This past summer was actually one of the best of my life. My health has been good. My children have grown into young adults, and while I know they'll still need more help along the way, they've both become people of whom my wife and I feel very proud -- we don't just love them, we also like them. And when you can say that about your kids, you're way ahead of the game. Meanwhile, with the kids older, my wife and I can start to spend more time with one another. And over the summer, we got to do a fair bit of traveling, both as a couple and as a family. And finally, as you know if you've been reading this blog at all, for the first time in a long time, we had the chance to see a lot of live music, both separately and together.
Lately, I've begun to think about my musical bucket list. Mind you, I'm not planning on checking out anytime soon, but first off, who ever does? And more importantly, we've hit a point in history where many of the great bands of the '60s and '70s are either dying off or getting too old to perform.
Some of the artists I really regret missing I know I'll probably never get to see now. I don't think Gilmour and Waters will be touring together anytime soon in Pink Floyd, and with Neil Peart retired from playing the drums, the closest I'll ever get to seeing Rush is if Geddy Lee does a big reunion tour with Bob and Doug McKenzie. (Look it up, hoser!)
Anyway, Saturday night I got to check a big one off of my bucket list when I saw Bayside at the Paramount in Huntington. Over the last decade or so, they've become one of my favorite bands of the modern era, and one of my Top 25 Bands of all time. A lot of that has to do with lead vocalist/songwriter Anthony Raneri, who is one of the best male vocalists out there today, and also an emotionally insightful songwriter. I first got turned on to them with their 2005 self-titled album, which not only contained "Devotion and Desire", their best known song even today, but also featured my favorite Bayside song, "Existing in a Crisis (Evelyn)". (This last one is an ode wherein Raneri fantasizes various methods of executing an ex, and begs her to cooperate with her own demise so he can "Bury you in a shallow grave/As shallow as you are.")
As it turns out, this was one of those weekends. I bought my ticket to this show months ago, and gradually, other commitments starting building up around it. First we scheduled a Covenant Ceremony on Friday night for the child I've been working with at the adoption agency (where the child and the parents make their final vows to become a forever-family) and that was both touching and beautiful. Then my agency scheduled a staff meeting for early Saturday morning. (I've been trying to talk my director into alternating the time slots for the meetings -- do one month's in the early morning, then the next one during my kind of hours, say, midnight to 3 AM. So far, it's a no-go. Then my other job, which hasn't had work for me since the end of July, suddenly started a big project that required me working Friday afternoon, and all day Sunday. So needless to say, sleep this weekend wasn't easy to come by.
So, Saturday night. The parking wasn't great -- all of the lots near the Paramount were already full when I got there. But luckily, it was an hour before the show, so I had time to drive around a little and find a parking spot, about 3 blocks away.
The opening band was a happy surprise: an all-female quartet called Potty Mouth. (And ironically, I didn't hear any of them curse all night). This is one of those bands I've had on my list of bands to check out, and I'm not 100% sure where I originally heard about them. At first, I thought it must have been in Alternate Press. But I think it might have actually been from the WARPED Tour website -- every year, when the WARPED Tour posts their roster of artists, I scour the pages for bands who sound interesting to me. I think they probably played the tour, either this year or last. I never actually get to go to the damned thing, but at least their website tips me off to some good bands.
Anyway, Potty Mouth was very enjoyable. Some websites classify them as a pop punk band, but I definitely didn't hear punk. They're a little grungy and a little rocky. Sputnik describes them as a garage band, and that feels more accurate to me.
They were four young girls with multi-colored hair who clearly seemed happy to be there. When they started their set, the room was only about a quarter full, but gradually it filled up so that by the end of their set, it was at least two thirds full. Special kudos to the brilliant head of emerald green hair the bass player was sporting, and to the band's very friendly merch girl who chatted with me when I bought a couple of CDs.
They seemed to be playing mostly new material (not that it made much difference to me since I'm not yet familiar with their old material), and I liked their general sound. I tried to take a few notes on my copy of Good Times, but the theater was pretty dark, and one them looks suspiciously like "Twisted Sister", which makes no sense at all. One song I particularly liked seemed to be called "Twenty-two", and another that I know was a new one (because they said so) was called "Do It Again". Anyway, good band. I'll definitely pick up their next album.
Bayside booked the show in celebration of the 10-year anniversary of their Walking Wounded album. True confessions -- it's not my favorite Bayside album. It's good, don't get me wrong, but I prefer their new album, Vacancy, or 2008's Shudder. Nevertheless, it was seriously cool to see them live. They did a high-energy set, and related some interesting tidbits to the audience as well (for example, they began life as a band rehearsing in West Islip, and they had their first live show at Ground Zero in Bellmore. And according to their guitarist Jack O'Shea, there were more people standing in the wings Saturday night at the Paramount than there were at that first Ground Zero show.)
So here are my thoughts about the show:
1. The band surprised their fans from the get-go by opening with their big number, "Devotion and Desire", and by ending the show without doing an encore. I can't gripe about that last part. They played for a solid hour-and-a-half, and went all out during that time.
2. They didn't play "Existing in a Crisis", but I would have been shocked (and thrilled) if they had. But they did play "Mary", my favorite song of 2016 by any band, and they played "Choice Hops and Bottled Self-Esteem", my favorite song from The Walking Wounded. Actually, they probably played the whole Walking Wounded album. (I'm pretty sure the reason Walking Wounded is such an important album for them is it's the first studio album they did after regrouping from a terrible van accident that injured bass player Nick Ghanbarian and killed their drummer, John "Beatz" Hollohan. One day I'll tell you a story about how John Hollohan was a part of the worst night I ever had as a music booker. But not today. Maybe next post.
3. As always, I couldn't take my eyes off the kids in the crowd. (Hmm, that sounded wrong, didn't it?) Comparing this show to the Sleeping With Sirens show I took my daughter and son to a few months ago, where the crowd surfers mostly seemed to be tiny 15-year-old girls, Bayside's surfers were mainly older and much clunkier guys. As always, the Paramount security team did a stellar job of catching them and letting them down safely before they broke their fool heads. And tBayside's mosh pit, while still not huge, was considerably more larger and more frenetic than was Sleeping With Sirens'.
4. At first, I thought the sound system was really muddy for Raneri's vocals, especially on the louder songs. But in fairness to the sound man, I actually think it's just my ears that are fuzzier. Sometimes aging sucks.
5. I was flying solo at this show, so I was in a reflective mood. And one of the things I was thinking about (not for the first time) was how we listen to music differently when we're older than we do when we're younger. This was one of those shows where the whole crowd seemed to know all of the words to the songs, and there were many points during the night where it seemed like the whole room was singing along. And I realized that as much as I like Bayside and their music, they don't have the same emotional resonance to me as they do to many of the people that were in the room last night. For me, Bayside is a solid, clever band. Most of their albums wind up in my Top Ten lists for their given years, and I think all of them have had songs in my Top 20 Songs list for that year. But because Raneri is such an emotional writer, and writes about getting kicked around in life and often falling on your face, Raneri, and the band are something deeper to these people. I guarantee that many of the people in the crowd last night would tell you that Bayside has helped to get them through some of the worst nights of their lives. Last night was a celebration by both the band and their fans -- a celebration of having survived all of those shitty times in their lives, and still living to tell the tale. I couldn't enjoy the show at the same level these folks did. But I was glad that the price of a ticket let me be a part of it in my own small way.
So here's to Bayside, and here's to Potty Mouth. And of course to the Paramount, and their valiant (and probably sore-backed) security guards. And to the friendly Potty Mouth merch girl, and the two girls whose seats I was accidentally sitting in for half the night because it was too dark in the back to read the seat numbers. It was a very busy and frantic weekend for me, but I'm still glad I got to see this show.