You know, I'm from Long Island, and I've listened to Bayside since their rather underrated first full-length, Sirens and Condolences. But in the nearly seven years since that album's release, I'd had little motivation to see them live. I'm not really sure why, but if it was merely due to weak lineups, that all changed when I saw they were taking out Title Fight and Balance and Composure with them.
Balance and Composure is, bar none, one of the best bands going. Not just one of the best new bands, or young bands, or bands yet to deliver a proper full-length recording--just one of the best bands. They're providing a no-holds-barred, sincere sound that mixes all sorts of classic '90s indie and emo influences into a brooding and absolutely compelling blend. So I was elated to see them given the chance to play in front of significantly larger crowds; hell, this tour was the first one that took them to the west coast, even. Granted, no one here at the sold-out Blender Theatre at Gramercy seemed to be too familiar with the band, but their fantastic, well-played set should hopefully change that for some. Only a handful sung along, but it didn't matter to the flannel-clad quintet on stage, who trudged through the cloudy restraint of chilling numbers like "I Can't Do This Alone" and "Burden," as well as the dynamic aggression of others like "Show Your Face" and "Kaleidoscope." Vocalist/guitarist Jon Simmons' voice would crack intermittently, but it was only endearing.
I was most thrilled to hear the full-band version of a new song that was previously only widely available as part of an acoustic video session. Neutral Milk Hotel has certainly been a clear inspiration to the band since Only Boundaries, but it's rather blatant here. Aeroplane fanboys, forgive me for pointing out the obvious, but when Simmons stresses the "meeeee" in the line "wasted it all on me," it's pure Mangum worship. But the song is still overall gold, a stunning display of self-control and guitar-driven maneuvering that only solidifies mile-high expectations for their first LP, out probably in summer 2011.
When the set ended, one audience member could be heard commenting, "That was the most depressing shit ever."
Set list (6:59-7:23):
- Show Your Face
- I Can't Do This Alone
- new song
- Twenty Four
Title Fight's crowd in New York tends to consist primarily of hardcore kids still endeared to pop-punk in some way. That's not necessarily the case when they're playing larger-scale tours like these, though; it seemed like they probably picked up quite a few fans from the Set Your Goals tour. I'm almost getting used to see the band play on huge stages behind barricades, so I was looking forward to seeing them altogether, but they were pretty sloppy. Namely, the vocals and guitars, which didn't always hit their mark. I suppose you could cut them some slack, since they've been on tour for-fucking-ever, but you could sort of argue that they should be nailing it by now, which wasn't necessarily the case. Still, it was a scrappy and enjoyable set, and do you think their fans cared much anyway?
Someone in the back yelled "Bayside!" during their set, to which Ned Russin earnestly replied "Shut the fuck up! We're on tour!"; it was funny, and seemed par for the course as those surly, '90s emo-loving hardcore kids of Pennsylvania are prone to be.
Set list (7:41-8:06):
- Memorial Field
- Western Haikus
- No One Stays at the Top Forever
- Loud and Clear
Senses Fail bummed me out in every way, shape and form. I gave the band a pass on their breakthrough EP, From the Depths of Dreams, because while frontman Buddy Nielsen didn't have the most eloquent lyrical expressions, the band's unabashedly nascent and nasal delivery of 2000s scream-touched emo struck somewhat of a chord with my 17-year-old self, and the followup LP, Let It Enfold You, had enough of Taking Back Sunday's half-time breakdowns to accept SF's significantly pop-oriented progression. (They lost me at the sophomore LP, Still Searching.) But here, they were only pressing on nerves.
Nielsen is known for talking a lot of shit on both glossy bands and total abominations, and usually with some sort of substantial reasoning. But he was just a dickhead here, baiting the crowd with hateful talk towards both Long Island and the New York Mets. If you want to hate on a geographical area, whatever, but, the Mets? Tough target, Buddy. Do you go around picking on terminally ill kids too? And come off like a heterocentric jock in the process?
He'd have an easier defense if his voice wasn't so awful. I could hear why the band's been resorting to a dated O.C. metalcore sound over the last few years (which they brushed their older material with here, as well)--the dude cannot fucking sing. When Nielsen barked with all the glory of an Alex Varkatzas, it was decent enough (if that's what you're into); but when he had to utilize his more melodically-inclined intonations, it was absolutely abysmal. You'd think it was a joke. I'd compare it to a dying cat, but that would be an insult to the feline community.
Maybe their fans couldn't hear it getting so wrapped up in this sort of clustered push-mosh I was witnessing from the upstairs seats. I don't really know. I do know that one kid I saw losing his shit in the seats to "Calling All Cars" later declared, "He was such an asshole. I'm never gonna see them again."
Set list (8:33-9:29):
- Shark Attack
- New Year's Eve
- Calling All Cars
- You're Cute When You Scream
- Bite to Break Skin
- The Fire
- Lungs Like Gallows
- Buried a Lie
- Choke on This [?]
- Rum Is for Drinking, Not Burning
- Wolves at the Door [?]
- Can't Be Saved
- One Eight Seven
Bayside then redeemed the show. They played extremely well and with a streak of energy running through them, leaving behind that lazier saunter on their recorded output. They only gave me one song from my favorite album of theirs (the aforementioned Sirens), and it wasn't even the awesomely brutal (for them) "Masterpiece," but that's cool. They played the standouts from their other three albums with a no-frills operation that seemed to thrill the crowd at nearly every turn, and even though Vinnie Caruana unfortunately did not appear to be around for his guest spot on "The Walking Wounded," the band proved able to captivate the audience all themselves. Almost all themselves, anyway--they did a pretty dead-on rendition of "My Name Is Jonas," preceded by vocalist/guitarist Anthony Raneri giving some love to The Blue Album for being his first purchased CD. I'm glad I hadn't been researching set lists on this tour prior to this show, because it came as a wildly pleasant surprise.
The two cuts they played from their forthcoming Wind-Up debut, Killing Time, were excellent bonuses. Possibly their heaviest material since Sirens, Killing Time could very well be--maybe not coincidentally--their best album since that particular record.
Set list (9:56-10:58):
- The Walking Wounded
- Tortures of the Damned
- I Think I'll Be OK
- Just Enough to Love You
- Already Gone [new]
- The Ghost of St. Valentine
- Landing Feet First
- Sick, Sick, Sick [new]
- They're Not Horses, They're Unicorns
- Don't Call Me Peanut
- My Name Is Jonas [Weezer cover]
- Blame It on Bad Luck
- Devotion and Desire
- They Looked Like Strong Hands