Kevin Devine And The Goddamn Band, An Horse and the Front Bottoms put on quite the spectacle at the Highline Ballroom Saturday night. Each band brought its own brand of rock, pop and pop punk to the table for a truly amazing show.
Jersey-based the Front Bottoms burst into “Rhode Island,” off of its debut self-titled album, with lead singer/guitarist Brian Sella’s determined pop-punk vocals gaining the crowd’s attention quickly. In combination with drummer Mathew Uychich’s raw, animated drumming, the duo was running on purely unfiltered energy throughout the performance. A keyboardist contributed to the set, sometimes using the keys for the prominent trumpet melodies on many of the Front Bottoms’ songs, like on “Mountain,” and adding the strong melody to “The Beers,” as well. As Sella took an apropos swig of Budweiser before starting “The Beers,” the party anthem began with a looping keyboard melody, forcefully strummed guitars, cymbals and bass drum, as well as Sella’s urgent vocals that always manage to touch on pop punk without sounding overdone. As the Front Bottoms prepared to play “Father,” Sella dedicated the song to his, who was in attendance, and then laughed, pointing to his dad and saying, “Take a good look at that guy, ’cause it’s gonna get real awkward in a minute.” Sella’s meaning was apparent to fans and was obvious to the rest of the crowd after he sang the first two lines: “I have this dream that I am hitting my dad with a baseball bat, and he is screaming and crying for help/And maybe halfway through it has more to do with me killing him than it ever did protecting myself.” Closing out the set with “Maps,” the crowd chanted along with Sella, even assisting with the adorable vocal hiccup in the beginning.
Next up was Aussie duo An Horse. Lead singer/guitarist Kate Cooper and drummer Damon Cox blasted out strong indie pop that was propelled by Cooper’s powerful vocals and Cox’s innate ability to form sweet harmonies with her, while simultaneously banging out driving drum lines. Both sporting short Bieber-esque haircuts, the duo’s cuteness was palpable, but it was the music that really made An Horse a sight to see. Opening with “Camp Out,” off An Horse’s debut album, Rearranging Beds (Mom And Pop), the duo had a rock ‘n’ roll feel with clear pop influences, sounding a bit like Tegan And Sara. Remarking that An Horse has been on tour with Kevin Devine And The Goddamn Band for about three weeks, Cooper said that Devine suggested Mike from the Goddamn Band should come out for the next song and “teach them a few things.” Continuing, Cooper joked, “think of Mike like Slash without the hat and hair.” For “fear” of getting kicked off the tour if she disagreed with Devine’s suggestion, Cooper and Cox transitioned into “Little Lungs,” also from the group’s debut, with Mike helping out on guitar as Devine took a quick look when he snuck under the barrier before going back stage. Closing with “Shoes Watch,” an audience member began clapping to the beat, as Cooper encouraged him and others to “do it like you mean it!”
And as if the crowd didn’t know, Brooklynite Kevin Devine introduced himself and his Goddamn Band before swiftly moving into “No Time Flat,” off of Split The Country, Split The Street (Triple Crown). “We’re going to play and not talk, ’cause we’ve got shit to do,” Devine said, but he took a minute to thank the bands that had played before him, as well as the audience. Playing off of Devine’s soft but quickly harsh vocals, the group transitioned into a song off of Devine’s latest, Between The Concrete And Clouds (Razor And Tie), called “The First Hit.” Devine and bass player Daniel Sparks were well balanced with one another, with a looping guitar riff from Devine as Sparks bounced along to the beat. Commenting that the audience and show were “fucking awesome,” Devine then realized that he was swearing a lot for an audience that included his niece and nephew, saying he wouldn’t keep swearing except when his song lyrics called for it, but he quickly broke the promise because of his excitement at playing for his hometown crowd.
Devine flowed from a heavily instrumental song right into “Another Bag Of Bones” from his 2009 release, Brother’s Blood (Favorite Gentleman). The rapid-fire vocals meshed perfectly with the groovy guitars and green and blue low lights that accompanied the song as Devine ran around the stage a bit, interacting with his band. One of Devine’s last songs, “Ballgame,” off of 2003’s Make The Clocks Move (Triple Crown), was performed acoustically, and his soft vocals and guitar melodies really amplified his strength as a songwriter. Ending with “Cotton Crush” and “Brother’s Blood,” Devine invited An Horse to the stage to accompany the Goddamn Band and mentioned that he thought that the encore felt like coming on stage for a Kiss concert with all of his screaming fans.