Upon arriving in front of C-Club, there was a moment of confusion when approaching a large cluster of teenagers in costumes—perhaps the Gaslight Anthem and Bayside were drawing a different crowd these days. But upon pushing through the youthful skeletons and black cats on the way to Columbiahalle, the crowd slowly transformed to appear more like one might expect. Meanwhile, the surrounding bottle collectors were ever attentive.
It’s an odd phenomenon when the name of one your favorite bands since high school appears as the support for a concert, when you remember that same band selling out headlining shows. Different city. Different time. Different albums. But something about Bayside opening for the Gaslight Anthem clicked. It was the melding of an older and newer generation of genuine rock music. Neither band gave into gimmicks or directing the audience, though this motif was broken up by Deer Tick coming between the two bands—a band with music solid enough to stand alone, and still the members chose to dress as the Simpsons and instruct the audience when to clap and when to sing.
Bayside took the stage without any introduction. The band members had been anxiously gathering at the side of the stage waiting not-so-patiently for the moment they could claim the lit floor as theirs. Fans were growing restless for the show to begin, and the energy was as palpable as the beads of perspiration starting to form upon the brows of many. “We’re all here for a good time,” muttered Anthony Raneri into the microphone. He had donned his 7 Seconds t-shirt for the occasion. “Sorry I haven’t written/I’ve been in quite the mood/I’ve been upside down for years now/But the pays been pretty good,” he sang, unleashing his signature croon over the audience—raw and hypnotic, melodic and rough. The track, “Stuttering,” is one of the most personal on the new album, “Cult,” and tears down the wall between audience and musician; Anthony directly addresses those responsible for his record sales and musical career, but also those who relish in his self-deprecating and sometimes morose lyrics.
“Some days/I get crazed,” he continued, choosing an older track that echoes the same sentiments. The audience, at first a little tentative about the band getting between them and their Gaslight Anthem, visibly began to be more attentive. “I see a lot of faces facing forward. I like that…” The sentence proved to be one of three that Raneri uttered. From “Mona Lisa,” to more songs off of the new record, Bayside’s set finished in what seems like mere seconds. A 30-minute tornado with no time for breathing. A filled two-story venue with full arena sound, howling guitars, and moody blue lights. It was the Bayside that has preserved over the last 14 years—the songs that provided the soundtrack to high school for many and are now present in that elusive time period of adulthood.
The members of Bayside left the stage as quickly as they stepped on it, and Deer Tick took over dressed as the Simpson family. “We’re really excited that Gaslight Anthem incited us out here with them,” the lead singer said, acknowledging the headliners to a crowd of cheers and applause. His gold tooth glistened in the stage lights, even more noticeable against the yellow paint covering his skin. Then a voice that one didn’t to escape from between his lips began to sing “Main Street.” There was no breath allowed before “Twenty Miles” was underway: “Raindrops like bullets on my fragile/Insecurities I’ve had are creeping in.” It was a night of songwriters of singers who wove words effortlessly, translating their pains and disappointments and their romances into a soundtrack for those willing to listen…those craving to listen.
A yawning security guard quickly jumped out of his yawn as Deer Tick used the Addams Family theme to introduce “Take Your Time,” which led into “The Rock.” The drums vibrated throughout the venue and throughout those in the venue, and then the band graciously, quietly, and purposefully exited.
Skeletons and ghouls flooded the stage and at first presented an eerie scene, until it was clear they were only the stage techs for the Gaslight Anthem. “Streets of Laredo” crooned on repeat as the band prepared, and it was a fitting precursor to the next 28 songs to come. Brian Fallon has a knack for making any venue intimate and any audience feel like family. Maybe it’s the way his tousled hair falls charmingly un-coaxed perfectly over his eye, maybe it’s his flippant personal commentary, or maybe it’s the fact that he is openly sharing his heartbreak with anyone willing to listen. Two old men buy a younger fellow a drink and pat him on the shoulder while mumbling something about rock’n’roll.
After a few songs, “59 Sound” and “45,” Fallon seemed warmed up. The yellow stage lights starkly created sharp lines across the band members—flecks of dust glimmered through the light beams. Fallon glided his hand through his hair, the effortless cool of the 50s. “This is a song that we recorded in Texas,” Fallon chuckled. “A state that no one likes.” “Wherefore Art Thou Elvis” slunk into the room: “Now I got scars like the number of stars/My mind’s full of vipers/I got the dust of the desert in my bones/Comin’ through the amplifiers.” Fallon took listeners back to the days of Springsteen and Elvis Costello, when songs were about stories and emotional tales, not about dropping the bass and throwing your hands up.
The skeleton costumes that the band wore lent a macabre tone to the night; even songs like “Angry Johnny and the Radio” seemed to become menacing. Fallon stopped a couple time to discuss how much reverb should be applied to his guitar tone, “a lot” being the key word. Apparently it was the right element to take a country song to its new existence as a rock song. The set continued as solidly as it began, each song tearing a bit more at the heart, and each one bringing a few more tears to the eyes. (But don’t let them fall, this is a punk rock show.)
A night of songs and stories and honesty. A night of denim jeans and crisp white t-shirts. Perhaps rock music wore its own costume this Halloween and took us all back to a time of wearing your beau’s varsity jacket and watching a knife fight between men in leather jackets and cuffed pants. Regardless, the Gaslight Anthem and Bayside were the perfect combination to help everyone remember the roots of rock’n’roll.