Review: The Front Bottoms at Artsquest

Review by Sam Tomaszewski, photos by Oliver Rye 

The Front Bottoms are such a normal looking band, that if one walked into the room in the middle of their set, it wouldn’t be unreasonable to think they were the opener. The lead singer, Brian Sella, wore a polo with an embroidered logo, the keyboardist/trumpet player/guitarist/one-man band donned a Medieval Times shirt, the bassist was wearing a Hogwarts shirt, and the drummer’s shirt was nondescript, although it was removed at one point. They’re totally regular guys. The punk is in their music as opposed to their appearances.

Given this, they attract an interesting crowd. In the words of one of the people I saw the show with, “This is the weirdest crowd I’ve ever seen. It’s like all hot guys.” This was actually fairly true. There was a lot more male representation than one might expect. But otherwise, it was a typical punk scene. Lots of dyed hair. Lots of piercings. Lots of people wearing shirts from other bands. It was a fairly young crowd as well. There were definitely a few people in the 30+ club scattered around the room, but most people looked as if they were in their teens or 20s.

The Fowler Blast Furnace Room probably wasn’t the best venue for a show like this. It definitely scored points in terms of intimacy – no barricade, probably around 300 people in the room. But the floor was carpeted (what a clean up nightmare for a venue that sells beer) and the room was not conducive to the crowd activities that go along with a show like The Front Bottoms – i.e. moshing and crowd surfing. It was actually a little scary when people jumped – it was possible to feel the floor moving up and down with the crowd’s weight.

A security guard that we chatted with agreed. He constantly had to weasel his way into the pit and shine his flashlight around to break things up. He told us he didn’t think this was the right venue, and that Maingate in Allentown might be better. Even during the last song, one of my friends got pulled down by a guard from her crowdsurfing attempt. Part of the problem was there wasn’t anywhere for people to go once they were carried to the front. Since there was no barricade, there were no security guards waiting to take people down.

One of the opening bands, You Blew It!, encouraged the crowd to mosh. When told by security that it wasn’t allowed, they encouraged the crowd to listen to the venue’s rule and raise their hands and do spirit fingers instead. Oddly enough, this caught on pretty quickly and the crowd continued to do it into The Front Bottoms’ set. This speaks to the spirit of the crowd – everyone was there to have a good time and support the music.

A pet peeve of mine is when people rave about how humble bands are, when in actuality they aren’t. I’ve met quite a few bands and sometimes it can be disappointing. But The Front Bottoms are hands down the most genuine band I’ve ever seen both on and off stage.

Sella treats the stage like his living room. He wore socks the whole show. He told stories and jokes – and not just the canned ones you can tell the band tells every single show. A guy in the crowd told him a joke and repeated it for the audience. He singled out a member of the crowd to count in a song. He was so excited about the crowd, and said (even though were weren’t even allowed to mosh) that it was one of the best ones they had on the tour so far – which was definitely believable. For the first half of the set I was in the pit, before I slipped out to catch my breath. It was a little rough, but everyone was singing at the top of their lungs, trying to push forward to get as close to the stage as possible. The passion was palpable. At the end, Sella chugged a few drinks while the crowd chanted him on.

After the show, the band came right out and was just milling about with the crowd. One of the members took the effort of going backstage to grab some water bottles for fans he was talking to. Sella stuck around until every fan had gotten their ticket signed and picture taken. He was in no rush. He took the time to have actual conversations with the people he was meeting. Especially when people told him that his music changed their lives, he listened and asked them questions. He even asked some people if he could hug them. Doesn’t that sound backwards? The musician asking to hug the fan?

Overall, while it might not have been the best venue, that didn’t stop The Front Bottoms’ talent and energy from shining through. It was definitely a great experience and a total crowd pleaser. They know exactly what their fans want and give it to them.

Setlist

  1. Skeleton

  2. Rhode Island

  3. Tattooed Tears

  4. Mountain

  5. Funny You Should Ask

  6. Au Revoir (Adios)

  7. The Beers

  8. Swear to God the Devil Made Me Do It

  9. Swimming Pool

  10. Summer of Steroids

  11. Backflip

  12. The Feud

  13. Father

  14. Flashlight

  15. Twelve Feet Deep

  16. Maps

  17. Twin Size Mattress



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