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Devotion & Desire: Bayside / What's Eating Gilbert / State Champ Live

Wooly's, Des Moines, Iowa, USA; October 14, 2013

by Paul Hanson

I drove two hours to see this show and, due to other obligations, I wasn’t able to stay around to see Motion City Soundtrack (MCS). I was looking forward to hearing “When You’re Around” and them hope to catch you next time they’re in the area. Don’t take it personally, MCS.

baysideposter_300The first band on the bill, State Champs, is a five piece hardcore/punk/alternative rock band that play their material with spirit. Cramped onto a small stage, the lead singer was forced to simply jump and down. Some might even be able to make the comparison to a boy band without too much difficulty. While their material brought a smile to my face because they reminded me a lot of my all-time favorite band, Count The Stars, I have to say the band needs to remain as the opening act until they establish the ability to connect with the audience. Telling us that they had driven five hours through the middle of nowhere to get to the venue and that the band had never played in Des Moines before and that we didn’t know any of their songs was just a recipe for not connecting with the audience. I felt bad that that was the only way to “connect” with the crowd. The music was good and the starts and stops were potent. I don’t often feel disconnected from the bands I am watching, but I felt like I was in a separate universe as I watched them.

When faced with the same dilemma as State Champs, the second band, What’s Eating Gilbert, used a different approach to connecting with the audience. Lead vocalist/guitarist Chad Gilbert told funny stories to introduce a song, including how one track was about almost being in a car crash because he was distracted by a good looking girl walking down the street. The band was dressed in suits and ties, except for the female keyboardist, who wore a dress. Despite playing songs that the crowd didn’t know, the energy level was high throughout the performance. As the second to last song, the band launched into a cover of “Pretty Woman,” which had the crowd clapping to the beat. The last song they played is their current single, “Complaining.” Gilbert mentioned that they had filmed a video for the song. It is worth checking out.

Bayside opened their set with “Devotion And Desire,” “Already Gone” and “They’re Not Horses, They’re Unicorns” before vocalist/guitarist Anthony Raneri took a brief break to sip some water and let the audience pause. He smiled and apologized for not being in the area for a couple of years, which didn’t feel forced or cliché. Unlike State Champs, Raneri made his connection with the fans that had come to hear them. The next tune was “Blame It On Bad Luck” and, at that point, I was ready to go home – they had played four of my favorite five songs. They also threw in classics like “Masterpiece” and “Montauk” along with the more recent “Seeing Sound” prior to arriving at my fifth favorite song, “Sick Sick Sick,” as their set closer. Bayside is a tremendously talented band and even though it was the third time I’ve seen them in concert, they resonated with me and brought a massive smile to my face that lasted the entire two-hour drive home.


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