The first time adolescent me briefly encountered Bayside, it was actually with a cover they did of Green Day’s “Burnout.” I was in the midst of my skater-girl-Avril phase, experimenting with eyeliner and swooning over Pete Wentz.
A few mp3 downloads later, that gateway track lead me to “Devotion and Desire” off their self-titled studio album Bayside. It’s humorous to think back to 14-year-old me listening to a 21-year-old, emo, heartbroken Anthony Reneri threatening to “set himself on fire.” I don’t consider myself a big, cult fan by any means – I deviated from the pop-punk world in the years following – but Bayside has admittedly held a fond place in my memory as an angsty, emo-rock band I could headbang to.
When I saw they were putting on a stripped-down acoustic set in St. Paul, I was pleasantly surprised. On Tuesday night at Turf Club, they showcased slower, softer renditions of some of their biggest songs. Bayside openly declared that their latest album, Acoustic Volume 2, is “strictly for the fans, more so than any other release or record.” Unlike previous tours, this marks the first time they have dedicated an entire tour to specifically acoustic sets.
This isn’t their first acoustic compilation, however. Bayside put out the original Acoustic album in 2006. It’s important to note that this particular album came out at a delicate time for Bayside, shortly after a tragic car accident that killed drummer John “Beatz” Hollohan and seriously injured bass player Nick Ghanbarian. The album, and highlight track “Winter,” paid tribute to Hollohan. There were rumors of a follow-up acoustic part two, and twelve years later they finally followed through on that promise.
Over the years – over a decade in fact – Bayside has maintained a fairly consistent sound, with the exception of the 2006 acoustic EP. However, Acoustic Volume 2 is not a chord-to-chord translation like its predecessor. Volume 2 features new original songs that feature a gleaming, more refined poppy sound with open chords and noticeable variation on percussion. The added instrumentation – tambourine, maracas, piano and strings – creates a fuller, reimagined representation of the Bayside we know and love. Being an acoustic set, the subdued tempo directed more attention to the lyrics. However, the accompaniment of drums, bass, keyboard and occasional violin kept the energy up, channeling thundering, angst-ridden sing-along classics.
It’s obvious that they’ve grown from their emo roots over the past fifteen years, but Tuesday night they still leaned on some fan favorites. Faster-paced “Blame it on Bad Luck” and “Sick, Sick, Sick” brought out the classic emo-punk crowd I expected. I was eager to see their stripped-down version of “Devotion and Desire,” a song I didn’t think would one-up the original, but Jack O’Shea’s guitar solo held strong.
Their take on “Mary,” a more recent track off of Vacancy, struck me as one of the most pop-oriented covers, gleaming with Nashville influence. Over the past two years, Raneri and lead guitarist O’Shea have ventured beyond the five boroughs to Nashville, Tennessee. Their time creating music in the “Buckle of the Bible Belt” hasn’t necessarily country-coated their sound, but you can hear a touch of roots-rock and folk, especially with the recurring violin in “Landing Feet First.”
New original songs included a groovy, upbeat track about industrialist Howard Hughes called “Howard,” and an emotional, quiet ballad “It Don’t Exist” – hands down my favorite out of their new material.
“The sky’s not gonna fall/ Well, maybe it will/ And even though you never call, I hear you still/ And, even if the papers say to stay inside all day/ I’ll take my chances with the rain/ With the rain”
Tearing up to stripped-down Bayside is not how I expected to spend my Tuesday night. But Raneri’s tale of unrequited love in “It Don’t Exist” struck an emotional chord. He alludes to love he took a chance on and waited on, only to find that this “love” is not what he was told it should be. Maybe songs like this don’t point to the classic characteristics of the “Bayside sound.” As a whole, the album may seem to be over-produced for die-hard, cult fans. But, personally, I prefer this brand of Bayside.
They did not play “Winter,” which was disappointing. But, like many bands that get sick of playing the same hit song over and over upon request, I understand why they deviated from that emotional tribute. For example, I’ve come to accept that I probably will never see Modest Mouse actually play “Float On” live.
However, Bayside did uproot a sad, fan-favorite from the first acoustic album, “Don’t Call Me Peanut.” Raneri even stepped back and allowed the audience to sing a leg of the chorus. It was evident that I was surrounded by longtime fans. Despite it being -24 degrees outside, Tuesday’s sold out Turf Club proved to be an intimate, warm haven for fans reliving their emo-punk days.
Acoustic Volume 2 is a must-listen, especially for Bayside fans. If you’re like me and are a sucker for anything acoustic, or just love getting something extra from bands you already enjoy, this is right up your alley.