The Front Bottoms, a four-man band from New Jersey, played The Wedgewood Rooms in Portsmouth on Valentine’s Day. They’ve been a favourite of mine ever since a friend introduced me to them a year and a half ago. When I looked at my Spotify ‘Year in Review’, they were all that came up. I was lucky enough to take my mum with me (to date my favourite person to gig with) and she has favourite tracks of theirs from me playing them all the time. So it’s fair to say I was incredibly excited for this gig.
I was excited for the boys to be playing such a big venue – The Wedgewood Rooms aren’t as big as, for example, the O2, but having seen them previously in the 100 person venue that The Joiners is, it was exciting to see them moving on to bigger venues so that more people could hear them. The venue itself is great, with a cosy bar in a separate room from the main stage area. There were barriers to stop people from getting right next to the stage and security, which I felt made the gig nicer than the last one – not that the last one wasn’t incredible, but this one had significantly less stage diving on to people’s necks, which is always a positive. The Front Bottoms are an acoustic indie/rocky/folk band, and it made the experience a lot nicer when I wasn’t thrown around – that’s just how I prefer my gigs!
Their support was Kevine Devine and the Goddamned Band, from Brooklyn, New York, who had catchy songs and a similar sound to As It Is, Brand New and The Mountain Goats. They had a similar vibe to The Front Bottoms, and I loved their music just as much – considering I’m rarely impressed by supports, they definitely went above my expectations.
The Front Bottoms kicked off with ‘Skeleton’, their standard opener, an upbeat and fast song about getting “so stoned” and falling “asleep in the front seat”. Their set list favoured songs from Back On Top, their latest album, as they went on to play ‘Help’, ‘Cough It Out’ and ‘Laugh Till I Cry’, but they also played a lot from their self-titled and most popular album, with ‘The Beers’ and ‘Flashlight’.
They had good interaction with the audience, with Brian stopping often to tell stories and respond to shouts from the audience – most notably when he wished someone a happy birthday and sang ‘The Plan (Fuck Jobs)’ for him. They sang a song from their split with hip-hop rapper GDP, ‘Wolfman’, released for Record Store Day last year. When they went off before the encore, Tom (bassist) came back on for ‘a reading’, reading chapter one of a Star Wars book, until the crowd started to chant ‘encore’.
The Front Bottoms ended with ‘Twelve Feet Deep’ and ‘Twin Size Mattress’, in my opinion two very different songs – ‘Twelve Feet Deep’ is a lot slower and more chilled out than ‘Twin Size Mattress’, with Brian singing about how “we are so cool, we are so punk, as long as you’re here I will live like this”. ‘Twin Size Mattress’ is always their closer, and one of their most popular songs because it ends the night on such a high. Despite its sombre tone (“she hopes I’m cursed forever to sleep on a twin size mattress/never graduating up in size to add another, and my nightmares will have nightmares every night”), the melodies and the way it’s pieced together gives it such a positive and uplifiting sound.
They gave an incredible show with a stellar setlist – a combination of personal, self-deprecating lyrics over danceable melodies give them potential to be big, and appeal to an even wider audience. Their sound of folk, punk, pop, indie rock and trumpets make them hard to define – other than one of the best bands I’ve heard.