The last time I saw The Front Bottoms was when they were touring their album Talon of the Hawk back in September 2014 – before I had even started university. The gig was at Manchester’s Sound Control, a tiny, around 400 person capacity venue. Since, they’ve released Back on Top, they’ve doubled and tripled venue sizes, and their following has grown considerably – I was interested and excited to see how things might have changed in the last eighteen months for one of my favourite bands.
The lights at Stylus (a venue substantially larger than the likes of Sound Control) dim and Brian Sella appears, grinning, and launches straight into ‘Au Revoir (Adios)’, much to the delight of the crowd. The setlist comprised a near-flawless selection of songs from their albums new and old, with highlights including ‘West Virginia’, ‘The Beers’, ‘Maps’, ‘2YL’, ‘Funny You Should Ask and Laugh Till I Cry’.
There’s almost a disunion between The Front Bottoms’ sound and lyrics – their music is, for the most part, upbeat; their lyrics are usually melancholy and almost always reference a failed relationship, alcohol or getting high. Clearly, this is part of their charm, with the entire venue filled with people gleefully dancing and singing-shouting gloomy lyrics.
Whilst the majority of the band remained quiet, Sella happily interacted with the crowd throughout the set. Early on, a few members of the crowd begin the classic university chant of “We like to drink with Brian…8…7…6…5…” and so on as he drinks his bottle of beer and this sets a precedent for the rest of the night – whenever Brian picks up another drink, some of the crowd heckles him to down it, and he gladly obliges. The band was also open to requests from the crowd, playing ‘Swimming Pool’ after repeated calls for it.
Their two-song encore consisted of ‘Twelve Feet’ Deep from their Rose EP and classically, ‘Twin Size Mattress’ from Talon of the Hawk. The latter is arguably their most famous song and also undoubtedly one of the best songs of the night, with the entire crowd devotedly singing along to every word – in particular, the famous “hey man, I love you, but no fucking way” line. Sella remains quiet for this line, leaving the crowd to sing it back to him, and he smiles from ear to ear when they do. It’s markedly obvious how much Sella and co. truly appreciate the adulation their receive from their fans.
The only thing that has changed since September 2014 is that The Front Bottoms have become better and better. After seeing them three times, I’ve noticed that there’s an almost tangible atmosphere of happiness, frenzy and excitement at their shows – something you don’t find with every band. Despite their questionable choice of moniker, The Front Bottoms’ talent, enthusiasm and ability to delight their fans is indisputable.
Words and photos by Lucy McLaughlinBy Lucy McLaughlin