LIVE REVIEW: The Front Bottoms, Kevin Devine And The Goddamn Band, O2 Library, Birmingham 08/02/2016
Since releasing Back On Top last September, The Front Bottoms have undergone a seismic shift: from DIY Indie duo to an established quartet on Fuelled By Ramen. Their new album hasn’t necessarily got anything to do with what label put it out, but their newfound success and confidence can be found in the polished undertones of their new songs. Therefore, we were really excited and lucky to be able to go along to their Birmingham show and see exactly what a Front Bottoms concert looks like now.
The weather was absolutely shit, but even still you could spot dodgy guys out in front of the venue selling rip-off merch. The fans were a mixed bunch of older and younger, though there seemed to be notably more teenagers milling about in the foyer compared to back in the days of Talon Of The Hawk. It was with this weird atmosphere that beyond the faux-glitzy doors that are typical of any O2 venue, in any UK town, Kevin Devine began his set.
A long time musical friend of The Front Bottoms, he and his Goddamn Band couldn’t have made for a better support. A good chunk of the crowd seemed to know him, or at least like him enough to stay up front, head banging and hugging the barricade for his entire set. Watching Kevin Devine made us even more excited about the long time rumours hinted to us when we spoke with Brian Sella last year: that of a possible musical collaboration that could come out of this tour. His time on stage seemed to fly by, which is always a good sign because time (of course) always flies when you’re having fun.
A quick changeover and rush to the bar before the house lights dimmed again to welcome the heroes of the hour. The Front Bottoms came bashfully onto the stage with Celine Dion’s My Heart Will Go On blaring over the PA. You could expect giant inflatable letters and a five-piece accompanying brass band at the band’s upcoming London show at the KOKO, but here in this (relatively) small venue there was a lot less fuss, and just the right amount of stage presentation. The Front Bottoms relied on just quirky pop songs and bubble machines to get us all going and it worked fine. Sella launched straight into The Plan (Fuck, Jobs) which surprised the crowd but got an enthusiastic response. It’s always exciting to get something unexpected right off the bat – we had been expecting HELP or Skeleton to open the set.
A Front Bottoms show is always very much a joint effort. The crowd puts in as much as the band in terms of sheer enthusiasm. Even during the band’s slowest, quietest song – which tonight happened to be Cough It Out – fans continued to throw themselves around the room. Unironic mosh pits formed, elbows were jammed into faces and everyone got very sweaty. Sella was his usual charismatic self, first claiming that a random guy in the crowd was his dad, and then grabbing a fan’s glasses and wearing them for Maps. “You don’t need them! You just need to hear, baby” he drawled, laughing.
Watching The Front Bottoms play a show is watching them at their most comfortable. They are, through and through, a DIY touring band who know how gain fans live and convert even the most sceptical spectator. We’re excited to see that the new opportunities presented to these guys have already kicked their live up a notch; making it the best it’s ever been. If you’re one of those people annoyed at the band for signing to Fuelled By Ramen and releasing their most polished album yet, just comfort yourself in the fact that they’ll probably put the major label funding to good use. We’re personally hoping for TFB to incorporate circus performers into their live show. Can you imagine?
Written by: Kathryn Woods