Nottingham’s Rock City ordinarily reserves its Basement venue for small unknown artists or weekly club nights. I’d say it’s quite rare that it ever finds itself at full capacity, unlike its upstairs neighbour the Main Hall, which is regularly rammed with avid gig goers.
With that in mind, I’d wager that the Basement at Rock City wasn’t prepared for The Front Bottoms.
On August 30, New Jersey’s The Front Bottoms appeared in Nottingham to play a show on their UK tour and along with them came a plethora of loyal and adoring fans. Since their formation in 2007, The Front Bottoms have acquired a much envied fan base across the world and their multiple sold out shows across the UK is evidence enough of this. If I’m perfectly honest, I’m sure they could have sold out the Main Hall too, given the flurry of fans storming social media and the Rock City box office last week in a last ditch attempt to acquire tickets.
But for the lucky 300 or so who were in the dark, sweaty depths of the Basement that evening, the show started with support band Pup, Canadian punk rockers with a lot to say and the volumes to say it. Pup were simultaneously gritty, angst ridden and full of punch whilst being entirely humbled and inviting. The music reeked of Offspring-style aggression and early Green Day hooks, engaging with their patient audience enough to warrant more than just a polite applause as each song finished.
They held their own as an audience member mocked their nationality (“Just because we’re polite doesn’t mean we can’t tell you to go fuck yourselves”) and, much to the security’s delight, managed to encourage several members of the audience to crowd surf. Ever so energetic, Pup were fearless in their performance, climbing wherever and whatever they could – at one point, lead vocalist and guitarist Stefan Babcock even began climbing across the bar that sits adjacent to the stage.
So as their set came to a close and Andrea Bocelli’s ‘Con Te Partiró’ began to play as a deliberately tongue in cheek introduction, the room was absolutely humming with anticipation for the headlining act. The Front Bottoms lit up the venue with an explosive performance of ‘Skeleton’ which had the entire crowd screaming back the lyrics in perfect time, arms outstretched towards the indie rock band before them.
The Front Bottoms appeared confident and solid in their performance but behind their anecdotal, adolescently bitter lyricisms and acoustic driven indie-rock tunes, it was clear that they were simply four misfit men who are still adjusting to life as somebody’s idol. The slightly intimidating crowd of super fans who quizzed them and shouted declarations of love and appreciation didn’t seem to faze them in this intimate venue, yet they looked mildly uncomfortable with the adoration. The endearing awkwardness was simply a reminder though; our favourite musicians are real people too.
Lead vocalist and guitarist Brian Sella belted out each tune perfectly, his Tom Delonge-esque vocals sounding even better live than they do recorded, while the entire band followed suit in flawless fashion. Confessing that whilst touring with Pup, they’d been inspired to start ‘climbing shit’, Ciaran O’Donnell (guitarist, keyboard player and trumpeter) stood on top of the speaker tower mid set and played the tune to ‘The Final Countdown’ by Europe. Highly amusing and toe-curlingly worrying, the audience lapped up every single second of it.
A 19 song set proved satisfactory for the crowd in the claustrophobic Basement, who nearer the front were visibly struggling to cope with the heat generated in this lively and fast paced show. Included in the set were songs ‘Peach’, ‘Au Revoir (Adios)’ ‘Swimming Pool’, and closing number to the evening ‘Twin Sized Mattress’.
The Front Bottoms brought to Rock City an evening filled with nostalgic, teenage feelings and a sense of unity between band and fans. Each song resonated deep in the hearts of the crowd – both young and old – in attendance that evening, and it was blatant for all to see that The Front Bottoms are headed for bigger things and that their career is still only in its infancy.