The Front Bottoms at College Street Music Hall, 10.20.17
w/ Bad Bad Hats and Basement
Made it back to New Haven's popular music venue, College Street Music Hall, to see one of our favorite bands (for the third time) - The Front Bottoms. The first time I caught this band - originally a duo from NJ made up of Brian Sella and Mat Uychich - was in 2014 in Chicago at Concord Music Hall when they played with a pretty stellar lineup including the So So Glos, You Blew It!, and Say Anything. Let me say, this band has come so far in the last 3 years. In 2015, I saw them play at Toad's Place - and if you know anything about these two New Haven venues, you'll know that there has been a very obvious step up. The guys had a huge tour bus out front and they used these projection screens during the show to play video clips and funky images. The Front Bottoms have come a long way from playing shows with inflatable "TFB" letters behind them.
Since signing with the well-known label Fueled By Ramen in 2015 (famous for having other emo/pop punk bands like Fall Out Boy and Panic! At The Disco), TFB have released two albums and toured with bands like Blink 182 and Frank Turner. For fans pre-2015, there is a markedly different sound in the studio, but their live shows are still full of "oldie-but-goodies" for those faithfuls. This was night #2 of the tour, in promotion of their latest album which just dropped on 10/13 called Going Grey. At first listen, this album is again, different from the early TFB days. The most common gripe is that it's "too polished". And I'll admit - we are also guilty of being just hipster enough to complain about the good ol' early days of any underground band. BUT this might be one example where the new sound isn't that far away from the original. Yes, it's more polished. Yes, Sella's voice is cleaner. But there same song-writing qualities that we fell in love with are there - lyrics are insightful; the acoustic guitar/piano/violin/trumpet sound is still there; and most importantly, the defining vocals of Sella are still the focal point. After a few listens of the new album, there are definitely stand out songs that are just as catchy and emo-anthem-y as those from their debut album.
This show was yet another all-ages show, so I was left feeling like the old creeper in a room full of teenagers and college students. But at least I can still blend in well! Again - beer at this venue is on point. I grabbed one of the last Two Roads Too Juicy (yum.) and tried to find a good vantage point. Unfortunately, I got there a bit later than everyone else so there weren't too many openings. I missed the first band - Bad Bad Hats(sorry) - but did catch Basement's set. This band is good! Ended up buying their latest album Promise Everything , which is fun to blast in the car with the windows rolled down. The comparisons that I drew to Basement are the Foo Fighters, Nirvana, Hoobastank, and a little bit of Blink182/Incubus/ Yellowcard - definitely a 90s type of alt-rock, pop-punk band. The guys seemed to have a bit of identity confusion though. They played some power chord anthems, a few well-written melodic slow tunes, and then some pop punk song. Vocalist Andrew Fisher wore a plaid button-up, which wasn't your typical punk/emo/rock band attire, but I suppose that doesn't really matter! Basement is from the UK and have actually been around since 2009; they went on hiatus from 2012 - 2014, and then released this album in 2016. They have since signed to Fueled By Ramen, which seems to be a kind of catalyst label, so we'll see if they grow in popularity. I definitely think they're a worthy band for you guys to check out.
I probably sound like a broken record at this point, but it's rare to find a band who can sound so freaking good live, if not better than the studio recordings. For TFB, this has held true time and time again. I don't think it's a particularly easy feat either, because Brian Sella does this thing that I like to call "talk-singing". He can definitely belt out a note or two, don't get me wrong, but his talk-singing is just so good and so in pitch, that it's easy to forget just how difficult it is to actually do that and sound so good. The touring band included trumpeter/violinist Jen (sad to see Ciaran wasn't there), guitarist (and double-necked guitarist) Tommy, and pianist Roshain (sp?). The group came out to a rowdy, excited crowd and played the first song off of Going Grey called "You Used To Say (Holy Fuck)". They followed up with "Skeleton", "Far Drive", "Funny You Should Ask", and "West Virginia". The guys (and girl!) sounded like they were having a great night #2 - Brian even joked that he was feeling "extra loose", and then he mentioned that he had to go to his cousin's wedding the next day, and that his other cousin was at the show. They played "Vacation Town" - which is one of my favorites off of the new album - and a few classics like "Help", "Maps", "The Plan (F**K Jobs)", and "2YL", which featured a sick trumpet solo by Jen. Sidenote: I did try to record some tunes for all of ya'll who missed out, BUT I screwed up my camera settings so my recordings of "Maps" and "The Plan" are not good. Sorryy! [But here's a previous recording of "Maps" to satisfy your need for this awesome song.] TFB played one of the best songs to sing along with, "Au Revoir". They also jammed on "Flashlight" and then "Everyone But You" - only their second time playing that song live. Another great anthem that evokes audience participation is "Peace Sign". Lyrics go something like this:
I'll let you guess what the audience participation was. Brian joked that it was funny to play because he closes his eyes, and then when he opens them he sees an entire crowd of people flipping him the bird. He also said that they forgot to play that song the night before in Boston, oops! They continued with "Cough It Out", "Grand Finale", "The Beers", "Don't Fill Up On Chips", and "Twin Size Mattress". Of course, there was an encore - which included a couch for some of the band to sit on while they weren't playing - and the songs "Jim Bogart", "Father" (which someone from the front row had been requesting all night), and ended the night with "Living By The Ocean".
I am so glad to see that TFB have 1. retained their identity, 2. can still play their hearts out and sound amazing (props to the guys in the audio booth for mixing the vocals properly), and 3. seem to be gaining in popularity and uh, funding? I will always love them for being that underground emo-revival band that I fell in love with four years ago. Brian still jams out on his acoustic guitar, which mellows out their sound in just the perfect way; there's still a trumpet player (although instead of Ciaran, it's Jen), and their songs still have the same witty lyrics that sound even better when the entire audience is yelling them together at the top of their lungs. I strongly recommend that you check them out on the rest of their tour (Metro and House of Blues in Chicago, we're looking at you!)- and you can bet that we'll be back to see them again! #TFB
Think: Foo Fighters; Hoobastank; Yellowcard
The Front Bottoms:
Think: You Blew It!, Kevin Devine, Say Anything
Listen: "Vacation Town"; "Peace Sign"; "Don't Fill Up On Chips" - live set filmed at Paste studio; "Au Revoir"