The night was chilly as The Magic City geared up for another October night filled with students barhopping, families enjoying the city’s fine dining, and, of course, concert goers excited to see their favorites perform in Birmingham’s raging punk scene. Though the only sounds that engulfed my ears included horns honking off of I20, the ever present hum from Alabama’s endless insect population, and the patter of my own feet against the cool sidewalk. The energy of Brian Sella and Matt Uychich awaiting to perform in front of hundreds of adoring fans rang through in the air.
When I stepped inside the venue, I was greeted by a sea of Doc Martens, the smell of Marlboros and American Spirits, and of course, the anxious chatter of life-long Front Bottom fans such as myself. Though I arrived approximately 30 minutes late, only one opener, Mobley, had gone on, and after a quick conversation with a fellow concert goer, the next up to bat was The Joy Formidable, who had to be only minutes away from performing. After grabbing a drink and pushing my way through the thick and anxious crowd, I stood in the middle of the pit, clutching onto my purse and drink for dear life.
The Joy Formidable originates from Mold, United Kingdom, which was evident when the lead singer, Rhiannon "Ritzy" Bryan, stepped on stage and spoke into the mic with a heavy British accent flowing out, conflicting with the quieter chatter from Alabama natives such as myself. Members Rhydian Dafydd Davies & Matthew James Thomas stood proudly behind the singer on bass and drums respectively.
Though I had never heard The Joy Formiddable’s music prior to that late Tuesday night, the energy was rampant throughout the room. Though I may be biased by the female lead singer, the band reminded me of an earlier version of Paramore. While I enjoyed bobbing my head along with the clashing drums, I found it hard to differentiate any of the songs, though that could have been due to the sheer volume of the amps that were so close to my head. I mostly enjoyed the interludes between songs as the lead singer gave quick anecdotes about her time on tour. After a quick 30 minutes, the lights came back on and the excitement for The Front Bottoms ushered its way back through the room.
The wait for Brian Sella to walk across the stage felt like it was both mere seconds and a lifetime, however I had been waiting for this moment for years, since my last time seeing The Front Bottoms was back in 2016 on their tour with Modern Baseball and Brand New. Then suddenly, the lights were dim and the crowd began to rage. It was time.
I had been fearful that TFB would choose to play their new music. While I enjoy it, it lacks the anxious and embarrassed feelings of their earlier work featured on Talon of the Hawk and their self-titled album. However, the setlist was packed full with Talon and self-titled bangers such as, but not limited to, "Skeleton," "Funny You Should Ask," "Be Nice to Me," "Beers," "Twin-Sized Mattress," "Maps," and guest requests of "Flashlight" and "Peach." The energy was palpable in the air as a mosh pit began to form around me with 20-somethings sitting on the floor and began to row as if they were in a boat. I don’t have an answer for that one. Something always reliable about TFB is the consistency through their sound online compared to live, which is almost interchangeable. Of course, Brian Sella would choose to add a bit more playful folk noise to his live sound, adding in silly lines about his time in Birmingham, which certainly made him seem grateful to be in the city as the crowd was grateful for him to be there as well.
As always, the songs were sang raw by both Brian and the concert goers. The thing about The Front Bottoms is the passion in which the songs are sung. Though they are close to 10 years old, they still ring true and painful, as if the singer had been broken up with the day before. The energy felt personal and real, as if I could reach out into the bubble and lightstick filled room, and grab it, stuff it in my jean pockets and take it home. Alas, as quickly as the concert began, it ended, but only after a tearful rendition of Ginger (only tearful for me). And suddenly, Matt and Brian had exited the stage as the crowd rushed, attempting to either meet the band outside or grab the setlist.
I can honestly say, after seeing the band perform three times, the most recent felt the most personal, both in the way the songs were sang and in the way they were received by the close-knit crowd.