There is almost always one major question about an acoustic set: what’s the point? Most of the time, there’s no good answer. It’s usually a gimmick or a cash grab or a terrible decision from management, often to the severe detriment of the songs being re-imagined.
But there’s one thing that the stripped-down acoustic format conveys brilliantly: tragedy. The sound of acoustic guitars, especially when divorced from bass and drums, is lonely, often aching. There’s a reason why Nirvana’s unplugged session seemed so prophetic, why Alice in Chains’ songs sound so right on their acoustic set.
Bayside’s new acoustic CD/DVD, helpfully titled Acoustic, works for many of the same painful reasons. During the band’s tour in support of their debut album last October, their van rolled over, breaking the back of bassist Nick Ghanbarian and killing drummer John “Beatz” Holohan. Rather than cancel the remainder of the tour or utilize replacement musicians, Anthony Raneri and Jack O’Shea elected to continue the tour as an acoustic duo, which led in turn to this latest release.
It is difficult to imagine a more effective tribute to the absent band members than this; at the moments where the songs falter, where these renditions don’t quite work, it’s easy to hear how a drum fill or a bass progression would’ve brought everything back together. Not that the songs are lacking, but that loneliness comes through quite clearly in these acoustic recordings. But the tearjerking “Winter” stands out, a moving tribute to Holohan that laments all the moments where his presence is sorely missed and explores the struggles people tend to have when choosing how to mourn. It’s this generation’s “Tears in Heaven,” and its “Good Riddance.”
The band has reformed and is beginning to make louder noises again, with Gavin Miller (ex-Staring Back) on drums and Nick Testa keeping the bass spot warm until Ghanbarian is fully rehabbed this spring.
Bayside tour dates:
3/1, Greensboro, NC (Greene Street Club) * 3/2, Washington DC, DC (The Nation) * 3/3, Hoboken, NJ (Maxwell’s) * 3/4, Brooklyn, NY (North Six) * 3/5, Philadelphia, PA (First Unitarian Church) * 3/6, Cambridge, MA (Middle East) * 3/8, Detroit, MI (Magic Stick) * 3/9, Milwaukee, WI (Miramar Theater) * 3/10, Minneapolis, MN (Triple Rock) * 3/11, Chicago, IL (Metro) * 3/12, Chicago, IL (Tower Records, Clark St. — Acoustic) * 3/12, Chicago, IL (Metro) * 4/5, Boston, MA (Axis) + 4/8, Levittown, NY (Ritual) + 4/9, New York, NY (Knitting Factory) + 5/6, East Rutherford, NJ (Meadowlands — Great Bamboozle) + (* – with the Smoking Popes) (+ – with the Sleeping and Paramore)