Written by Zach Rich – August 27, 2020
For all of us, 2020 has been a rough year. But itʼs been especially rough for
touring acts, who in March had seen their 2020 plans disappear before their
eyes. This certainly applies to Woodcliff Lake folk-punk legends The Front
Bottoms, who were forced to call of a co-headlining tour this summer with
Arizona rockers Jimmy Eat World. However, even a global pandemic couldnʼt stop the band from continuing to stand atop the New Jersey music scene, releasing their fifth studio project In Sickness and In Flames last week. With traditional touring off the board for options to promote the new record, the duo of Brian Sella and Matt Uychich stuck to the road (quite literally), stopping at Citizens Bank Park and Monmouth Park Raceway for a pair of drive-in gigs. While the high-energy setting of their concerts couldnʼt be recreated given the circumstances, the band certainly put in a top-notch effort to recreate the setting.
The show started off with an opening cinematic depicting the band traveling in a van, almost as if it were a live camera of their journey to the show, before a top hat-wearing man introduced all four members in a pre-recorded video. The resulting stage was not massive, yet this opening certainly set the stage for the band to make that area feel so much larger. This started the moment they roared into their opening track, (Skeleton, from their 2013 breakout record Talon of the Hawk) to the sound of honking horns and adoring fans singing along with every word uttered. Applause may have been replaced the sound of honking horns and flashing lights, but the energy of a concert was very much there. Signaling this concert even more as an experience unique to 2020, before the third song (You Used to Say (Holy F***), from their prior record Going Grey) the band displayed a “no justice no peace” sign, in reference to the police
murder of Jacob Blake in Wisconsin.
Overall, their 22 song setlist was diverse, covering at least two tracks from each of the bandʼs prior four records. Obviously with the focus being on their newest project, the band naturally played the most material from it, with a total of 7 tracks played off In Sickness & In Flames. New cuts like montgomery forever and leaf pile received the proper raucous performances, perfectly translating their anthemic, fast-paced studio recordings to the live setting. Cough It Out received a rowdy sing-along from the notoriously dedicated fans, who were out in full force at the nearly sold-out event. Just two songs later was yet another enormous call-and response sing-along, as their classic track The Beers was
played in full force. Brian Sellaʼs trademark vocals were on point throughout the show, effortlessly recreating the sound of their decade-plus discography. In fact, all members of the group performed excellently, with high energy performances of touring bass guitarist Erik Kase Romero and drummer Matt Uychich being particularly notable. The band even found a way to play fan requests, with I Hate My Friends track Twelve Feet Deep finding its way on to the setlist thanks to a particularly enthusiastic group in the “front row”. The set then concluded with longtime closer Ocean, before proceeding to a two song encore consisting of the aforementioned leaf pile and Talon of the Hawk cut Au Revior (Adios).
The venue itself, given the times, was rather excellent. Entering the venue was incredibly simple, with no waiting required before the contactless ticket scan was performed. Empty spaces were allotted in between each car, allowing for flawless social distancing measures to be enacted. Food was distributed through golf carts using contactless payment, a great option for reaching all 1,000 cars. Bathrooms were frequently disinfected, and dedicated entrance and exit lines guaranteed social distancing among patrons. The only complaint within the venue was the sound quality, as parking between two speakers definitely caused some awkward sound reverb. Additionally, the audio was somewhat quiet outside of the car, however this was remedied by using the FM radio station, which delivered crisp, clear audio to the car.
In our current times, doing what we did in the past is sometimes impossible. When the coronavirus first began to wipe out our event calendars in 2020, it was difficult to envision moments where being together enjoying a collective experience was possible. However, jumping on the drive-in concert concept has made this experience possible, uniting attendees in a safe manner. While numerous other acts have graced the drive-in stage, The Front Bottoms truly made it their own, recreating the experience of one of their shows in a manner truly unique to todayʼs time. The result was a (hopefully) once in a lifetime experience that brought back the magic of being together, even if it was only for a few hours.