Amber's souvenirs from summer concerts include a drumstick signed by Daniel Fang, and guitar picks from Frank Bello and Scott Ian. / Photo via Amber Bertino

Welcome to the first installment of “Feedback,” a column about music. The summer is giving way to fall, but the memories of the live music I experienced these last few months still linger. Attending concerts is my favorite thing to do and the highlight of every year. This summer in particular, I saw some of my favorite sets yet, but it was even more special considering that live music has been halted these last few years.

Turnstile: May 24 at The Fillmore, Philadelphia

The jam-packed Fillmore floor held the importance of an arena rock show. Turnstile has been receiving an immense amount of hype, reaching into territory that few hardcore bands have breached. Since the release of their magnum opus “Glow On” in August 2021, Turnstile has been riding a wave of mainstream attention. The fans are aware of this hype, and so a Turnstile show feels like a celebration of their accomplishments. However, the biggest source of magic was the fact that both the band and the audience were all-in, emotionally and physically. 

From the first note of the show opener “Mystery,” I was thrown about like a rag doll and all I could see was the spray of someone’s drink across the stage lights and the blur of push-moshing bodies. When I caught a moment to resurface and finally got a good look at the stage, it became abundantly clear why Turnstile are a top-notch live act. True to their hardcore sensibilities, there was nothing flashy going on – if you don’t count the pristine pastel pink backdrop. It was simply the raw energy that the band took from the music, and people’s love for that incredible music, channeled back into the audience. 

Vocalist Brendan Yates had full command of the room and it was inspiring to witness his notorious on-stage antics. As I watched him dance and give earnest messages to the crowd, while simultaneously managing a blisteringly efficient set, it solidified my belief that he is one of the greatest hardcore frontmen of all time. To top off the night, I got a drumstick thrown by the freakishly skilled Daniel Fang, complete with his signature and the Turnstile heart logo. 

Tears for Fears: June 21 at The Mann, Philadelphia

One of the more unexpected musical discoveries for me in the last few years has been my obsession with Tears for Fears. I have a strong childhood memory of being moved by their 1984 hit “Shout” whenever it came on the radio. Apparently, I got into Tears for Fears at the perfect time, because they released their first album in 17 years on Feb. 25, 2022, titled “The Tipping Point.” 

Older material was handled with a freshness that emphasized why Tears for Fears’ biggest hits are still relevant. The new material translated live extremely well, something which I worried would not be the case. My doubts were allayed from the jump, as the concert began with “No Small Thing” and “The Tipping Point.” Those two tracks hold the most impact on the record, and they were even more powerful live. Then, my already soaring heart was gripped with emotion when I was hit with “Everybody Wants to Rule the World.” I didn’t expect their most popular song to come that early in the show, and there was something special about hearing that iconic opening guitar lick played live. 

Other highlights of the night include the extended jam session of “Badman’s Song” and the masterful vocals from Laura Evans, who assisted on the tracks which originally featured Oleta Adams. She got her time to shine during a re-imagined version of “Suffer the Children” and it completely changed my opinion of the song for the better.

This is Hardcore: July 9 at Franklin Music Hall, Philadelphia

Hardcore was a major theme of the summer. Not only was I listening to lots of hardcore, but I was attending hardcore shows for the first time. After the inaugural Turnstile show, I was starving for another experience of that caliber. Luckily for me, Philly’s main hardcore festival since 2006, This is Hardcore, offered an incredible sampler of bands this year. It was really cool to experience both the legends of the genre and the up-and-coming bands in the same lineup. While it was a good time across the board, certain sets stood out for me.

Drain invaded the east coast fest from California, armed with boogie boards and inflatable beach balls. There is something surreal about watching people crowd surf on boogie boards and whack each other on the head with them. Drain’s thrash-influenced hardcore has a frenetic quality that explodes in a live setting, and the audience reaction matched that energy. The crowd popped off for the sing-along “Feel the Pressure” and then piled on stage for the closer, “California Cursed.” From their shark shtick to their relentless live show to their incredible music, I cannot praise this band enough.

The elephant in the room for me all day was Madball. In hardcore, Madball needs no introduction. They are pillars of New York hardcore and their influence is apparent in the amount of heaviness and toughness still present in the genre and culture. It was mind-blowing how tight this band is. The decades of touring have polished Madball into a professional live band, but by no means has that taken away their grit. Their set lived up to the legend, and experiencing “Set it Off” live was one of the highlights of my life.

Anthrax: Aug. 28 at The Fillmore, Philadelphia

I have saved the best for last. It was fitting that I began the summer at The Fillmore and ended there as well. This time it was to see Anthrax, who were closing their 40th-anniversary tour in Philadelphia. The supporting bands were Black Label Society and Hatebreed. This was actually my second time seeing Hatebreed, as they headlined This is Hardcore a month earlier. While that brutal set consisted of old material and hardcore fan favorites, this set for the Anthrax tour had a mix across their discography. It was a different type of show and a different type of crowd, but Hatebreed did not pull any punches. I witnessed Hatebreed convert the audience in real-time, and it was definitely the strongest response I have seen an opening band receive. While I never worked up the nerve to jump into the circle pit, I had a blast punching the air and singing along in the deepest tone that my voice could handle.

I managed to get to the barricade for Anthrax, which was my first time at the front row for a show. If it wasn’t for the sentimental attachment I already have to Metallica, Anthrax would easily be my favorite metal band. So when the curtain fell and I had a clear view of the band ripping into “Among the Living” I was struck with surreal giddiness. Anthrax is a powerful mix of technical proficiency and carefree fun that results in a perfect live experience. It is awe-inspiring to witness the band members run across the stage and interact with the crowd while simultaneously slinging out some of the best riffs ever recorded. 

I strategically stood on the side of the stage where bassist Frank Bello tends to be, although he doesn’t stay in one place for long. As a bassist myself, Bello is one of my musical heroes and I was so stoked to study his playing in person. I even got one of his picks, although as a finger player he only uses it during the intro to “Got the Time” for that punchy tone. I also snagged one of rhythm guitarist Scott Ian’s picks. The biggest indicator that I had fun was that I gave myself whiplash from headbanging and struggled to move my upper body for the next two days.

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