The Front Bottoms returned to Bristol at the end of February as part of their UK tour for their latest album Going Grey. Considering that this album saw the indie-punk band take something of a different direction to their previous works, we were very interested to see how this new material would translate in a live environment, especially alongside the older songs.
Support for this tour came in the form of fellow New Jersey residents Brick + Mortar and Aussie folk-punks The Smith Street Band. Both received a warm welcome from the Bristol crowd, especially the latter. The Melbourne crew had large sections of the audience singing along to anthems like ‘Death to the Lads’ and ‘Surrender’, even mustering up a mosh pit or two for epic closer ‘Throw Me in the River’. Seeing so many people go wild to your songs, even on the other side of the planet, must be a wonderful feeling if frontman Wil Wagner‘s beaming smile is any indication.
Next, it was time for the main event as The Front Bottoms walked on stage to the atmospheric intro of ‘You Used to Say (Holy Fuck)’ the opening track on Going Grey. This electronic-tinged track was transformed into a more stripped-down style but still managed to sound huge with its simple-but-powerful chorus and bouncy guitar solo. In general, stripping some of the newer songs of their electronic elements made them fit more neatly alongside the more traditional DIY-sounding songs in the band’s repertoire. However, it was the addition of live violins and trumpets which truly lifted songs like the anthemic ‘Vacation Town’, making for a much fuller and more organic sound.
In addition to songs from the new album, there was no shortage of classics thrown into the mix. ‘Skeleton’ got the whole room jumping up and down, while ‘Au Revoir (Adios)‘ and ‘Peach’ led countless teary-eyed singalongs. Of course, no Front Bottoms show would be complete without the iconic ‘Twin Size Mattress’ which ignited the room with fans signing along at the top of their lungs.
The last time The Front Bottoms played in Bristol, back in late 2016, it was in this very same venue. As a result there was a certain sense of casual familiarity to the band’s performance, like they were playing to a room full of their friends (albeit 2000 of them). Singer Brian Sella at one point recounted the story of a humorous interaction with a fan at the previous Bristol show, subsequently dedicating a song to that fan who happened to also be at tonight’s show.
Bringing things full circle, The Front Bottoms finished off with ‘Ocean’, the final track from Going Grey. This brought to a close a stellar set which clearly demonstrates a band at the top of their game, not just in terms of songwriting quality but live performance as well.