The Front Bottoms
October 19, 2017 @ House of Blues
By: Ingrid Angulo and Jason Ebbs
Basement brought an insane energy to the House of Blues the second they took the stage. The UK-based emo band has been touring all year following the release of their 2016 LP Promise Everything, but didn’t show any signs of weariness as they jumped straight in with ‘Brother’s Keeper’ off their new record. The set switched between satisfyingly heavy power chord progressions and atmospheric, melodic ones. Abrupt changes between the two styles amplified the impact of each, creating a captivating yet unpredictable contrast. The buildup created in the slower songs had fans on their feet ready to jump as soon as something heavier kicked in. ‘Earl Grey’ exemplified this perfectly. The song started out soft and dreamy, but abruptly became one of the loudest and fastest songs of the entire performance, effectively terrifying anyone who didn’t expect it and waking up any bored bystanders like a shot of caffeine straight into their bloodstream.
Even looking past the Basement shirts and baseball caps, it was clear who was here specifically to see them. Within a few songs, a mosh pit of crazed fans shouting every word began to appear in the middle of the crowd. The bigger the pit got, the more the band played off the energy. Fisher couldn’t seem to wipe the smile off his face as he beckoned for more crowd surfers to make their way up to the front, saying “If you’ve never done it before, now’s the time.” The excitement of Basement’s fans almost made up for the complete lack of energy the rest of the crowd had. There was this unfortunate disparity between the two groups in the crowd — anyone who wasn’t in the middle of the crowd screaming their lungs out seemed bored out of their mind. Everyone also managed to clap before the songs actually ended, leading to an awkward “shhhhh” from the band on far too many occasions. Ultimately, the band wasn’t that bothered by the weirdness of the crowd. There were some god awful dance moves on stage, and everyone just seemed to have a carefree, great time. By the time they announced ‘Covet’ would be their last song for the night; the set felt like it had ended far too soon. There was still so much potential for more. Basement put on a killer performance, but not enough of the crowd gave them the reception they deserved. The transition from a headliner to an opener band didn’t give them justice at this show.
With a fraction of Basement’s energy still lingering in the center crowd, the dedicated fans of the night’s lineup waited in anticipation while the outer arc of spectators seemed to try to find a way to leisurely pass the waiting time. As the lights went down and visuals of a cotton candy-tinted beachfront projected onto a pair of screens, the New Jersey-based Front Bottoms crept on stage in front of a monumental banner featuring a full frontal illustration of a nude man and woman. A low synth roar of the opening song’s first chord vibrated through the crowd’s feet, and each person in the crowd’s core seemed to already know what song was about to begin. This was a pretty unexpected yet amazing sight based on the fact that the band opened with their live debut of ‘You Used to Say (Holy F*ck)’ off their new album Going Grey. The crowd bellowing each lyric to album released only six days prior really set the tone for the rest of the night, with the band playing all but three songs from their latest album release. As an ‘outside’ spectator who felt slightly out of place in terms of dedication to the band, I was heavily reminded by the vibe emitted from the crowd’s core that emo-esque bands typically have very close-knit fan bases due to their personal and emotional lyrics mixed with a visual sense of humility that many mainstream stars lack. The support shown when fans held up crowd surfers emulated the fraternity between them and the way they battled and moshed with each other, ironically, amplifying the chemistry throughout.
The Front Bottoms effortly plowed through older songs like ‘Skeleton,’ ‘Maps,’ and ‘Au Revoir,’ which brought the most energy from the setlist, whereas the barrage of newer songs yielded some slight hesitation in the band’s performance at first. However, the hesitation quickly dissipated with the crowd’s support of the new material and lead singer Brian Sella saying in recognition, “This is the first time we’ve been able to play a lot of these songs live, so thank you guys for singing along.” Sella’s happiness about the reception of new songs like ‘Bae’ and ‘Vacation Town’ was clear as he constantly donned a wide smile, and later even accepted a shot from a crowd member in saying, “it’s night one!” with an ‘ah, what the hell’ attitude (referring to it being the first night of their U.S. tour). Compared to opening band Basement, TFB seemed to lack a certain element of energy in their own performance that the openers easily set them up to ignite. However, this is slightly understandable given the fact that they were introducing a new array of material that they were not used to fully expressing on stage before. Regardless, the crowd easily supplemented whatever energy was lacking in the performance of these new songs, especially during ‘Peace Sign’ while nearly everyone flashed peace signs followed by middle fingers during the song’s declarative chorus.
The Front Bottoms closed their standard setlist with perhaps their most known track ‘Twin Sized Mattress.’ An extended introductory drum roll from drummer Mathew Uychich and accompanying acoustic guitar line from Sella prepared everyone to begin singing the oddly anthemic song (oddly anthemic because most ‘anthems’ contain catchy and easily memorable lyrics whereas this song contains weirdly specific lines like “This is for the lake that me and my friends swim in, naked and dumb on a drunken night, and it should’ve felt good but I can hear the Jaws theme song on repeat in the back of my mind”). No matter how detailed Sella’s slew of expressive lyrics were, no one seemed to miss a single phoneme in singing his lyrics straight back at him. The band then left the stage for a brief moment, but expectedly returned for an encore; well, half expectedly since only the lonesome Sella returned to perform the beautiful solo acoustic ‘Twelve Feet Deep’ while appearing somehow emotionally vulnerable than he already had been all night. The crowd’s animals were given a break from moshing and a chance to breathe while they admired the simplicity of the song’s music and the substantiality of its lyrics. The rest of the band reemerged near the end of the song and quietly joined in while Sella concluded in singing “As long as you’re here I will live like this” with blissful content. The Front Bottoms concluded the evening with the live debut of ‘Ocean,’ the final track from their new album. This song choice seemed to alienate a good deal of the crowd as many of them left during the song’s opening; it seems as though most people were satisfied with leaving after hearing ‘Twelve Feet Deep,’ that or they were hoping for something slightly more well known to sing along to and end on. Regardless, the band put on a solid performance to kick off their tour while introducing most of their new album to fans and strangers of the band. Hopefully they can find complete comfort in playing this new material in order to match, or even exceed the energy of their tour mates from Basement throughout the rest of the tour.