Collaboration and camaraderie with Bad Books and The Front Bottoms at World Cafe Live (photos, review, video)

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For three bands some critics might consider to have a cult following, Bad Books, The Front Bottoms and Weatherbox certainly seemed like superstars as they played to a sold-out crowd last night at World Café Live.

Fans got to the venue ere there and stayed late. California rockers Weatherbox opened the show, followed by eclectic indie group The Front Bottoms. Formerly a two-piece, they stormed the stage with their new full-band line-up, and had most of the crowd screaming along to hits like “The Beers,” “Flashlight” and “Swimming Pool” word for word.

The full-band approach freed explosive drummer Mat Uychich from vocal responsibilities, allowing him to wow locals with what he does best. The Jersey band also played a new song “Twin-sized Mattress,” which started out eerily but showed off the band’s new dynamic with prominent electric guitar licks and solos. But frontman Brian Sella still rocked his beat-up acoustic guitar, one of the few musicians able to do that in front of this type of crowd. That is, except maybe the show’s headliners.

Camaraderie was apparent between past and present touring partners The Front Bottoms and Bad Books co-creator Kevin Devine as Devine joined Sella on stage for their final song “Maps.” But when the Bad Books set got started, it was all about the brilliant musical connection between Devine and Manchester Orchestra frontman Andy Hull, who have released two LPs under the side project.

Their six-piece band spread across the stage like a small rock ‘n’ roll co-op. Blasting through their heavier new hits like “The After Party” and “No Reward,” Hull did his best to silence female screams from the crowd. “We can talk after the show,” he said from stage. “Right now I’m a little busy.”

The band’s set took a quieter turn for some of the older Bad Books material. Devine and Hull harmonized their way through “Mesa, AZ,” “You’re a Mirror I Cannot Avoid” and “Baby Shoes,” and premiered what Hull said was the first song they had legitimately written together due to the responsibilities they have to other bands.

“This is the first one where we really sat down and got into it,” Hull told the crowd. He and Devine then made it more than halfway through “Let Her Cry” by Hootie & The Blowfish before getting to the real song.

Despite the jokes and self-deprecation, it’s great to see stellar line-ups come together like the one last night at World Café. And when great musicians like Hull and Devine join forces, it’s no wonder people from outside the cult want a taste of the rock magic that is created.

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