LIVE REVIEW: The Front Bottoms, Gnarwolves, Apologies I Have None, O2 Forum, London, 03/12/2016
There aren’t many shows that are guaranteed to be a good time, but The Front Bottoms is one of them. Even if you end up losing your Oyster card and getting beer spilled on your new skirt, their heartfelt and upbeat punk could literally cure any blues. Granted, the band is now so well-known that you have to deal with all the big-concert stuff that goes with it. The O2 Forum in Kentish Town is one of those massive commercial boxes, with a long line for the cloakroom and a massive barricade upfront. Moaning aside, we always like to see good bands blow up, so we really can’t complain.
Apologies I Have None were up fist. They seemed to be widely known amongst the older twenty-somethings in the audience. Compared to the in-your-face punk that Gnarwolves had to offer, the consensus was that they were the weaker support act. Their singer seemed quite charismatic, and their stuff was probably the heaviest on the bill. One lyric that jumped out at us was “smash that bitch in the face.” Lovely stuff. There’s not much more to say.
Next up were Gnarwolves. Frontman Thom Weeks is a pro when it comes to commanding your attention, even if it’s a large room full of restless people waiting for their favourite band. They mostly played the old favourites such as Limerence and We Want The Whip, although Smoking Kills and Bottle To Bottle also featured. Weekes summed up the mood of their tour with The Front Bottoms, saying “it’s crazy to watch them grow to be this size,” and he has a point. It was nice to be reminded of the DIY roots to the band, and who better to call that to attention than Gnarwolves?
Watching the way The Front Bottoms filled and took command of such a large stage was hugely impressive. Frontman Brian Sella was as charismatic as usual, peppering the set with the in-jokes any veteran Front Bottoms concert-goer will be familiar with. Before Father, he dedicated the song to his step-father and bandmate Ciaran O’Donnell, who “married my mom.”
Not the kind of band to bullshit, the structure of the show was so deliberately set out to poke fun at the whole “rockstar” orchestration of this massive show. Bassist Tom Warren read out an extract from an unknown text in between the band’s set and the expected encore. His deadpan delivery added a further touch of irony to the experience. The piece he read out, which seemed to be fiction, was interesting; however it seemed to go over the heads of the younger teenagers in the crowd, who seemed bored and keen to hear more songs. Many people chatted and looked at their phones as Warren read. As a former DIY band whose main fanbase were people in their twenties, the shift in the crowd to include much younger teenagers made the experience a little bit surreal. A mosh pit started during Twin Size Mattress, and many people in the crowd seemed to get their kicks out of just endlessly screaming. The set ranged from brand new song Joanie to Flashlight, Maps and Twelve Feet Deep. Each evoked the same display of enthusiasm.
We bought a raffle ticket to be in with a chance of winning guitarist O’Donnell’s broken (but nevertheless beautiful) Les Paul guitar. When the raffle number was called, we were a bit disappointed not to win, but all the money went to a good charity so we couldn’t be too upset. The winner was invited onstage to sit on the sofa that was placed to the side. With so many people in attendance, raffles for charity should be something that larger bands do more regularly. We thought it was a wonderful idea.
If we were a pretentious magazine, we’d say that this band had “sold out” and had “too many fan-girls.” Thankfully, we’re not condescending or subtly misogynistic. The Front Bottoms are that rare kind of band who appeal to a broad range of ages and genders, and their success is unprecedented. No matter how big they get, they’ll always put on an amazing, sincere show. At the end of the day, that’s all you can ask for.
Written by: Kathryn Woods