“We’ve played this very stage before… seemed a lot bigger then, though”.
It was actually next door, Brian. At Rock City.
And it was in the Basement, a smaller venue.
Easy mistake to make, though. We’ll let you off.
I know this as I attended The Front Bottoms’ last tour of the UK in August 2014. As a stranger to their music, I was massively impressed with their performance, and was keen to see them again after I’d clued up on their music a little more.
The band released their latest album Back On Top back in September, their first record since signing to coveted alternative label Fueled By Ramen, which has been behind the success of many of the huge alt bands of the last decade (see: Fall Out Boy, Paramore, Panic! At The Disco et al.).
So naturally, The Front Bottoms are moving up in the world, and their return to the UK was welcomed by a bigger audience of fans both new and old. Nottingham’s Rescue Rooms was buzzing with anticipation and the audience were more than just courteous in welcoming support act Kevin Devine and the Goddamn Band. Rightly so, too.
Kevin Devine’s three piece brought a powerhouse performance with classic rock riffs, grunge tones and an overall electric performance that was worthy of a headlining show of their own. Genuinely grateful for their time on stage, they played their final song ‘Brother’s Blood’ to rapturous applause. I’d wager they’ve acquired a few new fans in Nottingham – myself included.
Entering the venue to the sounds of Celine Dion’s ‘My Heart Will Go On’ (because, why not?), The Front Bottoms opened with ‘Laugh Til I Cry’ from their latest album and it struck me immediately that in the 18 months since I’d seen them last they’d become a more confident, self-assured band. Standing in front of an inflatable T F B, they still had that air of four misfit dudes from New Jersey though, that just happened to stumble upon success from writing strikingly honest songs that straddle the balance between poetry and colloquial anecdotes.
The set was littered with songs across their discography: a couple new ones here, an EP track there. Typically, the majority came from Back On Top, but it was pleasing to both myself and the rest of the crowd that we got plenty of material from the likes of Talon Of The Hawk (2013) and The Front Bottoms (2011).
Highlights came in the form of songs ‘Skeleton’, ‘West Virginia’, ‘Swimming Pool’ (which one guy in the crowd must have requested at least a million times), ‘Funny You Should Ask’… the list could go on really. Each song was performed with a power and vigour that comes from many years of practice and a genuine love of music and performing. The punky, indie sounds of The Front Bottoms are definitely best heard live.
Crowd/band interaction was definitely one of the best I’ve seen from any live act. From frontman Brian Sella dedicating songs to random members of the crowd (and Colin. Who are you Colin?), to fixating on his on-stage bubble machine, which was entirely underwhelming but hilarious all the same. In true Nottingham style, the crowd managed to put peer pressure to good use with a game of “We like to drink with Brian, ‘cause Brian is our mate…”. Being the good sport he is, he obliged and we managed to bully him into downing two beers on stage. Great fun.
The band spoke fondly of the city of Nottingham. It’s always hard to tell whether that’s genuine or if it’s just a line they tell to every town on their tour. Perhaps naively though, I’d like to think it’s true. I do however suspect that the story of band member Ciaran O’Donnell losing his virginity that very night in Nottingham is something of a fable… But one can dream.
Ending the night with ‘Twin Size Mattress’, The Front Bottoms had performed a close to flawless set that seemed to light up the Rescue Rooms with the beaming faces of their fans. A rough and excitable crowd threw themselves around from start to finish on the floor. A happy crowd, an amazing night… A band you should definitely catch next time they come around – and hopefully it won’t be too long.