10th February 2018
Barrowland Ballroom, Glasgow
The iconic Barrowland Ballroom stands out in the stark, wet February night. Its animated neon lights are a dazzling galaxy in their own right, drawing in concert-goers and renowned bands alike. With a plethora of influential artists from across the ages – everyone from Pink Floyd to Biffy Clyro to Avenged Sevenfold – having played in its halls, being booked at the Barrowlands is a big deal.
For The Front Bottoms (TFB) and fans, playing at the Barrowlands is clearly this: a night of energy, excitement, and an outpouring of love for the city of Glasgow. An acoustic indie-punk band hailing from New Jersey, TFB consists of members Brian Sella (vocals, guitar) and Mat Uychich (drums), friends since they were 10 years old, and Tom Warren (bass, guitar, vocals).
Fellow New Jersians, electronic indie-rock band Brick + Mortar, open the night. With an undeniable air of fun about them and an oddly parallel genesis – duo Brandon Asraf and John Tacon have also been friends since childhood – Brick + Mortar feel like the ideal band to open for The Front Bottoms. Bizarre cartoons project behind Asraf and Tacon as they play, building excitement for the night.
Following are Melbourne’s own The Smith Street Band. Despite having built a reputation in the Australian punk underground, The Smith Street Band clearly command a following in Scotland. The room shakes as everyone eagerly claps along to a duo of ‘Shine’ and ‘Surrender’, the sound never quite drowning out the lyrics as so many voices sing along.
The Front Bottoms take the stage, immediately breaking into ‘You Used to Say (Holy F**k)’, the first song off their latest album Going Grey (2017). The crowd sings along to every word, the eruption of voices practically wrestling frontman Brian Sella’s voice for control of the room. At times, the crowd actually succeeds, drowning out Sella’s voice with their own chorus of singing. It’s obvious that both the crowd and The Front Bottoms are feeding energy off each other: the room seems to have its own pulse.
With catchy lyrics that are conversational and relatable, you can’t help but smile even when the bluntness of TFB takes you off guard and bites you a bit. In ‘The Beers’, Sella goes from complete emotional rawness: “…you are in one of those moods and I am in one of them too / and it’s hard to communicate anything…”, to the surprising and unforgettable chorus “And I will remember that summer / as the summer I was taking steroids / because you like a man with muscles / and I like you”. The room never loses breath as they keep up with every word Sella sings.
The Front Bottoms are no strangers to Glasgow, having played at venues like the O2 and King Tut’s in the past, and do not hold back on their love for the city. The band dedicates a song to their “first Scottish friend” and Sella drinks Buckfast throughout the night, even downing his bottle as the crowd chants “Brian Sella is my da”.
Ending the set with the immense ‘Twin Sized Mattress’, the reaction in the room speaks for itself . Somehow, despite all the energy already pulsing through the room, it seems to respark. During the song’s bridge, the crowd screams along, pledging “I want to contribute to the chaos / I don’t want to watch and then complain / ‘cause I am through finding blame / that is the decision that I have made” and no room has ever felt more alive.
During the three-song encore, Sella recognises an audience member he jokingly promised a sexual act to at a previous show, calling him up on stage as the crowd cheers. The audience member is given a seat and a beer, as Sella plays a solo rendition of ‘Twelve Feet Deep’, rounding off a truly Glasgow-esque night with as much fun and excitement as it began.
Image: Ollie McCormack @ Top Button Digital