Festivals are fantastic in the way that they expose attendees to a wide variety of bands spanning across many genres. In combination with warm weather, overpriced parking, massive crowds, overpriced vegetarian food, good friends, Raising Cane’s, fantastic music, and dodging getting ralphed on in the photo pit, the Observatory’s When We Were Young fest was nothing short of an entertaining, yet exhausting experience. Turnstile returned to California to play the second day of When We Were Young on Sunday, April 9th. This was Turnstile’s first appearance in California since their previous tour back in November of 2016 with Angel Du$t, in which they promoted the release of their most recent EP Move Thru Me (2016). Turnstile’s drummer Daniel Fang and guitarist Patrick McCrory had previously been on a fairly hectic tour with Angel Du$t for the past few months; they played throughout Europe as well as various festivals and shows throughout the US.
The festival took place at the Observatory in Santa Ana, California, and the venue converted their parking lot into festival grounds, creating two outdoor stages. Turnstile played the smaller stage from 3:15 to 3:45 PM. Fang luckily arrived only moments before their set, due to flight complications. Despite being confined to a smaller stage, Turnstile played arguably the most energetic set that I watched all weekend; they played a mix of songs across their entire discography, primarily performing content off of Nonstop Feeling (2015).
Despite festivals existing as a fantastic tool for exposing individuals to other artists, they often spawn a feeling of disconnect between the artist and the listener. Barriers, in the case of festivals, exist for liability reasons, providing protection to artists, attendees, and photographers alike. However, in the cases of festivals that bring barriers combined with massive crowds, that intimacy that is essential to the identity of genres such as hardcore punk are naturally diminished due to the nature of the setting. Regardless of whatever setting Turnstile plays, and of what security or barriers are imposed, that intimacy between artist and attendee is still retained. Turnstile’s lively half hour set brought out easily the most energetic crowd reaction of the entire festival. Frontman Brendan Yates spent a solid portion of the set standing directly on the edge of the barrier with the mic in the crowd. And through this up close and personal interaction between the vocalist and the crowd, Yates helped retain the intimacy that is so vitally important to Turnstile’s live performances. Filled with sketchy stage dives across a crowded photo pit, the most jumping out of any individuals at the whole festival, and invigorating energy despite sound and equipment issues, Turnstile made it clear that their music demands the entirety of one’s attention and energy.
Personally, this set was extremely important to me because it was exactly one year to the date that I had first shot Turnstile in San Francisco on their 2016 tour with Basement, which was the first large show that I had ever shot. This band has been extremely impactful in my development as a photographer, the evolution of my music taste, and my expectation for how much energy a live show should bring. Every time I watch this band I feel invigorated and inspired. In an age of music where a large amount of mainstream music lacks originality and complexity, these guys continue to bring their unique, creative, and positive mindsets to prove themselves as a band that does not conform to anyone else’s expectations in terms of both songwriting and performance. Turnstile continues to show that they can bring an unparalleled amount of energy to the stage wherever they play, regardless of whether it’s at a skate shop or at a giant festival.
In addition, I’d like to give a very special thanks to Turnstile’s drummer, Daniel Fang, an incredibly kind and talented individual and musician, whose continual support and generosity have allowed me to experience some amazing opportunities both in music and photography that I’d never thought possible. Please continue to support him in all of his musical endeavors!
Included below is a gallery of images taken of the Turnstile set by some of my favorite photographers that I am proud to call my friends. Another very special thanks to Octavio Orduno, Gabe Becerra, Hailey Magoon, Joe Calixto and Jonathan Velazquez for contributing their pictures to this article and for continuing to be both amazing artists and human beings. It’s always a really unique opportunity to view a documented event through the eyes of many creative photographers. Please continue to support all of these wonderful individuals in all aspects of their lives.
Written by Sam Jameson
Photos by Sam Jameson, Octavio Orduno, Gabe Becerra, Hailey Magoon, Joe Calixto and Jonathan Velazquez