WRITTEN BY: KATHERINE HELEN DAWSON
After walking the eight or so blocks from Spring Garden to The Electric Factory on what was an unseasonably pleasant November night, I was greeted by my fellow Front Bottoms fans in a line wrapping around the block. This would be my fourth time ever seeing the folksy, pop punk Jersey natives, and the second time this year. My last encounter occurred in June at the Music Hall of Williamsburg in Brooklyn, where the group announced that they had signed to Fueled by Ramen which makes them label mates with Fall Out Boy, Panic at the Disco and Twenty One Pilots, to name a few.
Despite arriving an hour before the doors opened, we queued up at the end of the line right in front of Voltage Lounge. The sound of hard-core punk poured from the doors with the sight of mohawks and studded leather jackets everywhere. Established punk rockers mingled with millennials in flannels and beanies. It was a comical contrast of two socalled “punk” fan bases coming together in anticipation of a great show. Finally, seven o’clock came and after trudging to the doors with the troughs of misfit punk fans, I was in.
While I am obviously a devout fan of The Front Bottoms, the thing that made this show a can’t-miss event was the opening act: elvis depressedly. I had first seen them open a show for Alex G at The Fire almost two years ago and I was not about to miss them on a national tour with one of my favorite bands.
As you may have picked up from the name, elvis depressedly deals in a more somber genre of indie rock, meeting the Front Bottoms in their similarly honest and poetic, perhaps emoesque lyrics. Lead singer Mat Lee Cothran’s voice seems to mimic his genuine, open and down to earth presence. Before the show you could find him up front working the merch booth, talking candidly with fans.
Earlier that day, Cothran received news of his grandmother’s passing, which he announced to the audience and then played a moving and slightly brightened up rendition of “Waste of Time,” from their latest album, New Alhambra. That in addition to their van troubles on the road made their followers nervous they might not make it to the show at all, but I for one was very glad that they did.
Elvis depressedly was followed by The Smith Street Band, which hails from Australia. Just as they began their first song, the crowd violently jolted to the front, indicating the show’s departure from chill head nodding to semiviolent moshing. Halfway through the set my friends and I fled for safety near the sidelines.
Having never listened to them before, and given their accents, speedy songs, and less than perfect mixing, I could hardly understand a word they said. However, I can say that they seemed excited and impassioned. Their upbeat pop punk set provided a good segue into the headliner, even if, as my friend quipped, it sounded like “one really long song.” The profusely sweating frontman ended the act with a hasty but sincere “f*** yeah.”
At long last, The Front Bottoms made their way to the stage. Brian Sella, looking a little slimmer than I last saw him, wore a familiar southwestern black button down with red flowers, his curly locks hanging just below his eyes as he peered out at a sea of adoring fans and screaming girls. One fan even threw her bra at his feet in tribute. He greeted us with his bashful smile and opened the act with the angst-y anthem “Au Revoir.”
The set was a tight mix of old and new favorites from Back on Top, released this September under the new label. As any fan would be, I was worried the record deal might spell disaster or at least change the group’s authentic vibe. I am happy to report that, although their new recordings sound a little different thanks to new tech capabilities, on stage they come through in perfect unity with the older material.
Just like the previous three Front Bottoms shows I’ve been to before, the stage was colorful and decorated with inflatables, flowers adorned the drum kit, and of course, the stage was littered with PBR cans. The audience sang and jumped along, raising hands and swooning as though they were filled with the spirit of some punk rock god. At one point, bubbles filled the stage enveloping the bandmates with an ethereal glow.
Unlike any other show, though, Sella thanked his musician father for his own musical talent, inviting him onstage to play sax along with his brass-playing buddies.
Note that they did not play “Father” that night, a song about killing your dad.
Fellow Jersey native and rapper GDP also graced the stage for his part in “Historic Cemetery.” He forgot almost all the words, and gave Sella a big kiss before shuffling off.
I climbed to the balcony for the encore of “12 Feet Deep” and “Twin Sized Mattress,” where I could get a true sense of just how packed the place was and see the waves of arms carrying body surfers closer to the stage. Before leaving, Sella told us it was the “best day of his life.” Whether or not this was an honest statement on his part is debatable, but I’m sure the feeling was mutual for many in the audience after the uniquely exhilarating experience of going to a Front Bottoms show.