The Front Bottoms, a well-known pop-punk group from New Jersey, performed March 20 at the Orange Peel in Asheville, N.C. I have a basic understanding of pop-punk music, but I’m no expert so I purchased two tickets for two different shows in the area based on a friend’s recommendation.
It was the second of these shows that brought me to Asheville on a Sunday evening, ready to soak up what I had heard to be one of the most seminal acts of the genre. The Orange Peel itself was a wonderful venue, with a wider floor than is customary in places such as these. Eventually the lights dimmed and the crowd surged towards the front, signalling that the show was starting.
Now, there are many ways in which I could say that this show was a unique experience for me, but I’m told it’s not every day a pop-punk concert opens with a magician act, so I’ll start with that. When I heard that Magic Mike was the first act, my initial reaction was, “well that’s kind of a dumb name for a band.” Despite my initial trepidation, Magic Mike put on a thoroughly entertaining and funny show. He ran the gamut of card tricks, mind reading and disappearing balls — using participants from the audience as assistants. The highlight of his show came when he used a participant to help him find where he had placed a metal spike under a series of paper bags, a tense five minutes that had audience members covering their eyes.
Once the magic act had been cleared from the stage, the second band, Thin Lips, came on almost immediately. Led by singer and guitarist Chrissy Tashjian, the band ripped through a concise set of their signature punk sound, filled with catchy hooks and memorable riffs. Their sound served as the perfect way to get people excited for the next band. I am very excited to see this band again as my search for pop-punk nirvana continues on their tour with Modern Baseball and Joyce Manor this summer.
The Front Bottoms themselves were an unassuming bunch. A couple of girls in their 20s from my home state of New Jersey who had formed a band centered around folk influences just as much as punk.
Their sound was exactly what comes to my mind when I thought of pop-punk and how it should sound. The high, slightly whiny vocals of singer and acoustic guitarist Brian Sella complement the powerful instrumentals around him, which include electric guitars, synthesizer and trumpet. One thing that surprised me was the order of the songs played. The show was frontloaded with the band’s more recognizable songs from their second album, “Talon of the Hawk,” which is also the only album I listened to in preparation for the concert.
Songs such as “Funny You Should Ask” and “Skeleton” appeared within the first 20 minutes of the set, which lasted slightly over an hour. The band’s playing was rock solid, and the crowd was more than pleased with the show, a single large mosh pit appearing early on in the center of the room. As for me, I left Asheville that night with a shirt, a cassette tape and a newfound appreciation for a genre of which I believe I have only scratched the surface.