I will be honest. Bayside is my favorite band and they have been since I was 11 years old. Their logo is tattooed prominently on my left arm. I listen to their albums on repeat when on flights and roadtrips. When I was in high school and grounded, I got one of my first truly horrible sunburns after lying to get out of the house and watch them play the Zumiez Couch Tour. Being from Queens, NY, Bayside has a huge following in the northeast and a loyal, self-proclaimed cult following worldwide. Since I moved away from Baltimore, the opportunity to see them live has become far more rare. Their appearance at Mavericks was their first time playing as a full band in Jacksonville, FL in years. Fans in Jacksonville had the chance to see a solo performance from frontman Anthony Raneri last year but this was the was a much awaited return for Bayside.
On this tour date, Bayside was joined by Hot Rod Circuit and Say Anything, two groups that, like Bayside, have earned loyal followings of alternative fans through the 2000s. Hot Rod Circuit brought a crowd-pleasing energy to Mavericks that evening. The Alabama based five piece has performed their own take on emo alternative rock music for twenty years now. While they do not make the catchiest or most shocking music, they put on a solid show before Say Anything and Bayside came to stage.
After Hot Rod Circuit left the stage and Say Anything got set up, Max Bemis stumbled to the mic. On this tour Bayside and Say Anything were alternating headliners. It makes sense. They each have had their own cult followings develop over the past couple decades with millions of overlapping fans from emo and alternative scenes worldwide. I went into the show looking forward to seeing Say Anything play. I was never an avid fan but loved tracks like “Wow (I Can Get Sexual Too)” , “Alive With The Glory of Love”, and “Shiksa (Girlfriend)” as I heard them on MTV, Warped Tour Compilation albums, and in Hot Topic. I certainly was looking forward to seeing them perform live.
Say Anything did not play “Wow (I Can Get Sexual Too)”. They did not play their most popular song, not as an opener, not as an encore, not once during the night. Bemis was already sweaty and obviously drunk when he came to stage. Apparently he has a history of this, going as far as throwing up on stage in the past. Sometimes alcohol can make people funnier, more outgoing, and more enjoyable to be around. Max Bemis was more like someone’s drunk uncle that no one talks about-the one who firmly believes day shift at the strip club is the best place for a buffet lunch. His performance suffered because of this. The vocal was not good.
Somehow, no one seemed to care. Say Anything’s fans loyally sang along, laughing and cheering at Bemis’ weird racial comments (“I’m Jewish. If my voice is too Jewish for you, Anthony from Bayside is Italian. That is kind of like Jewish.”) He thanked the crowd, slurring that he knew he was in Florida but not what city and that he was not sure if Bayside had played yet or not. My sister saw the tour’s date in Orlando a couple days later and said he was just as drunk. Fortunately Bayside played first that night, and she, along with several others, left early.
When Say Anything left the stage, there was a magical buzz in the air. Bayside is a cult – a self proclaimed, loyal cult of friends and fans worldwide who join for these shows. Frontman Anthony Raneri came to the stage aglow in a single beam of white light, fog surrounding him, as he strummed the opening chords to “They Looked Like Strong Hands.” It is one of those classic rock and roll tableaus that sends chills down spines when done correctly. The crowd banded together crooning word for word for this classic Bayside hit. It is one of their softer tracks that translates beautifully to acoustic.
When Raneri performs, he brings an authenticity to the stage that is unmatched. His vocal is album quality live, but at the same time like it is the first time his words and feelings have poured from his lips. His stage presence is humble but confident. Bayside combines the honesty of emo with the energy of punk and the skill that allows an artist to transcend genre. They care about bringing fans the best performance they can each night and in return their fans form one of the best live audiences around.
Their pit is always solid. The center of the crowd exploded from the moment “They Looked Like Strong Hands” ended. There is no hardcore dancing in a Bayside pit; people help each other up; and for loyal punk fans it feels like home. After the show ended, I walked out into the pouring rain, my shoulder bleeding washed out red down my back, a spotted violet bruise spreading across my shin, and a wide grin on my face. Bayside will make you want to spend every song in the pit and every word shouting along. It is a mutual appreciation that exists between the band and their loyal cult of fans.
They played tracks from across their entire span of releases, focusing on hits and crowd pleasers. “Blame it on Bad Luck,” “Masterpiece,” “Devotion and Desire,” “Duality,” “Sick, Sick, Sick,” and “They’re Not Horses, They’re Unicorns” were all played, along with a few newer tracks. Despite a long set list, I left wanting more. Had they played another full set that night, fans would have stayed, loyally singing along for another twenty or so more obscure tracks from their repertoire.
There was a stark contrast between Max Bemis and Anthony Raneri that night. Raneri knew what venue he was at, graciously thanked the crowd, and promised to come to Jacksonville again soon. He was highly aware of where he was and the fact that he was headlining a packed house.
Bayside is a band that brings no gimmicks to the stage. They have no crazy outfits, guitar tosses, or vulgar jokes. They are grown men who have put in the practice and focus needed to earn a devoted following. Bayside is a cult.