The Front Bottoms | photo by Ellen Miller for WXPN | ellencm.com
Head-Banging Brilliance: The Front Bottoms do what they do best at The Fillmore
It’s 2010. You’re at a dive bar somewhere in North Jersey when this little band comes on whose name you never learned. The set goes by in a flash, a livewire of spunky punk-rock anthems of love had and lost, of pissy angst, of singular moments in hectic adolescence.
Cut to eight years later at a massive club in Philadelphia, where this same band, who you now know and love as The Front Bottoms, has cultivated their sticky-as-the-barroom-floor sound into an aesthetic all their own. You might have changed in the intervening years, but you can’t deny these songs still hit that sweet spot, as they did for every loyal fan who packed the Fillmore Philadelphia stage to hear the band Wednesday night.
Earlier in the evening, we were warmed up by a roaring set by fellow headliner Manchester Orchestra. It was interesting to see these two bands share the marquee. While The Front Bottoms offer a kind of rambunctious uncertainty, Manchester Orchestra is all business, a professional and tight band who show why they have become such a reliable festival undercard.
From frontman Andy Hull’s pristine vocals to the backlit stage and well-choreographed light design, Manchester Orchestra knows exactly who they are and dig around in their impressive catalogue with confidence, weaving hits like “Shake It Out”, “Simple Math” and “Cope” around some of the standouts of 2017’s A Black Mile To The Surface. They even hit an especially sweet note with a short cover of Frightened Rabbit’s “My Backwards Walk,” originally written by Hull’s late friend and collaborator Scott Hutchison.
Next thing you know, the lights are down and the stage hands are frantically, and efficiently, changing the stage over, ready to welcome The Front Bottoms. The set design, a smattering or referential dive bar nods which included and in-service bar, patrons and all, relayed the message this was a loose and rollicking show, not to be taken too seriously but to be thoroughly enjoyed. It is as if the band themselves, well versed in the east coast dive bar scene, feel more comfort from this kind of close-quartered grunginess than they do playing arena adjacent venues like The Fillmore. You could sense this not only from the band but the audience as well, who immediately pushed toward the front upon the opening strum of “West Virginia,” shrinking the venue and giving the set the jam-out vibes the band seemed to relish.
It wasn’t long before the standing and nodding audience of the opener were transformed into full head-banging brilliance, with even a few stray, crowd-surfing legs floating into view. The Front Bottoms, ultimately, did what they do best, bringing an energy to songs about missing the way things used to be or giving the middle finger to the one you loved, never leaning too far into sentimentality or indifference to always be relatable and, this being the most important part, a hell of a lot of fun. Frontman Brian Sella oozes charm as the band run roughshod through their deep list of jams like “Skeleton”, “The Plan (Fuck Jobs)”, and of course “Twin Size Mattress”, before capping off an awesome night of music with “Be Nice to Me.”
Below, check out a roundup of images from the show, beginning with Philadelphia’s Shannen Moser, who started off the night with an impressive set of her own, showcasing music from this year’s beautiful I’ll Sing LP.