Concert Recap: Say Anything, The Front Bottoms, The So So Glos, You Blew It!

In 2010, I overheard the Say Anything set at Bamboozle New Jersey as I met the members of Motion City Soundtrack at their merch booth. Hearing their music live was awesome, but I vowed that I’d go to a proper show and be in the pit and really experience one of their live shows some day. Sunday, June 29 was that day. Say Anything headlined the House of Blues in Boston, one of my favorite venues (even though everyone else on the scene hates that it’s “so corporate”), and the best goddamn band in the world opened: The Front Bottoms.

Actually, three bands opened. The first was You Blew It!, whom we saw open for The Front Bottoms in February. They play a really energetic show, and the boys look so happy to be on stage that it’s always fun to see them play. Much like in February, they came on stage during The Front Bottoms’ set and during Say Anything’s to play songs with them, which added a bit of spontaneity that was fantastic. Apparently, HoB is the largest venue they’ve played, but if they were nervous, it didn’t really show. I loved watching them play.

The second opener was the So So Glos, whose music I would probably like recorded but couldn’t really get into live. I don’t think it had anything to do with the music itself — it was straightforward punk with an anti-hate message, which I usually dig — but rather the performance. I craved more stage presence and less baseball jokes, because I’m not a New England native and honestly don’t care about the Red Sox. (I’ll probably get lynched for that later, but sports have never ever been my thing.) I’ll have to check out their recorded stuff and see how I feel.

When The Front Bottoms took the stage, the crowd went completely apeshit. That was expected — AR and I have seen this band four times in the last year and we’ve left every single pit feeling like we’ve been run over by a horde of elephants. For me, seeing The Front Bottoms was the highlight of the whole night. I’ve wanted to see Say Anything for years and I absolutely loved their set, don’t get me wrong. But The Front Bottoms are my favorite band and seeing them live is almost a spiritual thing, every time. It’s cathartic and intense and makes me feel like I’m ten feet tall, no matter what else might be going on in my life when I enter or leave the venue.

The Front Bottoms' setlist, signed by Mat and Ciaran.
The Front Bottoms’ setlist, signed by Mat and Ciaran. Photo by AR.

TFB opened with “Skeleton”, as usual, so screaming the opening lyric with other fans in the crowd felt like entering a whole new headspace. Since it was only a 40-minute set, the band played a lot of favorites from the self-titled album and last year’s Talon of the Hawk. That was absolutely fine by me, though it was also amazing to hear a new, untitled song and even cooler to hear “Jim Bogart”. TFB just released a new ep, Rose, named after drummer Mat Uycich’s grandmother Rosemary, which features re-recorded, previously unreleased songs from the days when the band was just producing music for friends to hear.

By the time TFB left the stage, my voice was pretty much shot. I still managed to get keyboardist/trumpeter/guitarist Ciaran O’Donnell’s attention by screaming his name like a pterodactyl (sorry, Ciaran), who was an absolute darling and gave us a setlist to take home. After the show, we stuck around to chat with the boys from You Blew It! and got to chat with Mat and Ciaran, as well as Kenny from Say Anything, which was super cool.

Last time we saw TFB, I asked lead singer Brian Sella to write out lyrics from “Santa Monica” for a tattoo, which he did rather reluctantly. Though we didn’t get to see Sella so that I could show him (we had a train to catch), I did get to show Mat and Ciaran, both of whom said that Brian very rarely does stuff like that. As Ciaran pointed out, “he doesn’t want to be part of something that someone will regret one day.” I’m hoping that next time we see TFB, I can thank Sella for being kind enough to temper his handwriting so that it could be inked in my skin forever.

Photo by AR.
Photo by AR.

Going into the Say Anything set, I was on an absolute high that I hoped would remain for the rest of the show. Luckily, frontman Max Bemis brought a ton of presence to the stage and the rest of the band was so energetic and into the music that the high only continued. The song selection was pretty much perfect — Bemis’ wife Sherri DuPree Bemis and their daughter joined the band onstage for “Cemetery”, which had everyone dying, and the entire venue screamed every word to “Wow, I Can Get Sexual, Too”. Seeing Bemis perform “Every Man Has a Molly” acoustic during the encore was hands down the best part of the set for me. The band played a great mixture of old and new songs from their ridiculously large catalog, but I’ll keep holding out hope for a 10-year “Is A Real Boy…” tour just because it would be perfect.

Waiting in line for hours to be on barricade for this show was absolutely worth it. Our portion of the crowd was really respectful of each other but also really into the show, which is always a great combination, and the small child next to me who was at the show with his mom and dad seemed to have an awesome time, which somehow became super important to me once I realized he was there. As much as people complain about the House of Blues because it’s a corporate chain, I’ve never had a bad experience attending a show there. Security gave out water to thirsty, overheated crowd members without having to be asked, and everything was very organized from beginning to end. I had an absolutely amazing time and would absolutely repeat the experience, beginning to end, without changing a thing.

Concert Recap: Say Anything, The Front Bottoms, The So So Glos, You Blew It!

Concert Recap: The Front Bottoms, You Blew It!, Valencourt

One thing I’ve learned since I saw them for the first time in July and then again in November is that The Front Bottoms put on a really fucking good show. On Saturday, Feb. 1, I saw them for the third time in less than a year, and it was the most incredible and intense experience I’ve had at one of their shows. That’s saying something, given how hard their fans go — especially in Rhode Island, which for whatever reason, has kids that go harder than any others I’ve seen. (Must be something in the water.)

The show was at The Met in Pawtucket, RI, a venue that’s on par for intimacy with Paradise Rock Club (though really, it’s even smaller, especially since it’s only one floor and there isn’t even an entryway before the actual venue space — the doors just open right onto the floor). AR saw Transit there in December with their younger brother, and I’ve been looking forward to seeing The Front Bottoms there since AR told me how small the venue is.

TFBTattooThis concert has been at the top of my List of Things to Look Forward To for months. And it was even better than I ever could have hoped or dreamed. Brian Sella and Matt Uychich come out before the show to give us hot chocolate (appropriate, given that it was the last night of The Hot Chocolate Tour) and hang out for a few minutes, despite the cold. And when I asked him to write out one of his lyrics for me to get tattooed (“I wanna be stronger than your dad was for your mom”), Sella gave me a rather dubious look but then promised he’d write it out and bring me back the paper.

He returned shortly before doors opened with a torn piece of paper displaying three versions of the lyric, warned me that his handwriting is awful, and told me to think about it before he went back inside. I didn’t get a chance to tell Sella exactly why I want the lyric, or what it means to me, or how it felt the first time I heard it and every time I’ve heard it since. I’m hopeful that the next time we see The Front Bottoms, I’ll have the tattoo and can talk to him about it then.

AR and I snagged spots right up against the stage for the show itself — the stage was low, and pressed right against my upper thighs when the crowd started to lose it during You Blew It!, one of the opening bands. My entire body aches from being at the front of that pit, getting kicked in the head repeatedly by crowd-surfers and stage-divers, and throwing myself into the music just as hard as everyone around me. My throat still feels raw from screaming the lyrics and until I showered this morning, I felt dead. To be honest, I still feel like a bit of a zombie. The Front Bottoms’ fans always go incredibly hard and it’s been a while since I’ve been at the front of a pit and stayed there. In fact, the last time was at my first TFB show in July. If possible, the crowd at The Met went even harder than the crowd at The Sinclair — I think the intimacy of the space was both a blessing and a curse, in that respect.

Being jostled by the crowd made all of my photos blurry, but The Front Bottoms nailed it.

The band played a really solid mixture of songs from the self-titled album and its newest release, Talon of the Hawk (2013), as well as “Twelve Feet Deep” from one of its earlier albums. You Blew It! made continuous appearances on stage to fuck with The Front Bottoms, since it was the last night on tour. They sang happy birthday to each member of the band, shoved cupcakes in their faces, came on stage dressed as robots… The lead singer of You Blew It! even appeared in a “wrestling outfit” to challenge Sella, who’d declared he wanted to become a wrestler named The Schwing, and the two “battled” on stage. At the end of the night, when The Front Bottoms played “Twin Size Mattress”, You Blew It! set up its instruments on stage, and helped play the latter half of the song.

The night ended just as well as it started — by the end of the show, AR and I were both drenched in sweat and sore as hell but so, so stoked about the whole evening. The middle parts were also excellent; You Blew It! played a super high energy set and seemed genuinely thankful to be on stage in front of so many people who were so into their songs. A ton of people in the crowd had clearly come to the show to see the band, which was awesome.

Prior to You Blew It! taking the stage, local musician Valencourt played a handful of gorgeous acoustic songs, including a cover of Brand New’s “Play Crack the Sky”. We met him after the show and he was incredibly sweet. I owe him $3, because he let me pay him the only $2 I had in my wallet for the $5, 10-track album. (Jeff, I promise I’m going to pay you back!) He also gave AR his info so that we can interview him about successfully Kickstarting said album for Velociriot!, which is super exciting.

All in all, Saturday was everything I could have wanted and more. Next time The Front Bottoms are in New England, we’ll definitely be at the show — this band has become one that I can’t miss. I don’t suspect that will change anytime soon.

Concert Recap: The Front Bottoms, You Blew It!, Valencourt

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.

Concert Recap: Manchester Orchestra, The Front Bottoms

Concert Recap: The Front Bottoms, The Wild, The Bynars

In January, I had the incredible pleasure of seeing La Dispute at The Sinclair in Cambridge, Mass., a relatively new venue on the Boston music scene. I absolutely fell in love with the venue that night — it’s small, intimate, and run by a staff that is so incredibly nice it’s a little hard to believe. So I’ve taken to checking on their upcoming shows every few weeks so that I can return.

On Saturday, July 13, I did just that. Once again, I went with AR, who’s quickly become one of my favorite gig buddies. We stood on the balcony for the La Dispute show and were grateful for it — the crowd was nuts and we were both somewhat under the weather that night. But on Saturday, we got to the venue early and stood right up against the stage. And it was great.

The Bynars, a Boston-based alternative band that gave me some bizarre Everclear vibes, opened. They hit the stage at around 8:30 p.m. and played for just over half an hour. At first, I thought they were very cute. They had a dapper look with matching suits and the lead singer’s voice was fairly unique. But the longer they played, the less interested I became. I think I would really enjoy The Bynars’ recorded stuff — it has a vibe that I’m into and I enjoyed the sound. But live, it was a bit hard to get into them, because there just wasn’t as much crowd interaction or energy as I would have liked to see.

The Wild, via Instagram.

That lack of energy was brought into stark relief when The Wild (from Atlanta) took the stage. The bass drum on their kit read, “Your heart is a muscle the size of your fist. Keep loving. Keep fighting.” And to be honest, the band’s overall aesthetic and sound reminded both me and AR of Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist. Actually, the whole night kind of reminded me of it. (The Bynars were Are You Randy?, obviously). The Wild were fucking great. Their lyrics, vocals, and sound were completely cohesive. The band had a really cute vibe and their energy was off the charts. Watching their set was like being filled with joy. I loved every minute of it.

When The Front Bottoms took the stage just after 10 p.m., the joy only increased. At this point, as it usually does when the headliner takes the stage, the crowd went batshit. There was a lot of pushing and there were a ton of crowdsurfers — many of them repeaters throughout the set, which was about 90 minutes (a perfect length, in my opinion). Reed and I stuck it out, though, and managed to maintain our spot at the corner of the stage.

The Front Bottoms are possibly one of the happiest bands I’ve ever seen live. They just seemed so pleased to be on stage and playing music, and the amount of crowd interaction was great. Lead singer Brian Sella took gifts from the crowd, the entire band tossed out glow sticks and beach balls, and Sella made jokes and even called out the absolutely bullshit verdict on the George Zimmerman case. He handed out water to some of the very overheated fans in the front row and was just generally a super nice dude.

Plus, The Front Bottoms’ music live is so much better than it is on the recorded albums. I got into the band just a few months ago and I love them. There’s a feeling to the music that’s happy but also kind of bitter, and it’s really, really, really lovely. The set on Saturday was a solid mix of old and new material, as well, and the band even took a request from the crowd to play an old favorite (“12 Feet Deep”).

The Front Bottoms' set list, via AR's Instagram.
The Front Bottoms’ setlist, via AR’s Instagram.

The guys seemed so genuinely nice — we were even given water by the keyboardist/trumpeter, and after the show, he gave Reed the setlist. (It was soaked in what we’re pretty sure was Pabst Blue Ribbon, but might have just been water. At any rate, the handwriting is all smudged but still legible. That adds to the experience, really.)

We briefly met some of The Wild at the merch table and their bassist gave us water during The Front Bottoms’ set as well. He was standing in the “backstage” area but could see us through bars on the side of the stage, and reached over to hand me a bottle. (“It looks hot up there! Do you want some water?” What a cutie.) Both waters were handed around to the girls next to and behind me, as well — despite how crazy and energetic the crowd was, the group at the front pretty much had each other’s backs. It was nice. The whole vibe of the show was just nice. I don’t have another word for it. I had a lovely time.

Once again, The Sinclair provided a concert experienced unparalleled to anything I’ve had before. I can’t wait to go back. And I can’t wait to see some of these bands a second time.

Concert Recap: The Front Bottoms, The Wild, The Bynars

New to me Music: The Front Bottoms

Being friends with AR has introduced me to a lot of new music, particularly of the indie, folk, and punk variety. Between AR’s influence and 8tracks, I’ve had the distinct pleasure of falling in love with a ton of bands over the last several months. I’ve already seen some of them live and this summer, I’ll get to see more.

Last week, I received a very sad email that the Gaslight Anthem show AR and I were planning to attend at Lupo’s Heartbreak Hotel in June has been postponed until September. By then, AR will be off at Rutgers University in New Jersey and I have no idea where I’ll be. We opted to have our tickets refunded and then scoured the internet for another show to attend.

The Front BottomsLucky for us, The Front Bottoms are playing at The Sinclair in Cambridge, Mass., on July 13. The Front Bottoms are a two-piece indie outfit from New Jersey and the band’s self-titled LP has been on repeat on my Spotify account all week. The song “Rhode Island” has appeared on a number of AR’s mixes and playlists (appropriate, really) and the vocal/instrumental combination the band produces is unmistakable. As soon as I pulled up the song on Spotify, I recognized it.

Moments later, I bought tickets to the show. Yeah. I’m that into the sound this band produces and the aesthetic that accompanies it. I miss listening to weird indie music and going to shows where I can sing along and dance. Music that makes you happy is super important and The Front Bottoms produce that in spades.

It’s an added bonus that the band is playing at The Sinclair, which is a new venue in Cambridge. We saw La Dispute and The Menzingers at the venue in January and I absolutely fell in love. It’s small and intimate with fantastic acoustics and an incredibly nice staff. I can’t wait to go back and see The Front Bottoms there, especially since its music is so different from the other bands I’ve seen there.

I’m not entirely sure what to expect from this show, but I’ve a few months to anticipate it and learn all the words to the band’s music. According to The Front Bottoms’ website, a new album drops May 21, which will give it a decent repertoire of songs to choose from for the performance. As it stands, I wouldn’t mind just seeing the entire self-titled LP performed from beginning to end. There isn’t a single song I dislike, which is saying something. I almost always find at least one track to pick at and pull apart — but that’s not the case with this album, which is great.

The Front Bottoms are fun and quirky and a little dark. Some of the band’s lyrics are achingly romantic while others verge on creeptastic. I’m here for every last word, though, and I can’t wait for July 13. I’m still sad I don’t get to see the Gaslight Anthem this summer, but this show at least makes up for some of the pain.


New to me Music: The Front Bottoms