Nearly as much as I enjoy checking out new bands live, I enjoy visiting new venues. My first time out to Poughkeepsie to see a show, the Chance is a small, intimate theater; growing up with shows in Philadelphia, I’d liken it most to The Trocadero in China Town. Unfortunately, we arrived late, catching Tokyo Rose’s final song (and missing local act Measured in Grey entirely).
We caught stood out of the pit for Four Year Strong, a dual-vocal punk-pop act mixed with hardcore elements and a synthesizer. A watered down (and much less talented) version of the excellent Set Your Goals, the I Surrender Records five-piece from Massachusetts was energetic playing in front of a crowd that knew every hook. The entire evening’s sound was exceptionally lacking in the treble range–and being new to the venue, I’m not sure exactly if that’s normal–but Four Year Strong’s drums sounded extremely lackluster, despite a strong performance from drummer Jake Massucco. The frontmen certainly can’t sing–at least in a classical sense–but they did a decent enough job performing the gritty, hardcore-inspired vocals. Synth player Josh Lyford is extremely out of place; the band does not need the trite keyboards and synthesized melodies on top of their guitars. Moreover, he spent most of the time awkwardly dancing, since most of the songs don’t require his Korg. The band’s live performance suffers more from a lack of well-written songs than lack of dedication or energy, as they seem to pour their entire souls into the music. Unfortunately, the songs they’re putting so much heart into aren’t anything to write home about.
In stark contrast to the energetic and crowd-involved Four Year Strong, the evening’s next act, Straylight Run, was incredibly dull and lackluster. I enjoy Straylight Run’s two albums (and, of course, their original demos), but tonight’s live performance was completely lacking. They performed the songs I wanted to hear (among others: Existentialism on Prom Night, It’s For The Best, Soon We’ll Be Living In The Future, Take It To Manhattan), but John Nolan’s vocals started off extremely rough and never really settled; Michelle Nolan’s vocals came off exceptionally weak, and boring, but she did manage to sing in key the entire night and sounded wonderful when she put the extra ‘umph’ into her performance. Most disheartening was the band’s extensive use of overdubbing/sampling; guitars, drums, horns, and keys were all sampled for most of the evening. Live sampling is sometimes necessary or a strong enhancement to a live show, but in Straylight Run’s case it ruins the performance. While well-written and certainly strong, the band’s songs do not need samples to come off live, and the band would do well to ditch the crutches and become a real live act.
Bayside took the stage a little before 10PM, opening with “Carry On” from 2007’s The Walking Wounded. The band played thirteen songs, eight of which came from their first two full-lengths. I’m still hoping “I and I” and “Choice Hops and Bottled Self-Esteem” make their way into future setlists; tonight they played (not in order) [this should be correct]:
The Walking Wounded
They’re Not Horses, They’re Unicorns
Dear Your Holiness
Devotion and Desire
They Looked Like Strong Hands
Blame it on Bad Luck
Don’t Call Me Peanut
Alcohol and Altar Boys
Bayside played great, engaging the home-state crowd the entire time. Songs from their 2005 self-titled album seemed best received, perhaps the reason behind it making up a bulk of their set. The crowd attempted to start a few pits, but the bulk of the crowd didn’t quite understand the basics behind it, resulting in large push-mosh pits. I spent a few songs just protecting some of the younger girls from being completely trampled, but eventually “Don’t Call Me Peanut” settled the crowd down. I’ve written about this band a few times before, and I stand by what I said earlier: Jack O’Shea is an excellent guitarist with a clear metal influence. From his subtle guitar work on the largely acoustic “Don’t Call Me Peanut” to his ripping solos, it’s impossible to see the band without his signature licks.
Anthony Raneri is a great frontman, and he was on top of his game this evening. Painful lyrics like those on “Blame It On Bad Luck” are delivered with emotion and heart. “Devotion and Desire”, the band’s most well-known single, closed out the evening as part of their encore, and the crowd finally opened up a few decent pits for the song. This tour continues into March, if it comes your way don’t miss out, if only to see a great set from Bayside.