War on Women, Gouge Away, Fleshwater, and many others, shows that things are evolving ever so slowly. Outdated attitudes are rapidly being shed as more people gravitate to a genre that thrives in times of chaos.
“Everyone is mad. I feel like if I met a young person right now who isn’t genuinely upset with the state of our world and our government and our laws right now. ... I mean, wake up! It’s insane,” says Moss, who sounds exhausted for a moment but then finds the upside to living through a tumultuous era. “I like to channel it. I think a lot of young people are compartmentalizing it and hiding it away and feeling ashamed of that energy, but letting it out is completely euphoric.”
Much of the energy fueling the current hardcore moment comes from people bringing in ideas and influences that once seemed like heresy, and from the talents of people who until very recently couldn’t see a place for themselves in this world. Nearly every subculture has some level of gatekeeping, but hardcore has always had a particularly high barrier to entry. Or, to use the scene’s own language, it is always of paramount importance for newcomers to prove they’re “for real.”
The problem with this mindset, though, is that whether a scene is losing its way or evolving is entirely a matter of perspective, and it ultimately keeps new ideas and new blood out of the genre, weakening it as a result. Fortunately, cred checking isn’t really a thing in the internet age, when the right playlist, listicle, or YouTube explainer can get anyone up to speed and home recording makes it easy for anyone to participate.
“Whether they’re finding out about bands through TikTok or YouTube, whatever it is, social media, it’s bringing in a whole generation of kids and they’re all very excited about it,” says Singh. “And a lot of people think that hardcore punk needs to be gatekept and we don’t want more people to come in. And I understand that ’cause it’s a special thing. But my whole perspective is, why not bring more kids in, and if they have a shitty mindset, either work to change them or weed them out.”
Singh admits he has faced his share of hateful messages “where the subtext is they’re actually upset that I’m a brown guy doing this successfully.” So it’s been especially gratifying for him to see how things have changed post-pandemic as the world, and the scene, have begun opening back up.
“Even if you watch videos on the channel as a cross section over time, you’ll actually see in the crowd the diversity change,” he says. “I’m seeing a lot more people of color, a lot more people from the LGBTQ community. Not just showing up to shows, but actually starting bands and taking a more prominent role in the community.”
One example is the playfully intense New York hardcore band Regulate, which is fronted by the 28-year-old Sebastian Paba, “an amazing lyricist,” says Singh. “And so much of his identity and his struggle is baked into the music that the band writes.”
Regulate can be as caustic as anything currently on the scene (you know exactly what “C.O.P.” is about, and it goes as hard as it needs to). But Paba’s band also pulls from influences ranging from Bloc Party to Celia Cruz to Keith Sweat. (“I was picturing myself in a silk robe when I was tracking [“Hair”],” Paba says.)
Paba is a sign of the increasing prominence of people of color in hardcore, which, like most rock scenes, is often erroneously dismissed as a white boy thing. But that’s starting to change thanks to Turnstile (the high-kicking Franz Lyons is the scene’s most magnetic member, while Daniel Fang is one of its most inventive percussionists) and groups such as Soul Glo, End It, Zulu, and Jesus Piece.
“As far as I’m concerned, if you had to put one band on Mount Rushmore, it’s Bad Brains,” says Paba. “So having them as a reference point, it never made me feel like hardcore was a white guy thing. Now, is it white male dominated in terms of when you go to a show? Yeah, and it is what it is, but things are definitely changing. And whether it’s different colors, different genders, what have you, in the crowd, I’m all for that.”
The MySpace era was the last time rock music was competing, at least commercially, with pop and rap music. There’s been an acute longing for that era lately, from both older fans who considered naming a child “Helena” and young people who feel they missed out on the last wave and are unwilling to accept Machine Gun Kelly as a substitute. In many ways, Turnstile happens to be the right band at the right time, as well as the one ushering in the next wave.
“Obviously, I think hip-hop is always going to be the no. 1 thing. But young alternative kids, they just like guitars and people screaming and jumping around,” Paba says.
“At one point guitar music was huge. And then it didn’t go away to us, but the general audience, it was not what they cared about,” he says. “But now I see kids walking out of my sister’s high school wearing fucking Turnstile shirts, and I’m like, ‘How did this happen?’”
The magic of hardcore is that, no matter where you live, someone is putting together a show in a basement, recreation hall, charmingly dingy club, or whatever DIY venue they have. Or these days, in an overly antiseptic corporate venue. Maybe the bands are populated by kids who barely know how to play, or maybe they hardly even resemble what hardcore was once supposed to sound like. It’s still hardcore, and it’s still great, and it’s still there for you, whether or not the venue charges you an unreasonable amount for a cocktail.
“Hardcore music will always exist because people will always be fucked up,” says Shelton, a few minutes before he has to go set up for Militarie Gun’s show. “And they’ll always need somewhere to put that fucked-up energy.”
As soon as Militarie Gun begins, Shelton jokes from the stage about how the band has had “fucking technical difficulties because some guy almost rammed us to death.” He’s in good spirits. Within the span of one song, he’s pogoing in place and jumping right up to the crowd to wave the microphone at them, all while doing his signature onomatopoeic “oot oot” ad-lib, which has already become a meme in some circles.
He’s wearing a Guided by Voices T-shirt, while one of his guitarists is wearing a Slipknot one. Toward the end of the set, Goodson emerges onstage; his glasses and hoodie have vanished, and his sleeve tattoos are now resplendent. As Shelton beams from the stage, the two join forces for their collaborative single, “Pressure Cooker,” which is greeted like an instant classic, complete with a lot of people making a gesture like they’re punching the ground and a mass wave of crowd-surfing. As the two scream the chorus in unison, a lone bull of a man is pushed out of the circle pit. I push him back in. All part of the ritual. If it doesn’t get bigger than this, that is fine, as this is enough. But I don’t think it would be wise to bet against Shelton.
“That’s why we go to shows—to share the energy with each other,” says Shelton. “And I think that Turnstile puts that energy on full display, and that’s where it’s the most reciprocal relationship. And so the more that the rest of us can do that, and try to give something for someone to give back, then I think it all just feeds into itself and gets bigger.
“It’ll pop eventually,” he admits. “But we’re not there yet.”
Michael Tedder is a freelance journalist who has written for Esquire, MEL, Variety, Stereogum, and Playboy. His book, Top Eight: How MySpace Changed Music, will be published by Chicago Review Press on August 15, 2023, and is currently available for preorder.