LIVE: The Front Bottoms / Gnarwolves / Apologies, I Have None @ The Kentish Town Forum, London

By Thomas Gane

Apologies, I Have None are one of the UK’s under the radar treasures, consistently putting out excellent records and smashing shows without quite breaking through. If the public hasn’t fully caught on yet their fellow artists haven’t been so slow. The Front Bottoms are the latest in a string of international bands to take them out on tour, and Apologies, I Have None seem undaunted by the larger stages on this run. They played a raw and intense set, reminiscent of Brand New, with tracks such as ‘Wraith’ from their excellent new album ‘Pharmacie’ really standing out.

Thom from Gnarwolves sang ‘Wonderwall’ for a mic check before introducing himself as ‘the Wonderwall guy,’ and this light-hearted, relaxed approach embodied the entire performance. Gnarwolves made their name supporting, and often upstaging, bigger artists, and they seem to revel in having to win over crowds like this by grabbing them by the scruff and forcing them to have a good time.

The band stormed through a set that incorporated tracks from their early EP’s, debut album and last year’s excellent ‘Adolesence’ EP, and at times the standing area resembled a Gnarwolves headline in The Fighting Cocks. The crowd surfing began after a minute, every hook was sung, and when the crowd didn’t know the words (during two tracks from Gnarwolves’ forthcoming second album) a massive pit opened up instead. It was rampant, joyous and everything that made me fall in love with them in the first place.

Three years ago The Front Bottoms were playing Dingwalls, a venue so small you can climb on stage and have a Jaeger Bomb with the band afterwards. Tonight they headlined The Kentish Town Forum which holds over 2,000. Their rise has been phenomenal, especially given the lack of radio support, and judging by the crowd the new fans are almost all teenagers. It was slightly unnerving being in the oldest percentile of a crowd, but fantastic to see kids supporting bands like this in such large numbers.

Despite the larger rooms on this tour, The Front Bottoms maintained the charm that characterised their earlier shows. A couch sat in the middle of a stage dotted with lamps and a disco ball, and the encore was still preceded by a book reading. This, combined with the grounded and organic approach that has always characterised their sound, meant The Front Bottoms still have the close connection with the audience that they had when they were playing basements, and the only real difference between this and Dingwalls was  the amount of noise. From the first chord of opener ‘Skeleton’ the atmosphere was like being in a huge arena; a mass of people pressed together and forced to bounce in union by the electric energy – and partly because they’ll be crushed if they don’t.

The younger fans may have come across The Front Bottoms through last year’s ‘Back On Top’, but they’d done their research. Every word was screamed back at front man Brian Sella as The Front Bottom’s cover everything from this year’s ‘Needy When I’m Needy’ EP, right back to their self-titled debut (early fan favourites like ‘The Beers’ and ‘Father’ still get the biggest response). The encore of ‘Twelve Feet Deep’, the first Front Bottom’s classic, and ‘Back On Top’ closer ‘Plastic Flowers’ felt triumphant. The band reflecting upon where they’ve come from and the heights they’ve reached.

The BBC Sound of 2017 list was rightly applauded this year for its inclusion of a diverse array of acts from grime, rap and RNB, however for those who love guitars there wasn’t much to get excited about. Tonight however a crowd composed almost entirely of teenagers sang every word back to an eclectic and brilliant trio of punk bands. It might not always be reflected by awards, but nights like this show the kids will still find the music regardless.