Concert review: The Front Bottoms and Cheap Girls (with We Should Leave This Tree) keep it fresh at the Firebird, Thursday, November 8
Drawing an ample crowd — looking younger than the Rolling Stones “Voodoo Lounge”-era pinball machine against the Firebird‘s wall — the Front Bottoms, Cheap Girls and We Should Leave This Tree all blurred the imaginary lines between maturity, talent and fresh faces.
We Should Leave This Tree, a teenaged five-piece out of Belleville, Ill., simultaneously leaked their youth through lyrics exploring the irrationality inherent in young relationships and showed off more maturity in pop sensibilities than those with years of know-how. “Losing My Place,” a high point of the set, started off like a Fueled by Ramen ballad, before getting into its haunting danceability, and continued vacillating, an impressive layering of the band’s personal styles.
Arriving in flannel, no frills and never straying from the philosophy, Cheap Girls came out with a palate to cleanse and nothing to prove. While looking slightly road-weary — the guys have toured relentlessly since 2008, touching Europe twice and rounding the U.S. circuit numerous times — Cheap Girls lacked none of the studio chops that allowed them to make such a living in the first place. The guys sped through their set that would seamlessly fit into any ’90s alternative-rock radio station playlist, all the while proving how banter-averse a band can be. For better, not for worse, even the Macarena that broke out in the back would not be commented on by the Brothers Graham.
Coming out to a crowd of fans who find solace in the high school references and advice in the college-level whimsy of the lyrics, rather than approach the bar, the Front Bottoms established not only their acute precision in developing a fan base, but the infinitely more important kinetic current that earned them an audience to begin with.
Literally, the most movement of the night occurred as the band hit its set-list stride, with a PG mosh pit and some in-unison handicapping. The band, loving it, countered all night, laughing through a line here or there before eventually telling the entire crowd to join them onstage for what became a closing chorus.
High points of the set list included “The Beers,” a head-nodding celebration of how far Brian once went just for a girl (“I’ll remember that summer, as the summer I was taking steroids”), a timely ode (Happy Thanksgiving break college students!) to finally getting with the girl you never got with during high school, and a song built on one of “The Graduate”‘s metaphors for the fleeting comfort we find in between identities, “Swimming Pool.”