The Front Bottoms: A 2012 Punk Experience in 2021

The New Jersey band sang hits off their latest release, “In Sickness and In Flames,” at the Brooklyn Bowl on Sept. 24.

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Chloe Postlewaite

Guitarist Erik Romero put on quite a show at the Brooklyn Bowl on Sept. 24. (Hustler Multimedia/Chloe Postlewaite)

Sophie Edelman, Staff Writer

The Front Bottoms are described by critics and fans alike as a “folk-punk band.” Such a genre seems niche in 2021, with many bands choosing to separate themselves deep into the indie folk scene or as hard core aligned with punk and metal sounds. 

Somehow, The Front Bottoms have created and maintained a genre for themselves, “folk-punk,” having tracks that showcase folk approaches to instrumentation against punk lyrics or soulful indie-folk lyrics against a tougher punk musical exterior. 

This dichotomy gave me some pause while listening to the band’s tracks prior to attending the concert. To say the least, I was concerned if such a discord in sound and lyrics would translate well onstage. However, I can confidently say that I was taken aback with how easily the band flowed from track to track at the Brooklyn Bowl, further cementing themselves as genre groundbreakers.

Lead singer of the Front Bottoms, Brian Sella. (Chloe Postlewaite)

The tour featured two opening acts, female indie rock artist Sydney Sprague and indie rock band Oso Oso. Sprague’s set immediately captured the crowd in a magical and unique way that does not come around often. Viewing the crowd, it was difficult to separate long time fans from brand new listeners as everyone was engaged and singing along to the catchy rhythms Sprague crooned. Her easygoing stage presence and relatable tracks drew in every listener, alongside talented performances by her guitarists and drums player. 

Oso Oso’s performance was a break in energy between Sprague and headliner The Front Bottoms. Their pacing and raspy lead singer, Jade Liltri, brought to mind similar styles as the surf rock band The Drums, while their lyrics were reminiscent of punk-rock band legend Blink-182. The band seemed to be more novic in their approach to performance; nonetheless, we are excited to see how their future develops.

The Front Bottoms, arriving fashionably punk-indie-rock-you-name-it late to stage immediately demonstrated the intensity of their fan base—the cheering making the smaller Brooklyn Bowl venue seem like Bridgestone Arena. Their energy remained the entire performance, lead singer Brian Sella working the crowd like a seasoned professional. The aspect of the band’s discography that drew initial questions on how it would translate on stage (wandering lyrics with disconnected and jumpy instrumentation) was put to the wayside as the band transformed. Typically more nasal on record, Sella’s vocal quality seemed to expand and embrace more of a big air rock quality in performance.

Natalie Newbold provides backup vocals. (Chloe Postlewaite)

Off their latest album, “In Sickness and In Flames,” the band’s performance of “Fairbanks, Alaska” was rhythmic and groove-able, an interesting development for the band musically as they typically focus on storytelling lyrics and a more steady beat. The track demonstrates a new path more heavily aligned with the band’s indie and folk label, over pure punk and rock. My favorite of the night was “Lonely Eyes”—a popular track that showcases the band’s unique lyrical approach while delving into a more complicated and upbeat rhythm section. I would genuinely listen to a live recorded album of the band over their studio recorded tracks. Sella’s voice live sounds skillful and powerful while drummer Mat Uychich keeps the crowd jumping for seemingly downbeat and slow moving songs. 

A highlight of the night was the skillful performance by guitarist and backup vocalist Natalie Newbold, originally of the band Well Wisher. Her high-pitched crooning paired with Sella’s bass demonstrated her talent and drew audiences back into some of the longer tracks. I was taken aback by the crowd’s careful memorization of the complicated poems within each Front Bottoms track, singing each word back to the band without hesitation. If you are looking to recreate what early 2000s audiences must have felt listening with the rise of now legendary “folk-punk” bands like The All American Rejects or Fall Out Boy, grab yourself a ticket to the Front Bottoms next time they tour Nashville.