LIVE: The Front Bottoms at Camden Barfly [23/04/2013]

By Chris Marshman

The Front Bottoms may be gracing the stage in the dark and claustrophobic room upstairs at the illustrious Camden Barfly, however for the reams of die-hard fans this could easily be their British opus. Reasonable perhaps, considering the New Jersey lads are yet to play either a venue this size or to a crowd this big. Selling out the Barfly at this stage in their career, and while playing a style of music far removed from the mainstream, is by no means an easy feat.

It therefore comes as little surprise that the atmosphere is electric from the moment Brian Sella and Matt Uychich take the stage. Accompanied by Tom Warren on bass and Ciaran O’Donnell on a variation of instruments – including the band’s signature trumpet – The Front Bottoms present themselves as a quartet for tonight’s performance. Each of the four musicians exudes an exciting combination of instrumental mastery and relentless enthusiasm throughout the eighty minute set.

Expertly delivering slices from their debut self-titled full-length and their impending ‘Talon Of The Hawk’, each track captivates the audience with its distinctive style and passionate delivery. The older material incites an overpowering sing-along while encouraging a zealous display of waving limbs.

Similarly, whereas brand new material often falls flat in a live environment, the intensity fails to falter. New tracks such as ‘Twin Size Mattress’ easily sit alongside ‘Father’ or ‘Maps’ – the latter encouraging a mass of crowd surfers, stage divers and an eventual stage invasion.

Sella (vocals, guitar) interacts with the crowd with instinctual ease, offering tales of wresting stardom (introducing: The Schwing) and a high proportion of produce based jokes. His quick-witted retorts to occasional heckling further generate the front-room DIY atmosphere presiding over the venue. The enjoyment is not only visible on the faces of the punters but also those of the band. After chugging a bottle of water and declaring his macho status, it is easy to see the source of the music’s charm.

Musically it is the drums that take centre stage. Uychich demonstrates speed and precision lacking in a high proportion of mainstream artists. The drumming is so faultless throughout the set that onlookers could be mistaken for envisioning a backing track or loop pedal. This guides the mass of scattered instruments – even the tour manager joins in with the occasion tambourine – into a spectacularly clever, original and engaging sound.

Ultimately the Barfly is dripping with sweat as The Front Bottoms draw to a close. With the new material sounding invigorating, the old material exhilarating and the band embracing the crowd into a friendly inner circle, it is clear that Camden witnessed something special this evening. SHHHWING!