“Yeah, I suppose they’re alright.” Said a bloke who couldn’t stop grinning from ear to ear just after The Front Bottoms had left the stage at Camden’s Dingwalls venue. I’d never met this guy before, but all around me, total strangers stood around talking to each other with the cheesiest smiles plastered on their faces.
This is the effect The Front Bottoms seem to have on people. Their lyrics are rife with self-pity, love-sickness and nonsense regarding skateboarding down mountains (and I’m not even kidding), but the upbeat nature of delivery and the self-mocking tone of more or less everything makes for an incredibly endearing attitude problem which you can’t help but grin along with when you listen.
As the doors open at London’s Dingwalls, sitting next to one of Camden’s most beautiful sights, there’s a palpable air of camaraderie and general chilling-out. American post-punk and obscure pop-punk bands are playing over the PA system, and only about a quarter of the room seems old enough to buy a drink. None of these things matter at all as Allison Weiss takes to the stage, without her usual backing band. My previous experience of Allison Weiss was limited to a cover of The Front Bottoms Au Revoir (Adios) I was shown on YouTube, which although competent, was nothing ground-breaking. I won’t deny I approached her set with little interest. Although, I was quickly persuaded otherwise. It takes a certain level of confidence to take to the stage solo when you’re so used to having a backing band, and although Weiss starts shakily, she’s rapidly building up a rapport and banter with the crowd, as a few die-hard fans join in with the easy-to-sing-along-with acoustic sound as she plows through a repertoire comprised more or less exclusively from her album Say What You Mean. The whole thing is palatable and Weiss successfully warms the crowd up with a mixture of lamenting love-songs and an innocent, vulnerable stage presence. Topping her set off by being join by The Front Bottoms for her final song of the night, One Way Love, Weiss works the crowd up to something resembling a frenzy, then calmly exits. Judging by the queue to meet her at the merch stand after her performance, it appears she converted a fair few fans that night.
Following Weiss’ great opening performance, the crowd presses forward into an already sweaty mass in preparation for the evening’s headliner, The Front Bottoms. Despite having a name which goes down fantastically awkwardly when mentioned in the office in passing, the band are known for their indie-punk sound, complete with bouncy synth-lines and trumpete parts, to form a sound as unique and interesting as it is impressive. As frontman Brian Sella and company take the stage, the crowd, comprised apparently entirely of die-hard fans, become instantly rabid. Starting strongly, The Front Bottoms successfully build momentum throughout their set, dropping fan-favourites at all the right moments. The set has the best of both their albums, changing easily between tracks from both their self-titled effort and the more recent Talon Of The Hawk. Highlights include the previously mentioned Au Revoir (Adios), as well the the biting homage to Sella’s dad, imaginatively entitled Father, dedicated to the man himself, who is standing side stage.
The Front Bottoms demonstrate their increased confidence by their striking stage presence, much improved from their previous sets at 2013′s Hit The deck festival, and remain one of the most musically talented and interesting bands currently circulating the global underground scene (if such a thing can exist). Finishing the night with an encore of crowd-pleasers, Maps and the single release from the newest album, Twin Sized Mattress, things are ended in spectacular fashion, with not one person not wrecking their own throat trying to sing along at the top of their lungs.
Joined for one last time on stage by Allison Weiss for the finale, Sella ends things with a perfectly executed stage-dive. All in all a great way to round off a night full to the brim with good cheer, upbeat songs and musical greatness.
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All photos taken by Chris Harding