The Front Bottoms

support Above Them
author TL date 26/02/16 venue Pumpehuset, Copenhagen, DEN

It's Friday night, and although it's still cold out, what better way to entice yourself to leave the house, than the opportunity to go see the ever entertaining slacker pop songwriters The Front Bottoms? The group proved consistent in their approach on last year's "Back On Top" (reviewed here) and was a charming acquaintance the last time they visited our shores, both of which supposedly factors in the growth of their popularity. Which is apparent from their appearance in the larger Pumpehuset this time, and from the well-populated state of the venue moments before the appearance of tonight's support band. Granted the show is held on the smaller downstairs stage, but the room is decently filled with people of all ages, some already looking in high spirits, as befitting of a start to the weekend.

Above Them

Opening on this tour we have the UK trio Above Them, who play a booming punk rock characterised tonight by a bass presence slightly on the loud side and by the gravelly lead singing of their guitarist. On the plus side, these vocals sound great tonight, and the band proves a knack for writing nice and dynamic interactions between bass, guitar riffs and vocal parts. Any fans of punk-rock in the audience likely stand reminded of American names ranging through Polar Bear Club, Restorations, The Loved Ones, The Ataris and of course, Hot Water Music, and on more than one occasion, the songs feel like you've heard them before, even if the band is a completely new acquaintance (although it does also make you wonder if the band occasionally steps too close to their influences for comfort).

Regardless, things are sounding good, although it is clear that the songs are perhaps kept a little more simple and 'punk' than is necessary - like they have potential for stronger impact if they were elaborated and spaced out just a tiny bit. It's not the main drawback of the performance, though, rather that sadly is Above Them's total lack of stage charisma. Their bassist greets us in friendly manner and jokes briefly about his strong dialect, but otherwise, the bandmembers stick to naming the songs they play in rapid succession while staring deadly into the air above the audience. It feels like they're the kind of band that has misguided ideas about staying down-to-earth in lieu of putting on a 'stage performance' and appear boring and unenergetic as a result. It's a shame considering the promise held by the sound they're working with, but for the time being it comes with a lingering suspicion that they're a band that holds themselves back some.

The Front Bottoms

Come time for the headliners, the sizeable crowd is packing close together in front of the stage and there's a sense of happy anticipation in the room. Starting out with "Wolfman" and "Au Revoir", the band garners a solid reception from a lot of singalong-prepared guests, which quickly puts a smile on frontman Brian Sella's face, making him look confident, like this show is going to be pretty smooth sailing. And why not? For while some of his higher notes aren't hit all that prettily tonight, singing perfect is clearly not a point of too much emphasis in The Front Bottoms' style, nor is instrumental complexity or diversity. The band trades in simplistic songs, driven by upbeat drum patterns and acoustic guitar chords, and bar the occasional injections of electric soloing or trumpet, The Front Bottoms could probably play their material half asleep - which isn't such a bad thing, considering how many other bands overperform so much in the studio that they can rarely live up to themselves in the live setting.

It gives plenty of 'space' in the listening experience to appreciate the charm and wit of Sella's quirky lyrics, which - although occasionally perhaps excessively repetitive - rarely fail to make a catchy impression and prompt joyful singing along. Mainly written from the perspective of the screw-up college-student, the words are self-deprecating yet light-hearted in tone, which proves to have plenty of appeal to tonight's audience, who soon croon happily along on the "I got soooooo stoned, I fell asleep in the front seat" of "Skeleton". And while bassist Tom Warren and guitarist/keyboardist/trumpeter Ciaran O'Donnell go about their work in businesslike manner, and drummer Mat Uychihc is pretty much out of sight - despite his position on the left of the stage - Sella himself seems to have grown increasingly confident being in focus as the sly entertainer. Drunken requests for him to drop his pants are thus rejected because he's "wearing ladies' underwear", while an out of place shout requesting a smoking break is met with "Why don't we dedicate this song to you instead?" before cheekily breaking into the "I fuckin' hate the comments, why do you feel the need to talk?" of "The Plan (Fuck Jobs)".

Sella - Uychich - Warren - O'Donnell

The mood generally stays favourable towards the band, and on the upside, we get good money's worth of songs, as the band steadily plows through sixteen of their tracks from all over their discography, including older ones like "Swimming Pool" for instance. Rapper GDP, who is apparently along on the tour, comes on stage for his part in "Historic Cemetery" and during "West Virginia" there are bubbles shooting from a bubble machine next to Uychich. There do seem to emerge some pockets of restlessness as the show grows a bit long in the teeth; the likely consequences of the absence of much depth and musical variety in Front Bottoms' simplistic and carefree universe. But that is to be expected, considering that the band has only ever played as they do on all their records. Perhaps Sella could be a bit more openhearted and forthcoming in his banter than his charming deflections and bullshitting of tonight, but the mood in the room is nothing if not festive and entertained, which is exactly the boxes you should expect to have checked, going to see The Front Bottoms on a Friday night.

8

Setlist:

  • 1. Wolfman
  • 2. Au Revoir
  • 3. Skeleton
  • 4. Help
  • 5. Maps
  • 6. Bad Boy Blues
  • 7. The Beers
  • 8. The Plan (Fuck Jobs)
  • 9. Historic Cemetery
  • 10. Flashlight
  • 11. Cough It Out
  • 12. Swimming Pool
  • 13. West Virginia
  • 14. Motorcycle

- Encore

  • 15. Twelve Feet Deep
  • 16. Twin Size Mattress

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