Anthony Raneri stands center stage, illuminated by a single beam of light. “This isn’t who I am, from confidence to self-doubt in sixty seconds” he croons, uttering the words that meant so much to me so many years ago. The crowd belts every word louder than Raneri himself. The volume bursts at the last chorus as the rest of the band emerges from smoke-filled lights. Bayside sets the energy of the night with all the feels we came here for, and I realize I’m in for a better show than expected.
Still Redefining the Genre
In the early 2000s, at the height of my pop-punk “phase,” (hard quotes) there was something about Bayside that always seemed darker than the prominent bands of the genre. It is like their songs have all the ingredients for a pop-punk song but with a dash of intensity and depth that sets them apart from the rest. The same ingredient that makes Brand New and Alkaline Trio so much more than just pop-punk or emo; the ingredient that keeps an audience passionately howling along to every gut-wrenching lyric of hits such as “Devotion & Desire” and “Blame it on Bad Luck.”
Their performance of “Sick Sick Sick” brings the crowd into a full-on frenzy with a breakdown that is winding, violent, and just makes you want to move. Once the fiery spirit of the room hits an all-time high, they slow it down for the soft ballad “Don’t Call Me a Peanut.” Once again, Raneri’s voice is but a whisper over the audience’s tearful chants.
It was so good I didn’t know if I could handle Say Anything, but the crowd was nowhere near slowing down. In anticipation of their tour, Max Bemis of Say Anything did an acoustic cover of Bayside’s “They’re Not Horses, They’re Unicorns.” Raneri did the same with Bemis’s “Night’s Song.” 7” vinyls of the singles were sold exclusively at the show, but I was much more interested in this “neurotic emo music” mug that now adds to the indifferent aesthetic of my work desk.
…And Defending the Genre
This is my fifth time seeing Say Anything, and I’m always impressed by their ability to bring nonstop energy year-after-year. Like Bayside, the band is in an unclassifiable subgenre of its own. Bemis has become a devout leader of the scene, and he’s continued defending it by making his albums – including their latest I Don’t Think It Is – a combination of anger, empathy, and all the hysteric shit spewing out of his head.
They kicked pop-punk in the face tonight with thrashing old favorites like “Belt,” “Shiksa (Girlfriend),” and “Hate Everyone,” as well as bouncier sing-a-longs like “Do Better” and “Peace Out.” Overall, it made for a reliably anarchic, raw-as-fuck show that made me reminisce on the evolution of their live performances over the years.
The first time I saw Say Anything was in 2013. Bemis’s wife, Sherri Dupree, opened with her band Eisley and they brought their daughter on tour with them, then only four months old. The couple played a few songs together and talked about life on the road, even held their little one on stage lion-king style wearing earmuffs as large as her head. Now she’s four years old with a younger sister, and Bemis is still on stage with his youthful ambition and a slightly rounder belly. Say Anything assures us that we’re growing up with them, yet reminds us to never really grow up.
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