On the bus with Bayside
By Andy Argyrakis
From the pages of Hear/Say Magazine
After seven years of grassroots touring with the likes of the Smoking Popes, Fall Out Boy and Hawthorne Heights, two previous studio CDs on Victory Records and a live project, plus surviving a tragic van accident that claimed one of its members, Bayside has finally arrived as one of today’s most vital alternative acts. This year has already packed in a whirlwind of activities for the Long Island outfit, starting with the fellow Victory release of The Walking Wounded (which Alternative Press named amongst the most anticipated albums of 2007) and carrying over into a cross country tour with acclaimed indie acts Anberlin, Meg & Dia and Jonezetta, followed by a string of headlining and this summer’s Vans Warped Tour. When it came to those initial dates, the band gave HearSay Magazine a literal all access pass for the wild ride, which fell nothing short of exciting, emotional and entertaining.
Day One- New York City, New York
The “Almost Famous”-styled journey begins on the band’s tour bus following a resplendent homecoming show at the Big Apple’s Bowery Ballroom. Following the closure of CBGB just a few blocks away, the two story club has now become its replacement punk rock haunt and Bayside with its tour partners had no problem selling it out. But more than reveling in the feverish reaction to one of the first new CD performances, members are gathered around the TV to catch a glimpse of “Late Night With Conan O’Brien.”
Though singer/guitarist Anthony Raneri, guitarist Jack O’Shea, bassist Nick Ghanbarian and drummer Chris Guglielmo have all been lifelong fans of the show, this particular night of viewing stood out from all the others. Though random chitchat ensures over early program guests like Lance Armstrong, all side conversations cease when O’Brien returns from commercial holding a copy of The Walking Wounded. Yes, Bayside is indeed the evening’s musical guests (though the spot was taped earlier that day) and the album’s lead single “Duality” is being broadcast to millions of viewers across the globe.
After the segment ends, the guys slap a few round of high fives and all their cell phones simultaneously light up with congratulations from family and friends. Within a matter of minutes, the band’s website and MySpace page are buzzing with posts, plus the clip’s already been posted on YouTube. The guys are fully reveling in the monumental moment- the first of several the week will hold- but the viewing party is short lived. Sleep is in order since the band has a show six hours away the very next day, not to mention mounds of phone interviews and a post show meet and greet.
Day Two- Buffalo, New York
The buzz from the previous evening continues as the guys get off the bus around noon and head into The Buffalo Icon. Members of the other bands are loading in, but everyone takes time to extend Bayside well wishes. Even though the concert wasn’t sold out the day before, the remaining tickets were quickly snatched up in the morning to see the stage turned TV stars up close and personal. “Our fans know how honest we are and we’ll keep our integrity forever,” ensures Raneri, keeping his feet on the ground over lunch at a nearby deli. “The fans aren’t sweating seeing us on ‘Conan’ or MTV because they see all we’re doing is trying to bring the message to a broader audience.”
As Bayside takes the stage a few hours later, militantly performing songs such as “Carry On,” “The Walking Wounded” and “I and I,” members blend themes of empowerment and perseverance. After all, they could’ve quite realistically thrown in the towel on many occasions, especially after the fatal crash on October 31, 2005 in Cheyenne, Wyoming that took the life of previous drummer John “Beatz” Holohan and sent Ghanbarian to the hospital in a full body cast. Despite the trauma, Raneri and O’Shea reconvened on the road within three weeks as an acoustic duo, performing in tribute to their fallen band mates.
“We preach about overcoming adversity yet we would’ve come off hypocritical if we turned and ran with our tales between our legs,” says O’Shea, citing that trying time after the show. “It helped fans relate and put them into our shoes, which has since allowed them to see where our lyrics are coming from and help them understand [the words] better for themselves.”
Day Three- Detroit, Michigan
The mood turns lighter the next morning as everyone is unexpectedly awaken from their bunks by tour manager Josh Penner. As the guys pop out in their pajamas (which range from sweat pants to basketball shorts to boxers) two Canadian customs officials pop onto the bus for a quick ID check and search. While the driver could’ve saved such trouble by staying in the States on the drive to Motor City, this short cut beat Anberlin’s arrival by two hours.
The extra time allowed for some random, non-concert related activities, such as a quick tour of the General Motors showroom and a neighboring Starbucks, plus a five block walk amidst torrential downpour to the Hilton for some quick showers (one of life’s daily luxuries that becomes a challenge on the road). After getting situated, it’s time for a show at the legendary Saint Andrews Hall, known for cultivating the local likes of Eminem and Kid Rock before they were famous.
Like its precursors, the gig is once again sold out and the audience is even more amped than before. The slightly older acoustic song “Don’t Call Me Peanut” made for the show’s runaway sing-a-long (reminiscent of a more muscular Dashboard Confessional) and the guys literally hung out after the show for hours signing CDs, snapping photos and occasionally being bought a drink.
“Anberlin always says we sound like Dashboard because we write melodies and lyrics that are easy to learn and sing really loud,” echoes Raneri from the Starbucks chat earlier that day. “We don’t sound like them at all, but the songs possess that quality. Our shows are rowdier than the average pop/punk band.”
Day Four (The Final Frontier)- Chicago, Illinois
Just like twenty-four hours ago, this morning’s wake up call is abrupt but efficient. After pulling out of Detroit around 3 a.m., Penner gives everyone the chance to sleep in until 8:30 a.m., but the band has the challenging task of being off the bus and set up in the Q101 radio studios for a live spot only a half hour later. All could’ve went off without a hitch, but technical problems force Bayside to swap segments with a local guest, thus going live for a performance and interview a half hour later.
Though it would’ve been great to go back to bed, the station visit didn’t wrap up until lunchtime, which meant food was in order. After wolfing down some greasy grub outside the Windy City’s Metro (the birthplace of the Smashing Pumpkins), it was time to set up for an acoustic performance at the venue’s neighboring store. The line for entry wrapped around the block, but only the first hundred were admitted due to capacity issues, while others pressed their ears and faces against the store’s window for a quick glimpse.
After the short set, the guys gathered for another quick round of autographs, flanked with more stories of how the band’s music helped get someone through a precarious predicament. The guys sincerely offer a listening ear and appear visibly moved by the positive comments, so much that it sparks additional insight from Ghanbarian. “A lot of people don’t know happiness is an option and they need some one to tell them flat out,” he notices after the signing. “They’ll see what’s wrong and be depressed, and while sometimes depression is an option, being positive is also an option. A lot of people are probably duped into thinking they’re depressed when they’re not- it’s all about your outlook.”
But the heavy reflections don’t last long as some of the local Victory staffers announce Bayside’s just been added to MTV2 rotation, much to the excitement of the entire cast and crew. However the elation is short lived since the full-fledged show is about to start and the guys have to make a quick change of clothes, plus down a round of drinks and snacks. An hour later, the foursome is closing with the fan favorite “Devotion” and the jam packed room is once again singing loud and proud, adding some crowd surfing and a swirling mosh pit to the mix.
By the time the band makes it back to their bus, it’s packed with over twenty friends, including players from the Smoking Popes and The Forecast. With the clang of beer bottles, some laughs over a “Family Guy” DVD and stories galore, midnight, then the wee hours of the morning roll around. By the time the clock strikes three, it’s time for everyone to leave, since there’s a show to be played the next day in St. Paul, then St. Louis and on and on in Bayside’s seemingly endless schedule.
“I’m so happy with where the band is right now and can’t believe we’ve come this far,” offers Raneri just before the engines rev up. “It’s the love of my life, and if our success stays at this level from now until we die, that’s fine by me. The ride so far has been too crazy to comprehend- from the fact that we just played on ‘Conan’ the other day to just having a thousand kids singing along to our songs.” Guglielmo soon interjects with some final reflections just before the bus really has to pull away. “As long as we’re playing, we’re happy,” he reiterates. “This is home for all of us- this bus and whatever city we’re in as long as we’re playing.”
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