Wayside @ Bandfest

Last night, I drove myself (along with Leah, Ben & Laszlo) all the way out to New West to see Wayside play at BarFly. Why would I do such a thing? Because Mark, a friend of mine, is the bassist for Wasyside. In addition, they were playing there in the BandFest 2002 semi-finals, so going out to support them seemed a good idea (and justified – they won the night).

So, clearly, Wayside’s a pretty decent band, right? Well, yes and no. Since the last time I’d seen Mark play, Wayside has completely retooled, and has a new line-up and a new sound. Previously, they were radio-friendly pop, with guitar/keyboards/bass/drums. They’ve replaced the keyboards with another guitar and amped up their sound to what I would call power-pop. I have to say, I much preferred their sound before. And why? While the second guitar adds sound and ferocity, they’ve lost a lot of tunefulness with the loss of the keyboads. Mark, who was the keyboardist and has re-invented himself as the bassist is completely wasted – the bass is pretty lost in the guitar attack, and really, they wouldn’t suffer from not having it – if last night was any indication (admittedly, the sound was terrible last night, seemingly due to incompetance on the part of the sound guy, which could have made this worse). On the plus side, Mark’s backing vocals, which had previously always struck me as timid and hesitant, sounded much more confident and important to the band’s overall sound – the harmonies between himself and Chris were a nice touch where used. Ironically, the only time that they really made use of the bass was during a brief interlude when they announced the winner of their draw. This showed me that if they made good use of Mark on bass, it could do wonders for the richness of their sound.
Wayside is well-served by Chris on vocals, as he has both a powerful and distinctive voice. I’m not sure if the songwriter has changed, but their all-new material is significantly less catchy than their old material although this may be on purpose if they’re moving away from pop to a metal-lite or nü-metal sound. The third song of their set (I don’t know any of the names) was by far the best of the bunch, one of the reasons being that it was the catchiest tune.
In many ways, I felt like Wayside, who when I last saw them sounded supremely confident in their sound, has lost that confidence while they are retooling. They’re skilled musicians, decent-enough song writers, and with Chris fronting them, have excellent stage presence. Given time, practice and most importantly, gigs, this new line-up may re-coalesce into a tight, fun band – but not yet.

The band used to do a Duran Duran cover (Hungry like the Wolf, if I recall, but as soon as I write that, I’m thinking that it wasn’t), which was great – they had made it their own and smoothly incorporated it into their act. Last night, to cap off the night, they played another cover (either a Poison or Guns’n’Roses song (maybe G’n’R also covered Poison? Quite likely)). They did a great version. However, unlike their previous standard cover, this to me showed how far they had to go, rather than an affirmation of their own quality.

To end on a positive note, Wayside was in a whole other league (my editorial bias notwithstanding) compared to the previous two bands (who I won’t review here, but may later on if I find the time), which is a testament to them (rather than an indication of just how bad the other bands were), and was proven by the fact that they won the night. So congrats to Wayside, and good luck in the finals!

(updated at 8:30pm for some atrocious spelling & grammar – may still not be perfect, but most likely better)