The Front Bottoms Boys Make the Music World Go Round
Hutch Harris of The Thermals wrote a great essay about getting past being jaded and being able to enjoy music made by a generation younger than your own. As the singer/guitarist of a band that is responsible for one of my favorite albums of all time and the fact that he references one of my favorite movies of all time in the title, I took note. Harris is more than a decade older than me and yet I completely related to his sentiment. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve subconsciously looked down on the generation of music below me1 and there have been countless bands I didn’t give a chance just because their fan base consisted mostly of a younger crowd.2 The Front Bottoms is one of those bands and I severely regret not getting into them sooner especially after seeing them at The Paper Tiger on April 26.
The irony of all this is that the members of The Front Bottoms are essentially in my age group and make music that is reminiscent of the sounds I grew up with. I never even listened to them until about a year ago when a friend played “Au Revoir” from his iPhone in the middle of a car ride. When he told me who they were I felt an utter sense of shame for being so jaded that I couldn’t enjoy new music just because it was associated with a younger generation. This was a point in my life that, thanks to The Front Bottoms and a few other bands, I was able to once again start enjoying music without any preconceived notions of where or whom it was coming from. I was post-jaded.
The biggest indicator of this is the fact that some time last month, I became completely enamored with the sounds of the slop pop duo Diet Cig. They have a raw, endearing sound that borders on lo-fi pop with a pretty solid melodic punk influence. They feel like what it would sound like if Best Coast and Wavves had a baby. I was most excited to see them open up for The Front Bottoms because I wasn’t able to see them during SXSW. Unfortunately, I got off work late and arrived just as they were finishing their set. I can say that judging by the 30 seconds of music, I missed out big time and hope they find their way back to the Alamo city for another tour.
I leaned back and took in the surroundings. It was definitely a younger crowd. Lots of fresh faces with all the optimism in the world beaming like some kind of PSA for posi vibes. It was actually very reminiscent of my first show ever.3 Sprinkled across the back of the crowd towards the bar were a few dads and there were definitely a ton of people my age, but it did seem like there were just as many, if not more underage kids. When second act Brick + Mortar took the stage, they almost immediately asked for crowd participation telling everybody to crouch down in the middle of a song and then on cue, jump up and start dancing. Nobody thought they were too cool and stayed standing up, something I’ve can’t remember ever seeing before. I followed along partly because I didn’t want to be a party pooper but mainly because I didn’t want to be the only asshole standing up. It was a breath of fresh air to see everybody follow through and just have a good time. It was difficult to say if the crowd was so responsive because the band was so full of energy or if the band just fed off the crowd’s energy that there was some kind of synergy flowing through the Paper Tiger that night. Either way, it definitely made the show more enjoyable.
It’s really difficult to describe Brick + Mortar’s sound as they come across as more of an experience than just a band. Comprised of a group of guys that looked like they could have been theatre kids in high school, the whole performance felt like one giant art project. Be it an art project that definitely gets your toe tapping. They performed in front of a screen showing clips and gifs acid-induced animations and softcore macabre visuals. They took this one step further by using props and costume changes that were creepy yet cartoony enough to come of as fun. The sound itself initially felt like if The Death Set flirted with more pop music sounds, but a friend very much under the influence of the visuals on stage described the sound perfectly when he said “they sound like if adult swim started a band.” In all its weirdness, I can’t say I didn’t have a good time.
As The Front Bottoms started setting up, music played on the sound system to of some pretty good tunes. A few minutes into setup the opening riff to “Say It Ain’t So” by Weezer echoed throughout the venue. I quietly sang along while swaying to the music. I noticed a few people singing along too almost inaudibly. When the chorus came in just about everybody in the crowd belted out the words in unison like we were here specifically for a Weezer sing-a-long. It was surprising even though it shouldn’t have been. The Front Bottoms brought together a pretty diverse crowd and regardless of the age disparities we were all really just there for a good time listening to music. “Say It Ain’t So” came out two decades ago and still strikes the same nerves now for kids who were 8 when it premiered as it does for kids who weren’t even born when it premiered. The Front Bottoms are doing the same thing only the other way around.
When they took stage, everybody went nuts, singing along to every song and following the motions of the pit to every beat and every chord. They commanded the crowd like some kind of indie-folk snake charmer stirring them up in all the right ways. The entire show, and especially their performance was just a reminder of how music can bring people together no matter who is making or listening to it. It served as a reminder that no matter how old you get, the best type of music is universal and speaks to everybody.
1. Even though our ages are separated by a few years.↩
2. I know this is a pretentious way of looking at things but I couldn’t help it, it was engrained in my by older generations and I want to do everything I can to make sure it stops with mine. ↩
3. It was the Ataris at the White Rabbit, everything comes full circle.↩