Surviving hurricane like conditions and blowing a tire on 76 East, I barely arrived in Pittsburgh in one piece last night (Thursday, 5.26.11) to catch the Take Action Tour at Altar Bar. TAT always features solid acts, with past headliners including We The Kings and Cute Is What We Aim For, but the 2011 lineup is absolutely stacked! With Bayside, Silverstein, Polar Bear Club, The Swellers, and Texas In July all sharing a stage this year, I was anxious to find out which act would show up for class most prepared.
Due to my travel woes, I missed opening act Texas in July. After, the buzz about them around the venue didn’t include anything negative. During the set break one could hear chatter about this band going places in the not so distant future.
Second up on the evening: The Swellers. These guys were nothing short of stunning. On the surface, the Flint, Michigan natives appear to be a run of the mill pop-punk band, but these guys own some raw power! Frontman Nick Diener really showcased an impressive vocal range, complimented by his solid skills on the six-string. The Swellers really got the crowd moving for set highlight “Sleeper,” a track off their album ‘Ups and Downsizing’ (2009; Fueled By Ramen). And while they didn’t exactly turn Altar Bar into a wild dance floor, one couldn’t resist a toe tap/head bob combo during the band’s limited stage time. The Swellers are scheduled to release their new record, ‘Good For Me’ on June 14th.
Playing third on the evening, Polar Bear Club really began to ramp up the show’s pace. Frontman Jimmy Stadt’s passion for performing shone bright as he rushed the stage and jumped around relentlessly. This dude knows how to grab his audience by the balls and not let go. Noting that this gig was PBC’s “best ever” in Pittsburgh, Stadt’s terrorizing voice led the charge through the setlist that included “Hollow Place,” Our Ballad,” and a new song, “Bottled Wind,” off of their forthcoming album, ‘Clash Battle Guilt Pride,’ due out later this year.
Having covered co-headliners’ Silverstein’s shows in the past, my expectations were set lower than Dev likes her bass. Imagine my (pleasant) surprise when the Canucks proved to me (and anybody else in attendance that has seen them on previous tours) that the band has stepped up their live show by several notches. Frontman Shane Told was very articulate in his separation of screaming vs. melodic parts and drummer Paul Koehler kept it all together with spot on striking. Although the showcasing of both the singer and drummer were impressively prominent, I wish the guitar had more of a presence because it was very washed out behind the voice of Told and the madness of Koehler’s symbols. Silverstein played typical crowd favorites like “Smile in your Sleep” and “My Heroine,” but threw in a twist by covering a track from fellow Canadians Propagandhi, which unfortunately, left the younger crowd simply puzzled. On top of all the favorites they played, the set also featured “Burning Hearts” and “Replace You” in support of their new album, ‘Rescue’ (4.26.11; Hopeless records).
Keeping with the theme of unusually short set breaks (which drew complaints from nobody), Bayside took the stage just as quickly as Silverstein exited. Wasting no time, Anthony Raneri and company reminded fans on why they have a suffocating chokehold on their scene and showed they have no intentions of relenting any time soon. On a personal note, Bayside holds a place in my heart as one of the best live acts I have ever seen. They have it dialed; everything is near perfect. The band members can sleep well at night knowing that they gave each and every fan their all at every show. Following suit with the previous bands, they played what the crowd wanted to hear. Raneri took hold of an acoustic guitar for “Don’t Call Me Peanut,” one of the best unplugged performances I have seen to date. Having just released the album ‘Killing Time’ (2.22.11; Wind-Up Records), Bayside highlighted select tracks including “Sick, Sick, Sick” which had Bassist Nick Ghanbarian enticing the crowd with fist pumps (and NOT the jersey shore brand). If you have never had the chance to see Bayside live and the opportunity arises, I don’t care if you listen to techno or Miley Cyrus, go see them, become part of the cult, and realize that this is what putting absolute love into your music looks, sounds, and feels like.
Photos © 2011 Ernie Cornelius