On Tuesday, Revolution Live was the one of the later stops on The Front Bottoms’ North American Tour. Supported by Diet Cig and Brick and Mortar, the tour line-up was more than promising – it was a three-band combo that practically guaranteed a great show.
Over an hour before the venue’s doors even opened, a long line of eager attendees, equipped with bandanas, scuffed sneakers, and an extensive knowledge of The Front Bottoms lyrics, wrapped around the parking lot and later around the venue.
Diet Cig was first up, taking the stage with an ardor that’s hard to imitate. The self-described “slop pop” two-piece, who hails from New York, knew what it meant to be from a state just as exciting and rambunctious as the Panhandle. Lead singer Alex Luciano – a pixie-haired burst of energy – multitasked between raucous guitar strumming and fearless high-kicking, backed by drummer Noah Bowman’s fast-paced snare and cymbal smashing. Delivering a sound that was fearless yet still just a bit frenetic, Diet Cig fit right in with bare bones lyrics and pop punk sensibility.
Luciano sing-shouted about bad dads and a rough break-up at age 16. She knows what it means to be a “punk while wearing a skirt”, a lyric referencing misogyny in the punk scene. It reminded show goers that punk is meant to be for solace and expression, not for intolerance.
While Diet Cig’s stage production amounted to a DIY banner, what came next was starkly different: Brick and Mortar (B+M) took the stage with psychedelic, Adult Swim-like projections and lots of stage props. From giant blue hands to tasseled nipple coverings to a goblin costume, the ridiculous grandeur of the band was reminiscent of an over-the-top wrestling match, but not in a bad way. It was a means of interacting with the crowd, getting them to yell “Hey!” at the right times and letting them know that Brick and Mortar’s set, full of synth samples and call-and-response moments, was made for partying.
Yet it wasn’t all just for show – Brandon Asraf, the lead singer of B+M, spoke of combating the stigma surrounding mental illness and the fear of death. Of course, these topics were still backed by theatrics, with Asraf appearing as the Grim Reaper at some point. It seemed like a befitting means to cope with darker topics in such a public setting, and it somehow worked well.
When The Front Bottoms (TFB) took the stage, however, the reaction was like no other. Walking on stage to the tune of Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On”, the quartet kicked into the punchy beat of “Skeleton”, prompting the pit to collapse with all the pushing that ensued. It was almost difficult to hear Brian Sella, the lead singer of TFB, over the crowd’s booming sing-along.
And despite the handful of surprisingly bleak-sounding songs present on TFB’s set list like “Historic Cemetery” and “Wolfman”, the crowd’s passion never let up. While more casual listeners may think of TFB as just another fun folk punk band, this audience knew their more personal side, the side that opened up about lost loves and running away. Even when the songs got more upbeat – courtesy of drummer Mat Uychich’s relentless hi-hat beats – like “The Beers”, Sella’s razor-sharp lyrics still make for a gut-wrenching result. It was raw, it was real, and it felt almost like a house party full of close friends with lots of confessions.
Of course, it was broken up by happier-sounding favorites like “Help” and “The Plan (F*ck Jobs)”. It was as if everyone was waiting just to sing, “I love you/I miss you/I want to hug and kiss you” while holding each other’s sweaty hands. “Backflip”, one of the band’s liveliest songs, was bounce-inducing, and the chorus of “Laugh Till I Cry” set the perfect setting for a mosh pit. Sella, who was wearing socks but no shoes, loved slip-sliding around on stage while singing “2YL”, which stands for “two young lovers”, and one audience member was having a blast waving around a mini tambourine.
But it wasn’t until after TFB left and returned for an encore that the mini tambourine could really shine. Sella promised three encore songs, and at first, he appeared solo with just his acoustic guitar. Later, he was joined by the rest of the band and eventually the entire tour for the grand finale that was “Twin Size Mattress”.
“This is the song you’ve been waiting for,” Sella said to the mini tambourine, referencing the song’s iconic tambourine lyric.
Between a bubble machine and two inflatable dancing balloons, there was a party both on and off stage. Crowd surfers were fearless, ignoring “NO CROWD SURFING” signs, and the stage’s strobe lights were out of control. And let’s not forget the tambourines – there were more on stage than anyone could count.
“I’m sure that we could find something for you to do on stage,” Sella sang. “Maybe shake a tambourine, or when I sing, you sing harmony.”
This is what TFB do. They make music about themselves, but it translates so well to everyone else. It was an invitation to channel all those troubles into letting loose, and it’s even better with a bunch of other Front Bottoms fans.
Photos and Story By Carina Vo