Concert Recap: Manchester Orchestra, The Front Bottoms

Last November, I attended my first ever show at the infamous Lupo’s Heartbreak Hotel in Providence, RI. It was a great show, but for one of the first times ever, I voluntarily left early. Last night, I returned to Lupo’s — with the same company I had last time — to see a show with fewer bands on the bill and less speechmaking from the local radio station.

Last night totally redeemed Lupo’s for me. The space is small, reminiscent of other venues I love, but the sound is huge for such a little space and can sometimes be overwhelming. That being said, last night, The Front Bottoms and Manchester Orchestra absolutely slayed.

TFBI saw The Front Bottoms in July (at one of my favorite venues) and the crowd went absolutely apeshit. It was clear, at the July show, that everyone there expected that to happen. The Front Bottoms headlined, and the environment at the venue was one that encouraged pits and crowdsurfing and general rough behavior. Last night at Lupo’s, it was clear that tons of people either didn’t know the band or didn’t know the band’s audience — lots of people in the crowd were stunned and maybe a little terrified when the band took the stage and the pit exploded.

The set list was similar to the one the band played in July, but much shorter. Apparently, The Front Bottoms haven’t been playing “Rhode Island” on this tour but made an exception last night because. As lead singer Brian Sella put it, it “seemed appropriate.” The crowd reacted appropriately — everyone in the room who knew the lyrics were screaming them and it was so, so fun. The most amazing thing about seeing this band live is that everyone on stage looks so happy to be there. The more intense the crowd, the happier the boys are. I had an awesome time watching the band perform and I’m stoked to see it when it returns to Rhode Island in February. A.R. and I bought both albums last night at the merch table, since we’ve now seen the band twice and intend to see it a third time. We figure it’s time to own The Front Bottoms’ music rather than just streaming it on Spotify.

MOFollowing The Front Bottoms, Manchester Orchestra took the stage. The band opened with “Shake It Out” and the intensity of that song set the tone of the whole night. I never would have expected Manchester Orchestra to go so hard — nor would I have expected the majority of its audience to be drunk frat boys wearing flannel, but I digress. I’ve listened to Manchester Orchestra for years, but never listened to them obsessively. Seeing them live was an awesome experience, though. The band is ridiculously talented and clearly very, very, very into the music. There was so much energy in the room — coming from the band as well as the crowd — and it was a really cool feeling to be surrounded by it all. I only sang along to a handful of songs, but that didn’t limit my enjoyment. I went to the show for The Front Bottoms (admittedly), but I stayed for Manchester Orchestra.

At one point, a crowdsurfer actually stood in the middle of the pit and the band saluted him for the effort. Lead singer Andy Hull called for the crowd to find out if the fan was “actually Jesus Christ” and said he’d “never seen anything like that before”. It was a good moment. Another fan did the same thing several minutes later — in the same part of the pit — and the staff at Lupo’s seemed exasperated by the whole thing. People putting themselves in danger isn’t necessarily cool (Hull told the second fan to get down before they hurt themself) but it was really cool to see how into the show the crowd was. The band-fan interaction was awesome.

I’m not sure if I’ll go out of my way to attend shows at Lupo’s, even though I’m planning to move to Rhode Island in March, but I really enjoyed myself last night, and A.R. and I stayed for the whole show (save the tail end of the encore, because we were beat). Other highlights included dozens (and I do mean dozens) of people trying to get into the pit and encountering the railing we were leaning on — their faces were hilarious, every time — and talking to the super sweet merch guy for The Front Bottoms afte the show. Fantastic fucking night.

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Concert Recap: Manchester Orchestra, The Front Bottoms

Concert Recap: Passion Pit, The Joy Formidable, Ra Ra Riot, Roz & The Rice Cakes

On Wednesday, Nov. 28, I had the extreme pleasure of taking my best friend to their first venue concert. The show was Rhode Island’s 95.5 WBRU Birthday Bash and it featured Passion Pit as the headliner. Also playing were Roz & the Rice Cakes, Ra Ra Riot, and The Joy Formidable. Prior to last night, I had seen all of these bands except Roz & the Rice Cakes in completely different settings.

For my first time at Lupo’s, a venue I’ve heard rave reviews about from friends for years, I had a really wonderful night. The venue is intimate in a way that can be either really good or really bad — I experienced both last night, as the show was sold out and there was an intense number of people pressing against each other to ward off the slight winter chill that still permeated the building up until Passion Pit took the stage at 10:30 p.m. Crowded shows are both a blessing and a curse because they are so packed full of energy — but also packed full of people who are obnoxious twats, 90 percent of the time.

Roz & the Rice Cakes brought a really energetic set to the stage. I was impressed by the band’s sound — an odd combination of Marley-esque rock and Letters to Cleo-style vocals. The lead singer, though she couldn’t have been more than 5′ tall, brought down the house. I had never heard of the band before seeing it at last night’s show but I am definitely interested in hearing the recorded music and seeing the Rice Cakes live a second time to get a better scope on the sound.

Ra Ra Riot were absolutely lovely. I first saw this band open for Death Cab for Cutie at a small venue in Reno, NV in 2009. I had barely heard of the band then but after seeing its set and hanging with the band for a bit after the show, I became a fan. I’ve since listened to Ra Ra Riot’s music fairly often and seeing the band again was really fantastic. The cool thing about Ra Ra Riot’s music is that it’s all incredibly mellow (almost just plain slow) in the recorded versions, but live, there’s an energy that’s undeniable. I loved getting to hear “Can You Tell” and “Dying Is Fine” live — the band played a solid mix of tracks from its first two records and its upcoming new release.

I first saw The Joy Formidable by accident. I was at Bamboozle New Jersey in 2010 and happened upon the band’s set while I was waiting for Good Old War to take the adjacent stage. Much like Ra Ra Riot, The Joy Formidable has a sound that is much mellower recorded and much more intense live. At a setting like Bamboozle, that energy worked because it was in a big open space with a fair number of people who either knew or didn’t know the band. At Lupo’s, the energy was almost too much. It’s possible I’d just started to reach my exhaustion limit by this point, but my friend and I only stayed in the venue for part of The Joy Formidable’s set.

Sadly, we also bailed early on Passion Pit. Despite absolutely loving this band and looking forward to seeing them for the second time for weeks leading up the show, the band took forever to actually hit the stage and my friend and I had both reached the point of grumpy exhaustion that not even really great music can cure. We stayed for the first quarter of the band’s set and then left feeling pleased and excited, but also very ready to get home. Even that quarter set was incredible, though. The first time I saw this band was at UNH in 2010… The show sold out but hardly anyone in the crowd knew more tracks than “Little Secrets” and “Sleepyhead.” The great thing about seeing a band again at a venue that’s packed full of fans after seeing it in a venue that’s packed full of bored college kids is getting to absorb the energy of fellow fans and soak in the experience.

Overall, the night was really, really good. I’d definitely like to try attending another show at Lupo’s — maybe something a little more indie and a little less rock? — and I’d love to experience Passion Pit at a larger venue with more room to dance. At any rate, even having left early, this show was more than worth it.

Concert Recap: Passion Pit, The Joy Formidable, Ra Ra Riot, Roz & The Rice Cakes