It’s rare for Grand Rapids to act as the grand finale for any tour, much less a reunion tour that has sold out venues from New York to San Francisco. But considering the history Grand Rapids has with the recently reunited Bear Vs. Shark, it’s no surprise that the Michigan post-hardcore heroes will end their first run of shows in over a decade right here.
“Grand Rapids has always been awesome to us,” Bear Vs. Shark’s freewheeling frontman Marc Paffi told Revue, rewinding to the band’s now legendary gigs at GR’s beloved, yet beleaguered, all-ages venue The DAAC. The band cut its teeth there not long after officially forming in 2001 near Ann Arbor, and sweat its way through several unforgettable shows inside the small art space before disbanding in 2005.
Grand Rapids’ own Jeff VandenBerg, founder of local label Friction Records and co-owner of The Pyramid Scheme and The Meanwhile, was also the first to unleash Bear Vs. Shark on vinyl, issuing the band’s two full-length albums, 2003’s Right Now, You’re In The Best of Hands… and 2005’s Terrorhawk. He’s since immortalized the band with a massive painting — now hanging in The Meanwhile — depicting a bloody moment of the namesake battle.
|Bear vs. Shark
wsg. Braided Veins, Bong Mountain
The Pyramid Scheme
68 Commerce Ave. SW, Grand Rapids
Nov. 12, 7 p.m., SOLD OUT
During the band’s absence, Paffi has toured and recorded as the lead of Bars of Gold, all while Bear Vs. Shark’s following only continued to grow. Word of the high-volume, high-velocity live shows has spread slowly but steadily over the last 11 years. Young fans not old enough to see them in their heyday and diehards hoping for a comeback have all taken to social media. Last year, the band spawned a surprising amount of interest after a post on Bars of Gold’s Facebook page teased at a BVS reunion.
While the members wanted to give it a go, Paffi said that getting the old band back together wasn’t exactly effortless.
“It’s definitely been challenging,” Paffi said of the BVS reunion. “We all have different lives and jobs and things that we can’t just drop, so it hasn’t been the easiest, but we’ve definitely made it work.”
Touring together as a six-piece, Paffi is joined by original BVS guitarists/bassists John Gaviglio and Derek Kiesgen, longtime drummer Ashley Horak, original drummer Brandon Moss, and Bars of Gold bassist Nick Jones, who’s filling in for original bassist Mike Muldoon, who was unavailable to tour.
“It definitely takes me back to that period of my life,” Paffi said of playing with BVS after more than 10 years. “Now I’m married and have a three-year-old daughter, but it definitely takes us back to that time where none of us gave two shits about anything.”
Known for flailing around onstage and screaming directly into front row fans’ faces, Paffi (now 37) isn’t sure he could still “sing like a 22-year-old kid with no gray hair” if he hadn’t kept performing all these years.
“When I’m onstage, I don’t feel 37,” he said. “But then I feel like I’m 57 when I get offstage. It’s a whole different vibe up there.”
The band’s members remained friends after the breakup in 2005, having known each other since as far back as third grade in the small neighboring towns of Highland and White Lake.
“We were definitely working ourselves into the ground,” Paffi said of BVS’ original run. “There were a lot of members who weren’t getting along whatsoever. The thought of even getting back in the van at that time, at least for me, I couldn’t imagine … but with how everything’s going now, that didn’t seem to affect long-term friendships.
“It did definitely at the time, but those ‘wounds,’ I suppose, have been healed.”
The band’s first show back was aimed at another sort of healing, performing as part of a benefit for the Flint Child Health and Development Fund at the Flint Local 432.
The subsequent reunion tour has coincided with Equal Vision Records (the New York-based indie label who signed BVS in 2002) reissuing both of the band’s albums in September as a double gatefold vinyl release with entirely new artwork done by Paffi. It’s the first time the music has gotten the full reissue treatment, but it may not be the last anyone hears from them.
“As of right now there aren’t any plans, but that’s not to say that there won’t be any,” Paffi said of the future of BVS. “I think we’re just kind of taking things step by step, just trying to make it through each one of these little adventures that we set up for ourselves. Once Grand Rapids comes and goes, we’ll see what happens next.”