“Bubble Machines and Cornet solos aren’t normally punk – but these guys made it work!”
Punk shows – especially American, pizza-in-the-tour-van, gotta-get-out-of-my-town punk shows – have a very special vibe. Things seems more authentic somehow, like the teen experience has been bottled and released like a pheromone onstage, like high production value has been rightfully and honorably forfeited in lieu of true human connection. The Front Bottoms, with their inflatable lettering and bubble machines serving as their only backdrop, definitely stayed true to that spirit.
That’s not to say there was anything smacking of the amatuer. Brian and the lads were on point, expertly mixing old gems with some of new album Back On Top’s best offerings, even gracefully bowing to the crowd’s request for 8Tracks’ favourite Swimming Pool. Even the jovial banter seemed smooth, from mock-outrage at the crowd’s inability to differentiate between a cornet and a trumpet, to the bemusement at the crowd’s incessant chanting of Yorkshire, to the glorious spectacle of Brian downing two bears just because it was requested in song form. As confirmed when he looked over the crowd and, seemingly in awe, remarked “there’s a lot of people here”, the band just seemed happy to be so warmly-received.
Yet despite a setlist that could only have been improved with the addition of Peaches, the real star of the show in my eyes had exited stage left before The Front Bottoms played their first chord. In short: Kevin Devine & The Goddamn Band are incredible. Truly.
I don’t know what I expected from a guy who prefaced his third song with the statement “Well you haven’t all fallen asleep or walked out, so that’s good” but the modesty certainly wasn’t warranted. With a sound that made me think both Motion City Soundtrack and The Rolling Stones, there was something almost crazed about the way he commanded the stage, one minute he was running and screaming, the next crouched and crooning and holding his guitar like a security blanket.
Although it took a while for the crowd to acclimatise to the sudden oscillations between brutal riffs and folk, there was definitely some irresistible appeal to the softly-spoken red-head and his band of merry men. I may have gained a new favourite on this tour, and I’m pretty sure I won’t be the only one.