June 06, 2013
My best friends and I roadtripped down to Florida from South Carolina for a little vacation and to enjoy a couple of shows, the first show being the Front Bottoms and Weatherbox in Jacksonville. After spending four and a half hours driving through Tropical Storm Andrea we arrived at the venue, which was located in what used to be a strip mall. The venue was pretty large and as the show got closer to starting the room quickly began to fill up.
The opener was R-Dent, a band from the Jacksonville area. Shows with a bigger draw sometimes feature hidden gems of local bands that may otherwise go unheard so keeping an open ear for these bands can be rewarding. Unfortunately, that was not the case at this show. R-Dent's set seemed to drag on as they played their mostly annoying brand of mosh-pop-punk. That isn't to say that everyone didn't enjoy the music. Some kids moshed and hardcore danced, which the band encouraged. The band’s set seemed like it was never going to end (the sound guy urged the band to speed it up during their banter before their last song) and when they finally finished, it was bit of a relief.
Next up were Weatherbox. I’d seen them once before when they opened for the Front Bottoms and Bad Books a few months prior. After my first encounter, I have been meaning to check out their work but never got much of a chance to do so. They played an extremely solid set which highlighted the musical abilities of everyone in the band. Guitaritst/vocalist Brian Warren went back and forth between singing and screaming atop intricate guitar parts, which had many in the crowd bobbing their heads while a few sang along. Matt Uychich of the Front Bottoms hopped behind his drum set and played along with Weatherbox during the conclusion of one of their songs, which got a good reaction from the crowd. Weatherbox's emotionally-driven sound reminds me a bit of a rougher Say Anything, which isn't a bad thing in my book. After seeing them for a second time, I will definitely be making an effort to listen to the band’s back catalog, because they managed to impress me both times I saw them.
After a short wait, the Front Bottoms took to the stage as the packed room cheered them on. With little introduction they opened their set with "Skeleton," from their new album Talon of the Hawk. Although it was only released three weeks prior to the show, the crowd sang along enthusiastically to this song along with the others from the new album. The set was loaded with new material, which included every song from Talon of the Hawk with the exception of album closer "Everything I Own." The band were even joined on stage by a dancing blow-up man (the ones often seen at used car dealerships) branding the knife from the cover of the new album on its chest. Between new songs the Front Bottoms threw in songs from their 2011 self-titled album, which caused the venue to erupt with excitement. Their 2011 album is loaded with songs that have become fan favorites, which was obvious as the band played through entries like "Mountain" and "Swimming Pool”: These songs had the audience singing louder, dancing harder and stage diving more. The band even added "Twelve Feet Deep" to the set, from an early full-length (I Hate My Friends) that was never released on a wide scale which had dedicated fans, who scour the Internet for old material from the band, singing every word. Vocalist/guitarist Brian Sella's lyrics are often thoughtful and cryptic but also manage to maintain a relatability that kept fans interested and singing along. Halfway through the set the band played "The Beers," which highlighted Sella's lyrical ability and the fans' love for his lyrics quite nicely. Nearly everybody in the room shouted the band's most famous chorus of, "I will remember that summer as the summer I was taking steroids 'cause you like a man with muscles and I like you,” together.
The past year has seen the Front Bottoms’ popularity take off in a big way, which seems to have come as a surprise to the extremely humble band. They announced that the last time they played in Jacksonville there was only one person in the audience. Not only has the band's audience grown, but so have the band and their live show. Uychich's flailing behind his drums has always added a power to Sella's acoustic guitar that goes unmatched among their contemporaries, but Tom Warren on bass and Ciaran O'Donnell on keys/trumpet/guitar add another layer to their live sound, which takes the band into an even better direction. Songs from Talon of the Hawk benefitted from the new additions to the live lineup, and the new songs translate perfectly into the live setting. And where the Front Bottoms used to use laptops to fill out their live performances, they now have full instrumentation, which brings a whole new life and energy to the older songs. The band announced that they would "play one more song before pretending to walk off stage and pretending to come back out for an encore." The band ended their set with "Flashlight," which had the audience going crazy as if the song would actually be the last of the night. Then the Front Bottoms did exactly as they said and headed straight into their "encore" which began with "Maps," a song that was often their closer on previous tours. The band closed with Talon of the Hawk's "Twin Size Mattress," which is arguably the best song the band have ever written. The set concluded with Sella and the audience shouting the words along with each other, with plenty of stage diving and crowd surfing before the band played the song’s outro, demonstrating how each member’s musical abilities are a perfect match for Sella's songwriting skills.
I can't imagine anybody leaving disappointed after the Front Bottoms' performance. The set along with the bands' new album are proof that they have the ability to make music that is unique and can appeal to fans of any genre.
Setlist (not exactly sure of the order but it went something like this):
Swear To God The Devil Made Me Do It
Twelve Feet Deep
Funny You Should Ask
Twin Size Mattress