The Front Bottoms brought their insanely stacked Champagne Jam to Webster Hall, with all three rooms featuring back to back bands. In a year without a CMJ, it may feel a bit disparaging to start up new bands in the DIY scene, but as living proof of the power of local scenes, The Front Bottoms gave back to their own community by pushing smaller bands center stage at their own curated mini-music festival.
Live sets in The Studio began first, with all New Jersey-based bands an hour before the Grand Ballroom even opened, allowing people to check out acts Secret Mountain and Dollys. Both loaded with infectious, indie pop both bands composed themselves on-stage with the presence of seasoned pros. The Big Easy aka the project of singer-guitarist Stephen Berthomeiux played a fairly rowdy set as a perfect complement to Hodera who would close out the downstairs show with their brand of emo-infused indie akin to TWIABP and The Hotelier. The intimate setting made the room feel more like a New Brunswick basement show than the historic East Village venue.
As a purgatory between stages, The Marlin Room provided a Bowery Ballroom-sized amount of space with American Trappist’s neo-Americana evoking the folksy vibes of Bright Eyes and the late Leonard Cohen to the stage. Comedian Will Miles (mistakenly referred to as a ‘Brit singer-songwriter’ by the Poughkeepsie Journal) riffed heavily on his career and grasps of fame, having been added to the show by running into and smoking weed with Front Bottoms singer Brian Sella after another show. Two of indie rock’s most up-and-coming acts hailing from upstate New York, New Paltz’s Diet Cig and Purchase’s LVL UP (whose singer Nick Corbo has recently left the band Crying). Playing primarily off of their upcoming debut record, Diet Cig’s set was full of energy, stage-dives, bloody noses, and even communication from the Dark Lord Satan himself. Having released “Return to Love” earlier this year, LVL UP have become a staple of the New York DIY scene, touring amongst acts like Vagabon and even The Front Bottoms in the past.
The Grand Ballroom featured some of the bigger acts of the evening, easing in with a Fastest Drummer contest headed by drummer Mat Uychich with the winner clocking in at an impressive 324 BPM. Starting off the music was Ezra Furman (they/them) who played a solo set. Typically, their brash glam-rock sound is supported by backing band The Boy-Friends. Following them was Brick and Mortar, who along with Diet Cig opened The Front Bottoms second leg of their Back On Top tour. With a truly immersive live show of projection art, balloons full of internet troll comments, and massive inflatable hands the band will probably be playing much bigger rooms in the future. Before the headliners took the stage, Asbury Park’s own Screaming Females played primarily from their most recent record, the rowdy “Rose Mountain” and dominated the Webster Hall stage as well as they would a smaller room. The Front Bottoms came onto the stage to a massive round of applause as “A Charlie Brown Christmas” played on a small TV. Having just come off their European tour, the set was nearly identical to those on their last round of shows, starting off with the romp of “Skeleton” which had the whole room shaking. Playing mostly cuts off of “Back On Top,” the band dived into crowd favorites like “Peach” and “Rhode Island” and even deeper cuts like “Lone Star.” Noted for his emotional songwriting, the set felt like a cathartic moment of release for the massive audience of friends, family, and fans of the band with Kevin Devine making a guest appearance , ripping through “Twin Size Mattress” with ease and “Plastic Flowers” less as a eulogy but a beacon of hope in a troubled time. As balloons descended from the rafters and champagne spilled from the balconies, the show was a massive non-denominational holiday celebration.
The Front Bottoms Setlist:
The Plan (Fuck Jobs)
Au Revoir (Adios)
Cough It Out
Laugh Till I Cry
Twin Size Mattress