There are a lot of factors that go into making a great show. And if I can say anything for this show, it’s that the atmosphere, and for lack of a better word, “vibes,” made it what it was.
I’ll admit that I came solely for The Front Bottoms. I had never even heard of the opening acts — Brick + Mortar and Diet Cig — until this tour. I almost purposefully didn’t come to the show for said openers because my heart was set on hearing “Flashlight” live, and really not much else. But after seeing half of Diet Cig and all of Brick + Mortar’s set, they’ve definitely converted a fan. I was ecstatic to arrive to the venue and see the stage being fronted by a girl singer with a pixie cut, as female pop punk bands are far and few (shout-out to We Are The In Crowd and Paramore!) And let me tell you, that girl can sing. The few songs I did hear were extremely impressive, and I wish I had caught the full set.
The lights go out for Brick + Mortar, and I have no idea what exactly to expect, but my expectations were turned upside down. I think this is one of the most positive and theatrical performances I have ever seen. This comes back to my statement of the show’s atmosphere. Their opening song was explained by lead singer Brandon Asraf to be about living the best you can, and changing the world for the better. Their second one was about changing the stigma of mental illness. In a beautiful, symbolic introduction to “Terrible Things,” balloons were passed out to the crowd as they were encouraged to let them go along with their insecurities. By the end of the song, pieces of paper with life’s little treasures (Sunday mornings, petting dogs, cupcakes, etc) scribbled on them were raining from the sky.
But what caught everyone’s eye was the “hype man” on stage. Behind the band, beautiful animations and videos were projected on a large screen, operated by a tall and lanky man behind a laptop. His post behind the laptop didn’t stay, however — pretty soon he was running around in nipple tassels, elf costumes, butterfly wings, and more, holding lyrics up on cardboard so that the audience could sing along. Every time a song ended, you heard someone nearby say “man, I love that guy!” Absolutely everyone was dancing, and everyone was helping spread the positive vibes that the band was projecting.
Onto The Front Bottoms. The Front Bottoms can be described as the least condescending form of the word ”kitschy.” Along their merch table and their drum kit were beautiful red roses. Stage props ranged from bubbles to the inflatable tube men you see outside of car dealerships. All around positive and fun vibes radiated from this band.
And what amazed me was the level of crowd participation. The show was sold out, but usually even with a sold out room, the crowd participation diminishes as you get farther back. But the energy carried through the room, with people against the back wall screaming the words as if they were in the center of the pit.
A big part of this has to be the quality of songwriting. The Front Bottoms have this way of making statements that happen to be both vague and specific, making everyone relate to Brian Sella’s words. Basically, listening to their music makes you want to be camping with your friends, or at a house party, or with your high school crush driving around listening to music. They have a way of making you nostalgic for cliched experiences you’ve never even had (I mean, who has actually swam in a lake naked at night and couldn’t enjoy it because Jaws was stuck in their head?) Being at their show is like being in the garage of your best friends house watching a family friend’s band play, which gives off that intimate feel that people crave in a show.
This wasn’t the only thing fans could relate to — Kentucky being awfully close to Cincinnati, there was much discussion of the Kentucky Derby. Turns out the band took a trip to Keeneland (in Lexington) before the show, and they were happy to discuss their experience with the attendees, complete with horse noises. And inevitably, whenever a band comes to Cincinnati — there was talk of cheese coneys. It’s always nice to see a band taking interest in whatever region they came to, even with something as silly as horse races and hot dogs with Cincinnati-style chili on them.
Although every song carried the energy of a band’s hit song, which is extremely impressive, “Twin Size Mattress” was the perfect closing to the show. The aforementioned bubbles and inflatable men were brought back out, along with the pint size Diet Cig and fun-loving crew of Brick + Mortar jumping around the stage singing along. It was an absolute perfect closing to an energetic show, bringing the talented bands altogether for the powerful song.
Basically, whatever expectations I had for this show were more than fulfilled. The openers that I had previously never heard of converted an instant fan, and The Front Bottoms sure did not disappoint.
Hannah is an accidental internet meme, drummer, loud talker, and proud owner of a purse that functions as a working analog clock. She got the media writer gene from her dad, PF Wilson, another writer for Pop Culture Beast. Her favorite bands come and go on a seasonal rotation, but Marina & The Diamonds and Say Anything are here to say. She’s probably watching The Grand Budapest Hotel right now, but if she isn’t, she’s out photographing rock concerts.