On seeing TFB in NYC

Seeing The Front Bottoms in all of their glory is wondrous. Whenever I tell people the band I’m going to see have that name, they laugh as if to say “Are you fucking serious? That’s the band you like and are going to willingly see with a name like that?”

I’ve been championing this band for years, when they were just babies, supporting the Menzingers in a small underground DIY venue in Glasgow.

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I bought a t-shirt from the drummer Mat and we high fived. I didn’t get a chance to meet the singer Brian but their percussionist of the time, Drew, while standing near the back near merch, his dreadlocks hit my face as he was dancing later that night. I didn’t really care because at that time he was a member of The Front Bottoms and they blew me away when they played their set. I mean, I’m not okay with people’s hair hitting my face, but you know what I mean. 

Fast forward to seeing how they would sell out 2,000 capacity rooms in my home town of Glasgow, do I then later find myself seeing them playing two shows at the Brooklyn Steel, a joint headliner with Manchester Orchestra as part of a longer American tour. I am in NYC for just under a week to see friends, experience the city at this festive time of year and consequently escape the shit show that is Brexit.

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On first night a Friday, I see the carouselling line-up band that are The Front Bottoms headline after an incredible slice of what Manchester Orchestra would be serving up the following day.

Given their tight touring schedule, they “freestyled” it –  and I’m quoting frontman Brian Sella here – as they took some requests from the audience. The backbone and heartbeat of the band – drummer Mat – keeps him right and they play a really fun set. You’d think that given that they didn’t have much time to prepare it would be sloppy, but that’s not the case with The Front Bottoms. Complete with onstage working bar, an upgrade from the Friends-esque couch they had when I saw them play the sold-out Glasgow’s Barrowland Ballroom the year before.

Given that they had released two EPs and have been touring relentlessly for what feels like forever – when I speak to the lovely merchandise manager Connor, he tells me they don’t have any plans to return to the UK any time soon.

I don’t mind this, because I think even though they did play well: that they deserve a well needed break. Two EP releases in the Grandma series, following their last full length Going Grey, I think it’s time they regroup so (hopefully) they can release some more material. No pressure though, you guys. Just be good. 

Night two is a Saturday and following the gorgeous Americana smooth-like-honey voice of Shannen Moser who had been support for the tour, on came the band that I am always met with stifled laughter at for being so passionate about as the main support. This night is tighter, but the venue is packed to the rafters with New Yorkers, there on the weekend to have a good time.

I actually witness someone crowd surfing with a Santa hat on and a couple of people walking into the venue in with literally lit up Christmas attire and it shocks me into remembering that it is in fact the festive season. ‘Murica.

The second night, they play some old fan favourites given their short set and with the cool stage set up: I have to give it up to the front of house manager who when the song Tie Dye Dragon comes on (on both nights) the stage is illuminated with all of the colours of the rainbow.

For some reason, that song always gets to me and I was never sure why. I think seeing it in a live setting helped secure that appreciation for that song. The opening riff and lyrics are about being on drugs, and one drug comes to my mind when the chorus kicks in and the rest of the band chime in with the oh yeahs: serotonin.

I am guided by the colourful light of this band. I see the future in mysterious ways, just as the song says.

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Maybe the lines about everything being confusing after two recent deaths in my family and the solidification of the words ‘when something’s dead, that’s it, I gotta let it be,’ is what does it.

There is a quiet, aloof confidence with The Front Bottoms. They are amazing live and make for a great party time but if you strip past the entertaining aspect of the on-stage bar, the Cheers drumhead, and the infamous name – this is a band who have that something extra special. I saw it from the start. This is what got them signed to Fueled By Ramen – the same label that Paramore and Panic! At The Disco started on and they’ve gone on to take over the world.

Will I forever be laughed at when I go home to Scotland and tell my friends that I travel to see a band whose name alludes to vaginas? Probably.

But do I care?

Nope.

Because they are transcendent. The lyrics are smart and thought out, everything is calculated and executed perfectly even without much practice. They are a party band with a lot of heart.

Long live The Front Bottoms.

Rock n Roll,
Peace sign, no middle finger,
The Bucky Girl.

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