Sunday night I got to see just how big a full capacity crowd at The Senate in Columbia, SC really is. When I arrived just before doors opened there was already a line from the venue that stretched out to the side walk, down the block and around the corner. The line moved quickly but never seemed to shrink as 1,200 people made their way past security and into the venue.
The first act of the night, making their Columbia, SC debut, were Boston based alt rockers Slothrust. Slothrust took the stage to a cheering crowd who was ready to get the show started. A row of purple and teal lights ran across the top side of the back of the dimly lit stage. This was a fitting call back to the 90’s that paired well with Slothrust’s grungy sound. Singer / guitar player Leah Wellbaum donned a guitar and kicked things off with a solo that would have been perfectly at home in a storage unit practice space or a band members garage before greeting the cheering crowd. It was obvious this band was going to have fun playing, and that fun vibe quickly spread throughout the crowd. The first few songs of the night took on a very chill garage rocks meets shoegaze type of vibe before shifting gears into a more old school punk rock sound with "Planetarium". The crowd seemed to be feeding off of Slothrust’s stage presence. Bass player Brooks Allison headbanged along all night while drummer Will Gorin went wild on the kit behind Leah Wellbaum’s funky dance moves. Shifting gears again the band kicked into an extremely well done cover of Ginuwine’s “Pony” that you can hear on their most recent release I Promise. The crowd ate it up from the very first note and sang along nearly as loudly as the band. While this may have been Slothrust’s first time in Columbia they absolutely left with a few new fans, Myself included.
After a brief intermission of guitar techs buzzing around taping down rugs and tuning instruments, the band that had a line stretched over half a city block finally took the stage. Admittedly, I was only vaguely familiar with The Front Bottoms coming into this show, but the screams that erupted from behind me as the band walked out were a sure sign that they had a fierce and loyal following. Three large video walls backed the stage with risers for Roshane Karunaratne’s keyboards on my left and founding member Mathew Uychich’s drum kit to my right. Three evenly placed microphone stands were placed across the front of the stage with bass player Natalie Newbold to the right of lead singer and guitar player Brian Sella and AJ Peacox with his guitar to the left of Brian. This stage setup really served to add some depth while ensuring that each member of the band was highlighted. The production was impressive for a show in a mid-sized venue, but what really stood out was the amazing amount of energy and stage presence The Front Bottoms brought. I don’t think that the band stopped bouncing all night! I cannot remember the last time I saw a band who genuinely seemed to be having this much fun performing.
The crowd easily matched the energy coming from the stage cheering and singing along. It was also great to see so much band and audience interaction. Despite being 5 days past Halloween, the band kept with their Halloween show costume contests and had some participation from fans in the know. Sonic the Hedgehog won 10 bucks beating out Spiderman and a zombie. Brian Sella pulled the cash out and made sure it got passed to the winner before continuing on with the show. While the house lights were up you could see fans near the front holding up signs, they had brought in. Fans sang along at the tops of their lungs for “The Beers” nearly matching the volume from the stage when the band let the crowd have a verse. “Joanie” had more than a few couples dancing and hugging. Fittingly the last song of the night was “Au Revoir (Adios)” or at least it would have been if the crowd would have allowed it.
As the roar for an encore grew louder the band took the stage once more. Brian Sella, while donning his acoustic guitar, said this one’s for the fan with sign before jumping into “Jim Bogart” from their self-released 2008 EP Brothers Can’t Be Friends. The encore performance would continue with their most streamed song on Spotify “Twin Size Mattress”.
It’s not very often that I get to say a band sounds better live, but if you are a fan of The Front Bottoms you owe it to yourself to experience their live show.