Last Thursday night, Cold Fronts made a return to their hometown for a tour stop with California-based Mt. Eddy and Australian duo Hockey Dad. Though Hockey Dad is the tour’s headliner, each band gave a performance worthy of being the main act. Playing in the middle of the lineup, Cold Fronts fed off the energy of their long-time fans in the crowd to play a set that showed they’re nowhere close to slowing down.
The majority of the songs from Cold Fronts were off of their newest record, Fantasy du Jour, which frontman Craig Almquist emphasized over and over in charmingly shameless self-promotion. Their stage presence was simple and evocative of their DIY roots with wires and effects pedals strewn haphazardly on the ground and amps stacked in the background. The one prop was a bright magenta neon sign spelling out the name of their new album in glowing cursive, interrupting the dimly twinkling venue lights with a psychedelic nostalgia.
The gritty rock blasted through the speakers as Cold Fronts played through powerful tunes like “This Always Happens,” and “Aftermath,” with hypnotic breaks of anticipation at the end of each verse. An immediate mosh pit formed, and every kick of the drums from Joe Killian propelled Almquist into frenetic vibrations until he launched himself into the crowd. Sharing his microphone with the room, an already sweaty Almquist further drenched himself with a beer as fans circled around him.
The band reveled in their hometown rock stardom, but still made sure to engage the audience with the words of their songs. Almquist talked about their new album’s title track as being “one of those songs where you’re so lovesick that all you can think to do is blow your savings on a motorcycle and drive away.” And later, before performing “Trying Not to Break,” he revealed that he wrote it after the 2016 election and emphasized the importance and significance of voting for change.
Because most of their songs are under three minutes in length, Cold Fronts was able to play what felt like a lengthy setlist for an opener. With every song, a great energy rippled through the room with Almquist’s voice sometimes sounding like a squealing guitar itself. In their Philadelphia style, they were simultaneously endearing and abrasive with Almquist pointing to individual members of the audience as he chanted the chorus to “Fuck You (Don’t Tell Me What to Do),” before laughing and saying, “Just kidding guys, that song wasn’t about any of you. We love you.”
They finished off their set with an unreleased track called “Saturday Night,” that left the crowd begging for an encore. It was hard to remember that we were still at a batting-cage-by-day, DIY-rock-by-night music venue that holds only about 100 people. Despite being face-to-face with the band, younger fans were left slightly starstruck after the show, with one girl beside me taking a few minutes to muster up the courage to ask Almquist for an autograph.
Passing around a white cowboy hat and wearing T-shirts that advertised a girl rock camp or spelled out “King of the Road” around a truck cartoon, the band’s slight quirkiness gives them an approachable cool that is the mark of all successful musicians. Almquist has that coveted ability to write songs with lyrics that mean just as much to him as they do to the listener. In doing so, Cold Fronts strikes the perfect balance between being a DIY Philly band and professional rock stars. Their expressive love for the total experience of the live performance never disappoints, and I already can’t wait to see them again in what I hope will be a soon-to-come headlining tour.