The Front Bottoms

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author TL date 02/10/13 venue BETA, Copenhagen, DEN

The common cold is sweeping Copenhagen it seems, which explains why I'm at a second show in as many weeks without a photographer (sorry!) and why my head's been too full of mucus to produce any words of writing about the show 'til here two days later. Still, flashing back to my arrival at Beta on Wednesday night, things actually quickly start to look relatively positive despite the circumstances. I'm arriving early because no support has been found for the show, so instead I've been asked to spin some relevant tunes (if you heard anything you liked, the playlist looked something like this), and as I set up there's sort of an anxiety in the air that's become regular by now, attending mid-week shows with bands that have had little to no promotion in Denmark.

You never really know how many people will show up. Yet by the time the band is supposed to come out, there's actually a good group of people present, curiously varied between the young and the more grown up, and seemingly split between locals, some Swedes likely visiting from Malmö and at least one American Say Anything fan. Not bad for a regular Wednesday - the only question then, is how would the show be?

The Front Bottoms

Honestly, I hadn't heard anything about The Front Bottoms myself other than their name until a week ago, despite them apparently playing at this year's Groezrock, but seeing as just a few listens to any of their two recentmost albums should be enough to make anybody curious about them, I had quickly decided to not miss the chance to witness their characteristic, semi-acoustic pop-punk in an intimate setting, and as it turned out, I would not regret this decision. Emerging in front of a larger banner that's clearly more suited for the larger stages that I've been told they've been playing in the UK, the four New Jersey-ans (five including their stage hand) step up and man a minimalist drum kit, an acoustic guitar, a bass, and.. well Ciaran O'Donnell really changes back and forth between a keyboard, a guitar and a trumpet.

Still, as it soon turns out, The Front Bottoms master the art of making the most of simple elements so well, that singer/guitarist Brian Sella and drummer Matt Uychich could play an interesting enough set on their own - which makes sense because O'Donnell and bassist/backing singer Tom Warren are merely touring members. It's pretty remarkable really, because Uychich is playing a pretty stripped kit, with no hanging toms and with only two cymbals, yet between his dynamic playing and Sella's chords and dynamic delivery of The Front Bottoms' striking lyrics, you can understand why really, the two of them have enough going to do this on quite well on their own.

Still, as they play through the set, receiving smiles and gracious applause from the assembled audience after each song, you start to notice that Warren's bass and particularly O'Donnell's various melodies, aren't just slapped in there hapharzadly, rather one contributes a pretty intricate groove while the others lend a lot of fun little nuances to songs that could perhaps otherwise get a bit samey down the stretch - given the fact that while he sings with a lot more variety, enunciation and character than many of his contemporaries, Sella's anxious tone of voice somehow manages to sound very similar to many of his contemporary singers from the American indie/emo/punk underground.

As the show proceeds rapidly and impressively tightly then - and as The Front Bottoms warm up gradually and with a charming awkwardness, to the warm enthusiasm directed towards them via bopping heads, appreciative smiles and spontaneous dance moves from the crowd that must seem a bit small to them - I get the feeling that it's really in the coupling between the songwriting-based approach at the band's core, and the elegantly added volume provided by Warren and O'Donnell, that things get a hint of something better than just good. Songs like "Au Revoir", "Skeleton", "Swimming Pool" and especially "Father" and the set-closing "Twin Size Mattress" - all of them are strong enough in their basic composition and lyricism to command an audiences attention, yet the added instrumentation gives me the feeling that they're good enough even, that they could have easily been bigger.

When the show ends though, and the band and its laid-back audience thank each other for coming out, that's what I mainly take away then. That The Front Bottoms strike a peculiar and extremely charming balance between the traditional troubadourism of acoustic songwriting, and the more expansive and playful palettes of as different bands as mewithoutYou and Say Anything. One that I'm going to be keeping an eye on moving forward, and one that has the strength of personality to some day command a much more rapturous reception from a bigger audience than the casual one Copenhagen offers the guys this evening.

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