The Front Bottoms at the Joiners (28/09/13)

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Hailing all the way from New Jersey, The Front Bottoms are a duo comprised of singer Brian Sella and drummer Matt Bellamy. Formed in 2006, they have gained a loyal underground following, with a sound that’s hard to pin a label to (the ‘genre’ section on their Facebook band page reads ‘What’s a genre?’) but is nonetheless addictive – think basement punk with indie riffs and pop anthem choruses. Many of their tunes are short and fast, with lyrics that bring back shades of being young and rebellious as well as heavier subjects like teen pregnancy. The dark themes of the lyrics are offset by a distinctive vocal that brings to mind Frightened Rabbit’s Scott Hutchison and music slightly reminiscent of noughties indie rock outfits, except more mature – kind of like Sum 41 or Fountains of Wayne’s quirky big brother, with bonus trumpets.

Although initially unaware of the British connotation of their name, they have since embraced it with the same loud, friendly and slightly inappropriate sense of humour evident in both their lyrics and stage performances. The band expands to include Tom Warren (bass) and Ciaran O’Donnel (keys/trumpet/guitar) in their live shows.

Their show at the Joiners was the last on a whirlwind UK tour, with a gig in a different town every single night for the preceding two weeks. Far from being burnt-out and grumpy, however, they made their last gig here one to remember.

To open, New York singer-songwriter Alison Weiss took the stage. She gave a stunning performance, abandoning her usual band for just an acoustic guitar and moving the crowd with bittersweet lyrics and catchy, sing-along choruses. Most of her songs were from her debut album, Say What You Mean, with highlights including the title track and ‘One Way Love’ – made powerful and intimate with her stripped-down sound. Three of the main act joined her on stage and backed her for the finale, ensuring the audience was properly hyped-up for the full band.

From the moment they came on stage, it was clear that the Front Bottoms are a band that live to play live. Most of their set was comprised of tracks from their new album, Talon of the Hawk, released 31st May. Opening on a strong note with ‘Skeleton’ –  a ridiculously catchy song about weed – they continued on a similar high, driving the crowd wild with anthem after anthem. The audience was an integral part of the experience, as being somewhat of a cult group, their fan base is extremely tight-knit and loyal. 90% of the packed room knew every single word and screamed them back at the singer, jumping up and down in time, making for an atmosphere that was emotionally uplifting and physically very sweaty. A few people even crowdsurfed, with only minimal injuries sustained. Highlights included ‘Tattooed Tears’, a fast-paced tune that instantly gets stuck in your head, and ‘Au Revoir’, a short, sweet and cynical song about a breakup during which Alison Weiss made a well-received guest appearance.

Lead singer Brian Sella was in good spirits, despite the furnace-like temperatures, answering the calls of ‘I love you’ and ‘get naked’ with cheeky one-liners.  The band’s energy was through the roof for the whole of their hour-and-a-half long set, despite them not having a night off in weeks. They were obviously in their element, doing what they absolutely loved, and were genuinely grateful for the audience’s presence, thanking them frequently for their support.

After the show band members were only too happy for pose for photos and chat with fans, even though everyone was clearly desperate for a cold shower by this point. All in all, the show felt more like a leaving party than a concert – a raucous send-off that suggested not a ‘goodbye’, but a ‘we’ll be back’.

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