On The Fifty:
From Playing Together on the Street To The Big Apple
Words by Bill San Antonio — New York, NY
The basement of the Bowery Electric is nearly pitch black, save for a couple of spotlights thrown on the stage and a few token lamps and candles near the bar. On The Fifty ‘s equipment is waiting on the tiniest stage I’ve ever seen, and soon they will christen their new EP – the band’s first release since forming in December 2010.
Though Fast Hands, Bad Timing is technically scheduled for release on Sept. 18, its official introduction will be made five days earlier, before a mostly-filled standing room crowd of friends and family in the heart of their hometown.
The night is also significant for another reason. Fast Hands, Bad Timing was produced by Bayside singer/guitarist Anthony Raneri, one of the band’s heroes and heavy influences, while On The Fifty was home from college on Winter Break. “We reworked every little thing with these songs [with Raneri in the studio],” guitarist Tom Dambro says after the set. “He really pushed us hard. He wanted us to prove ourselves as a band.”
Bassist John “Turk” Kantar jokes about Raneri’s idiosyncrasies during production. “He wanted us to bring him scallion bagels,” he says. “The amount of coffee that guys drinks is insane, and every 10 minutes he takes a smoke break.”
Though Raneri is not in attendance at the show, his presence is certainly felt. Dambro’s white Gibson guitar resembles the one Raneri uses and singer/guitarist Tim Dolan’s Fender Stratocaster has Bayside’s bird logo stickered in plain sight on the front of its body. Dolan’s voice, which sounds incredibly similar to Raneri’s on Bayside’s first two records, on the finished EP sounds even more nasally and muffled as he performs live. “It was never meant on purpose,” Dolan says of the comparison. “It just fit with the parts we wrote.”
On The Fifty races through seven songs — Fast Hands, Bad Timing in its entirety as well as a new song, “So Many Ways,” which Dolan says the band wrote three weeks ago, and an old song, “Rounding Third,” dedicated to a childhood friend who couldn’t be in attendance. “This is pretty much all the music we’ve made so far,”Dolan says. “It’s our first time around, so we’re not holding anything back at all.”
By 7:30, On The Fifty is breaking down their equipment and catching congratulations from anyone and everyone who approaches. A man hugs Dolan outside the bar and tells him he’s already planning out the band’s summer tour. Female friends and girlfriends are given copies of the EP and T-shirts bearing the band’s insignia, a design that appears at least somewhat inspired by the band 311’s logo.
Friends preparing for a video interview goof around as beers are cracked, and as the night winds down, On The Fifty looks less like a band playing a hometown show and more like four college kids enjoying a few brief hours of freedom away from campus, living the dream of growing up on the same block and starting a rock and roll band, and watching that band finally come to fruition. “I’ve said this before, we’re not just four musicians that happen to be friends,” Dambro says. “We’re four friends who happen to play music.”
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