When I first got really into punk rock and emo in my early college days, Bayside were one of those bands always on the periphery of my scene knowledge, but never one of my go-to bands. A single here or there would show up on my playlist, but I was admittedly more closely following groups like Taking Back Sunday, The Used, Brand New and Thursday. Bayside didn’t actively come back onto my radar until When We Were Young Festival, with my girlfriend sharing her excitement about seeing the group. Soon I started getting emails from the band’s PR team, sharing the band’s new music with me for coverage consideration (all of it was good). Since I was sadly one of those who were meant to attend the canceled date of WWWY, I didn’t get to see Bayside play live there, so when I learned they were coming to Los Angeles, I thought it was about time I heard what had kept this band going for the last twenty-plus years.
Waiting to go in, I chatted with fans in the VIP line, some of whom had flown in from nearby states, or driven hours for the show. One girl told me she had seen the band at least ten times, but honestly had lost count. Well damn, these guys really have a hardcore fan base! Not many groups from the scene can claim to have fans who are that fervent and not be worth seeing.
The opening bands that night were also New York natives. The first band Koyo were certainly the least familiar to the audience, and the band seemed to acknowledge that most of those in the audience had likely not heard them before. The group seemed determined to leave a mark, attacking the stage with a furious intensity. The band’s frontman was more of a shouter than a singer, making him perfect for the hardcore-leaning tracks. Coming out in a robe, by song three he was shirtless and encouraging the audience to get closer to the stage (most of which were hesitant due to a few very vicious slam dancers). Knowing the audience probably wouldn’t respond as enthusiastically to a group who was new to them, the frontman also assigned the fans to wave their phone flashlights in the air and jump for certain songs. When Koyo took more melodic turns, like on the great “Song for Anthony”, the band’s arrangement did feel a bit busy, losing some nuances in the songs in the noise barrage. They did show off some more intricate guitar lines than most melodic hardcore bands, and weren’t afraid to even bust out a slow song towards the set’s end. The band has a lot of potential, and if they can clean up the extra noise on stage, then next time they come to LA the fans won’t need as much coaxing to jump around.
Much like Bayside, I Am the Avalanche is a band I’ve seen mentioned on various websites and concerts bills for years but have never actually listened to (and I have only heard a bit of the frontman’s other band The Movielife). I was very happy to finally change this. Even though I wasn’t familiar with the group’s music, I was quickly caught up in their purely positive energy. As they introduced “Amsterdam” as having been inspired by taking too many mushrooms during a trip to Amsterdam, they called the song a celebration of life, and you could feel it in the room. Singer Vinnie Caruana seemed to have a real connection with the audience, and I found myself wanting to know the lyrics to the band’s songs. Certain ones like “Gratitude” and closer “Brooklyn Dodgers” were easy to catch on to though, so I could enjoy mouthing the words as I banged my head to the music. Tight musicianship and strong stage presence across the board.
Having met and spoke to numerous fans through the night, I can say that Bayside brings in quite a friendly crowd. At one point two guys next to me did get into a heated argument, and as I worried that they might come to blows, both sides deescalated the situation, apologized and introduced themselves. Congrats Bayside – your fans are mature adults along with being friendly!
And I will say that the fans are a big part of what made Bayside‘s performance as memorable as it was. Before coming onto the stage, recordings of fans talking about the importance of Bayside to them came over the speakers, establishing the emotional connection fans had to them. From the opening songs “Big Cheese” and “The Walking Wounded”, the circle pit opened large, and the band’s harmonizing was joined by the fans, turning the room into a large chorus section.
As I listened to more of the songs, I tried to analyze what it was that made Bayside stand-out among a number of their peers in the scene. The tones of their songs tend to be darker and very lyrical, akin to groups like Jawbreaker, yet their sound is a more melodic blend of punk rock with alt rock leanings. Vocalist Anthony Raneri sings as if he knows something you don’t; there’s an intelligence to his sinewy delivery that’s humble but secretes a blatant confidence. The band’s songs are not quite pop enough for what radio was playing in their heyday, but tracks like “Sick Sick Sick”, which was a huge audience shout-along, are catchy enough to impact a room.
Guitarist Jack O’Shea carries a metal influence in his playing and soloing, giving the band an edge that stands out in tracks like the new “How to Ruin Everything (Patience)”, which had the audience in a flurry just as strongly as with their older material. Even when not moshing, the fans were emotionally singing along to tracks like “They’re not Horses, They’re Unicorns”, with lyrics about painful romances (“She was a termite/Eating away at my roots). And the group kept plowing along, keeping the stage banter to a minimum and sometimes going right into the next song after finishing the last.
Set highlight for me was “Duality”, which has one of the band’s most memorable choruses and excellent harmonizing. Following a raucous “Montauk”, the group left the stage, though came back soon after. Raneri also broke out the acoustic guitar for a more stripped down version of “Don’t Call Me Peanut”. The full band then broke into one of their best new tracks, “Go to Hell”, before getting the whole room raging again with their biggest track “Devotion and Desire”.
It may be too late for me to become the die-hard Bayside devotee that many in this room were, but after seeing them live, I can definitely see why they are so beloved and appreciate the group’s talent. If you’re like me and not super familiar with the band, you can give them a first listen here.