Words by Danielle Chelosky | Photo by Joe Papeo
My second year at the Champagne Jam wasn’t too shabby. Due to the tragic Webster Hall renovations, the celebration inhabited the gigantic Convention Hall in Asbury Park, New Jersey — the one and only hometown of The Front Bottoms. I had no idea what to expect, but the two and a half hour car ride had me convinced that I would be able to appreciate whatever lied ahead.
Emerging into through the double doors of the venue, I was stunned by the noise and light. It was already almost 8 P.M., so most of the bands were either done or finishing up, except for AJJ and The Front Bottoms, of course. After security checks, my friends and I rounded the corner and were met with the most holiday-spirited party we had ever partaken in. Convention Hall was dressed for the event, with strings of red and green lights hanging from wall to wall, wreaths glowing vibrant yellow, and a tree standing tall in the center behind one of the stages.
My friend and I claimed seats to hang out during AJJ’s set. Although we were one of about four or five people in our area playing that popular trivia game, fans in general admission sang along, moshed, and even crowd-surfed. Plus, the lead vocalist, Sean Bonnette, put on a thorough performance despite being sick and having an asthma attack! That kind of devotion deserves to be recognized. Props.
Finally, The Front Bottoms commenced the rest of the long night with nothing other than “You Used To Say (Holy Fuck)” as screens on the stage displayed videos that frontman Brian Sella later described as “fancy”. The crowd could be compared to the deepest pits of Hell amid this first song, until it began to open up during “Skeleton” and “Lone Star”. Then, the cesspool of bodies spaced out a bit, and everyone kind of just danced together.
Sella portrayed the ultimate holiday spirit with a festive Christmas suit, contrasting from last year’s birthday hat. However, not too far into the set he shed the holiday costume due to the heat (and I, bathing in sweat while clad in a crop top and trackpants, was not one to blame him).
Santa hats were a prevalent accessory of the night, though sometimes these mystery Santas reached such a level of exhilaration that they set their hats free into the swarm of fans. And not only were these hats getting lost, but I would often notice people beside me reaching down for items like jewelry, and this occurred so frequently that at times I thought a wedding proposal was in the midst. I don’t think one was, but if I’m wrong (which I hope I am; how cute would that be!), feel free to let me know.
“Vacation Town”, one of the most Front-Bottoms-like tracks on Going Grey, reverberated the room with its drum buildup to the chorus. The amount of fans jumping and swinging their heads from side to side accumulated as Sella repeated “I miss the way things used to be”, like the quintessential nostalgic Front Bottoms lyric it is. And, similarly, no matter how corny and childish, “Peace Sign” fruitfully encouraged everyone to bop their heads and flip off the band.
If TFB’s diverge from their old acoustic style is not your thing, it didn’t really matter — the band played an eclectic section of their repertoire, including the classic “Twelve Feet Deep” during the encore. A lot of songs from Talon of the Hawk, one of most iconic records in modern emo, popped up throughout the setlist as well — screams amassed for “techniques, techniques, techniques, techniques, techniques, techniques!”
The Front Bottoms crowds always prove to be one of the most passionate; I have concluded this after being a part of them seven times in the past few years. Crowdsurfers bombarded fans out of nowhere amid playful songs like “Maps”, “The Beers”, and “Twin Size Mattress”. Compared to the band’s Terminal 5 show, these New Jersey fans were much better at keeping the crowd-surfers afloat — and this is the part where I thank those who didn’t let me descend during my incredible “Maps” surf. Last year at the Webster Hall Champagne Jam, I vividly remember plummeting to the floor and feeling an ensuing ache in my back. This year, I only suffered a few accidental hits to the face and severe stumbles. Nothing too bad but enough to have a good time!
Yes, The Front Bottoms didn’t close with “Grand Finale”, and yes, the choice to miss this opportunity is probably trivial. I’m not going to complain about it, but it is one of the best tracks off of Going Grey—a Front Bottoms song at heart with its wistful attitude toward past moments with wine and friends. With that being said, “Ocean” didn’t disappoint in the slightest, even with Sella’s blood alcohol level higher than the kids in the pit smoking pot. So, really, I think we can call Champagne Jam 2017 a success.
TheWaster.com | Asbury Park