Since rising to prominence after their self-titled dropped in 2011, The Front Bottoms have become one of New Jersey’s worst-kept secrets, gaining a rabid following, impressing an early afternoon crowd at Riot Fest in Chicago, and selling out Webster Hall for their Champagne Jam last year.
The eclectic New Jersey rockers’ gig at Irving Plaza – the first of two sold-out shows to kick off a new tour – felt like another important step in the band’s trajectory, showcasing the unique personality of their new record, Back on Top.
While the band ditched the inflatable tube dancers often present when they toured in support of Talon of the Hawk, the set did start with the traditional one-two punch of “Au Revoir (Adios)” leading into “Skeleton”. As the case tends to be with any Front Bottoms show that’s a stone’s throw from their native Bergen County, fans showed up early and in force, filling most of the room by the time opener The Smith Street Band took the stage. And from start to finish, the audience eagerly belted out the words, shaking the floor with the force of their moshing and jumping.
The first big surprise came after “Motorcycle”, when singer Brian Sella brought out The Uptown Horns, an outfit with four older guys: two saxophonists, a trumpeter, and a trombone player.
“These are the original Front Bottoms, me and these guys,” Sella joked. “Good to be playing with these old chums.”
The additional players were a welcome addition to the stage, adding a subtle, jazzy flavor to “The Feud”, “The Plan (Fuck Jobs)” and “Ginger”. It was easy to see The Uptown Horns start to get into a groove by the third song, subtly swaying in unison as the crowd went wild.
The next guest appearance came at the end of “Historic Cemetery”, when New Jersey rapper GDP took the stage to perform the outro. (The Front Bottoms also performed “Wolfman” off their GDP split, which was released for Record Store Day this year.)
The band closed out their main set with two classic tracks: “Bathtub” and “The Beers”. On the former, Sella traded in the subtler vocals on the studio version for raw, prolonged screams. And on the latter, the crowd took over singing duties, yelling the chorus (“I will remember that summer/ As the summer I was taking steroids/ ‘Cause you like a man with muscles / And I like you”), while Sella walked to the side of the stage, flexing his biceps and grinning like a madman.
After briefly departing, the Front Bottoms returned with the Uptown Horns in tow again. The band then performed one of the strongest tracks of the evening, “2YL”. The brass part of the song was brief, but the triumphant interlude in the middle elicited a huge cheer from the crowd. Despite how good many of the other Back on Top tracks (“HELP”, “Motorcycle”, “Cough It Out”) sounded, there was still only one choice for the Front Bottoms’ closer: “Twin Size Mattress”. Drummer Matt Uychich’s beat sounded even more prominent and driving than ever, and the band tossed out tambourines for the crowd to shake along. For one more sweaty, exuberant song, crowd surfers rumbled like incessant waves toward the security guards at the barrier while the fans roared along to the song’s anthemic lyrics.
Au Revoir (Adios)
Lipstick Covered Magnet
Laugh Till I Cry
The Plan (Fuck Jobs)
Cough It Out
Twin Size Mattress