On a cool evening in late September, I headed towards Montclair State University for a free show sponsored by Class One Concerts. The Garden State Parkway was ridiculously packed, however, and I ended up arriving much later than I intended. Inamere and Avenue opened the evening first, but I didn’t get there in time to catch them.
Though I missed the first two openers, I wasn’t lucky enough to also miss Whole Wheat Bread–a punk-pop band from Jacksonville. The act, which features three black guys in a standard punk fare, is atrocious; they help reinforce every negative stereotype about black rock musicians and play their ethnicity as a gimmick, even selling shirts that say “I Love Black People”. If the band didn’t focus so much on their own color of their skin and stuck to the music, maybe they’d have time to learn how to play a live show or write a tune.
Headliner Bayside was next, however, and they didn’t disappoint at all. Opening with 2005’s “Montauk”, the band didn’t stop for an hour and played selections from all four of their albums:
Devotion and Desire
Blame It On Bad Luck
Don’t Call Me Peanut
Megan (The Smoking Popes Cover)
The Walking Wounded
They’re Not Horses, They’re Unicorns
Dear Your Holiness
The Smoking Popes cover was a nice acoustic break, and Anthony’s mostly-solo performance of “Don’t Call Me Peanut” was a good breather in between an otherwise completely rocking set.
I was glad to see the band play five songs from The Walking Wounded–easily the band’s best effort to date, but they need to start playing more. Songs like “I and I” and “Choice Hops and Bottled Self-Esteem” need to become staples to the live show. Old songs like “Masterpiece” were certainly well-received; Bayside, is, well, a cult, and their long-time fans always show up in droves ready to eat up anything from when the band was just playing basement shows in New York.
Bayside always had something to say regarding guitar solos–too many “scene” bands just can’t write one or simply omit–and their guitar romps translate spectacularly live. Jack O’Shea is an excellent guitarist, and I just can’t see the band without his signature licks. Of course vocalist Anthony Raneri is a solid frontman; he isn’t the best singer in a classical sense, but he’s one of the most passionate vocalists today, and you know his lyrics aren’t ever empty words, especially on tracks like “Blame It On Bad Luck”.
In the end, Bayside closed the evening with “Devotion and Desire”, perhaps the band’s signature song. The song encompasses Bayside: a simple yet solid guitar lick, desperate lyrics, a big chorus, and a burning guitar solo. When the band finally left the stage, the crowd (which featured little dancing and mostly attempts to get closer to Anthony) was completely satisfied, and I was no exception. Bayside put on a tremendous set for a New Jersey crowd that didn’t pay a dime to get in.