Out of frustration that I have not watched live music in some time, I bought a concert ticket online to watch Foster the People. I’m not the biggest fan but I occasionally revisit their music. I had zero knowledge how they perform live. And among all the artists I have witnessed on stage, the band would be the least mainstream. Even I couldn’t define my expectations.
After “Pumped Up Kicks” dominated radio, I had little clue what demographic their style appealed to. If you ever get a chance to listen to their albums, you’d understand why I said that. It’s a hodgepodge of sounds. It’s hard crafting an identity for the group and boxing them into a genre. Even they would acknowledge this in an awesome track I highly recommend they label “Call It What You Want”. Yes, it’s better than Taylor Swift’s.
I made it to the theater at around 8pm and it was far from full. A mother and two teenage kids sat beside me and I thought that was cool family bonding time. Until I realized the mom was babysitting her children and that made it more admirable. There was a teenage couple sitting in front of me and the guy seemed to have a problem with the world. He kept on raising his middle finger and would look angrily at the crowd from time to time.
That was the demographic I suppose – teenage kids and people in their early 20s. All of them full of angst or are coming of age. If you’re wondering, I didn’t stick out like a sore thumb. There were others who were in my age bracket or older. I guess if you’re a fan, age is nothing but a number. I would discover later I had a close friend who I failed to synchronize calendars with and a peer who would not mind going alone to watch the group. But I digress.
The theater would eventually get filled and Mark Foster and the rest of the band would come out on stage. There was the lead singer of Foster the People – wearing a bandana, sporting a mustache and would later take off his shirt and leave only his sando on. He was doing dance moves that can be construed as awkward or the challenger to Michael Jackson’s moonwalk. Helping his case was him being in a band. That converted his confidence to sexiness instead of douchiness. This was a man ready to lose himself and play with the crowd for the rest of the night.
How can a band sustain the crowd’s interest for a concert lasting two hours? What do they have to offer? They didn’t have props, costume changes or backdrops that normally serve as amplifiers to the show’s production value. Instead, they relied on their melodies which was as varied as the rainbow’s spectrum.
Even though the impression is that they are alternative, they have punk-pop, EDM, psychedelic, even intergalactic and tribal in their arsenal. And I was witnessing them recreate all of it. “Blitzkrieg Bop” would end up getting played alongside all this spectacle. Every time Mark had to take a drink or a quick rest, the rest of the band would cover for him through their display of talent – utilizing their drums, synthesizer, guitars and just about any instrument they can get their hands on.
Throughout the entire show, I am constantly reminded that they make some pretty damn catchy tracks. I don’t understand why none of them broke out. But “Call It What You Want”, “Don’t Stop” and “Houdini” are the jams crowds go wild for.
There were melancholic and somber moments in the show which moved me. But those were not the highlight. Or maybe because I’ve never heard of “Ruby” until they performed it. Sappy moments were standard offerings from any artist but the variety in their sound and the crazy energy they displayed made them special.
If you had any notion that the band takes their fans for granted, their actions during the show should dispel all of that. Take out the standard “Salamat”, the gibberish I had a hard time comprehending, the overwhelming appreciation and gratitude they project for playing in Manila and the stories about any connection they can establish with our heritage. All visiting artists do it.
These are people who would play Freddie Aguilar’s “Bayan Ko” in the background and inject their sound through the best way they know how – playing instruments and making new music no genre can describe. Mark Foster would call out a loyal fan and repeatedly throw a guitar pick at her direction until she managed to catch one. Considering how the rest of the world was fighting for a piece of the band, the activity went on for some time. And when the show was over, Mark would stick around to sign whatever object his fans made him – be it a concert ticket, a shirt or half of a pair of sneakers.
Before the encore, artists pretends to say goodbye and expect fans to demand their presence. It’s ridiculous to shout “MORE” even though you know they are coming back. I did it anyway it. Who’s the fool?
Eventually, they had to close the show and doing it with “Loyal Like Sid and Nancy” and “Pumped Up Kicks” was perfect. It is a reminder of why I stuck around with the band all these years and why I fell in love with them in the first place.
As a sidenote, what would happen when it was time for “Pumped Up Kicks”? It still crosses my mind that some pyscho would interpret the song’s lyrics literally and begin a number on the audience. But when Foster the People began playing, I got sucked into the moment and all my worries were washed away. Or at least I went gaga that I forgot about it.
If you ask me, I’d watch Foster the People again and I’d recommend you do the same. Here is a band not just playing music but creating it right before your very eyes. There’s no insecurity in a style that’s undefined and unrefined. And that’s the way it should be.