Seeing bands that one really likes open for less attractive headliners usually tends to be a disappointing experience.
This is especially true if there are four or more bands on the bill and the sets are clipped short. Mostly it’s just a drag to see the lesser known artists open to crowds who couldn’t care less and who are immersed in just about anything other than paying attention to the stage. On rare occasions, though, the opening band will win over an indifferent crowd and leave them wanting more. Case in point: Sunday night at the Firebird during the set by New Jersey based, The Front Bottoms.
With an air of nonchalance and looking like he just woke up from a nap, front-man Brian Sella, attired in gym shorts, a D.A.R.E. t-shirt and flip-flops, said hello to the crowd. Armed with a plain acoustic guitar and an entreating, disarming voice, he broke into the opening notes of "Flashlight" to just a few scattered claps of applause. By the time they finished the second song, drummer Matt Uychich was killing it with his exaggerated gestures, and the addition of Drew Villafuerte on keys was a nice substitute for the horns that appear on the band’s debut self-titled album. The crowd started to wake up and take notice, and the room buzzed when bill-mates Kevin Devine and his Goddam Band flooded the stage to do an enthusiastic sing along to "The Beers." By the second chorus of, "the summer I was taking steroids..." the kids in the middle of the sweaty crowd joined in and were enjoying the vocals. I even heard some surprised chuckles throughout the set after people ascertained and understood Sella's clever, amusing lyrics. The Front Bottoms only played six songs for just under 30 minutes, but by 7:20pm they had engaged and charmed the audience into lively hand claps to the choruses. As I watched one of the seemingly few big fans of the band be super drunk, flail his tall can PBR in the air, and crook his arm around his girlfriend's neck while screaming along, I kept thinking of this interview: "The Front Bottoms are ... life and love." They definitely got love from the Say Anything fans on Sunday.
The second band of the night was Fake Problems, who can always be counted on for an energetic set when they visit St. Louis. This time I was a bit surprised (pleasantly) by their setlist choices; no appearance by their standard crowd pleasers like "The Dream Team" or "Diamond Rings." I am guessing that they were catering toward pleasing the stalwart fans they had in the crowd, as opposed to focusing on recruiting new ones. On the down side, this resulted in a distracted, overly-chatty, restless audience on the fringes and near the bar. Though, I did notice the kids who were closer to the stage rocking out mid-set for "5678" and "Don't Worry Baby." This was probably also spurred by singer Chris Farren's admonition that "this song is about being fucking crazy." Personally, I was stoked that they played my favorite song from 2009′s It’s Great to Be Alive. I can't help but mention that I felt that it was a flatter version of Fake Problems than we've previously been treated to, but in all fairness this could just have been due to time constraints or the fact that spunky guitarist Casey Lee is no longer in the band. In any case, I look forward to their return.
The Front Bottoms Setlist
- Rhode Island
- Swimming Pol
- The Beers
Fake Problems Setlist
- Songs For Teenagers
- Don't Worry Baby
- There Are Times