anniversary shows

Raise Up to Your Ability

It’s rare that I write a specific post dedicated to a personal music experience outside of Coachella especially with the amount of music I see, but I recently had a worthy one. About two weeks ago I traveled to LA to see my favorite band, Foster the People. They played a 3 night run at the Wiltern. Aside from a gig in Mexico a few days prior, it was their first live performances since 2018 (understandably so given the live music shutdown for over a year). This stint wasn’t just regular shows though. It was a 10 year celebration of the release of their first album, Torches. The band played the entire album in order during their sets each night.

A year ago, when I stayed home most of the time and spent my days working out, looking forward to meals and the occasional visits with friends, and missing live music, I started thinking about the fact that Torches would be turning 10 in 2021. I thought to myself then that Foster the People would be the only band I would compromise my feelings about drive-in shows for (I thought they were dumb), if they played a 10 year Torches anniversary show in May (Torches came out in May 2011). I didn’t know what the status of regular shows would be at the time and I wasn’t trying to jump the gun either. Then in August, after almost 2 months of a close to normal return of live music, Foster the People announced their 3 night run of Torches anniversary shows in LA. I had no choice but to maintain that promise I made to myself last fall and go.

So on a chilly LA evening in late November, I ubered to the Wiltern from my hotel in Venice. I met friends in a line that wrapped around the block upon arrival. That was followed by another wait in an extensive merchandise line so I could buy the special poster for the anniversary shows. Thank god for drinks and my pals. We secured a spot relatively close to the stage, house right after I secured the commemorative poster.

Foster the People came on around 9 PM. I attended the Friday night show and for the first time in a very long time, I had not looked at the set lists from the previous two nights. Other than a spoiler of “Lamb’s Wool” I saw as I scrolled through Twitter two days before, I knew nothing about their sets. They opened with “Style”, a song released in 2019 on the Pick U UP EP and proceeded to play a mix of old songs and new songs, including one of their earliest songs “Chin Music For the Unsuspecting Hero”, before that all too familiar drum and synth intro of “Helena Beat” began.

By this point, I had not stopped dancing or singing along to every song. Thankfully one of my friends went on a bathroom run and grabbed us some waters. After “Helena Beat”, I knew what was coming, Foster the People’s most famous song “Pumped Up Kicks.” The cheers were loud when that bass line started. It’s the song that everyone knows, but given all the controversy, I tried to take it in as much as possible because I wasn’t sure if it would be the last time I hear it live. It felt amazing knowing I had one last time hearing the hit song live though in case they don’t play it anymore.

“Call It What You Want” and “Don’t Stop (Color on the Walls)” were next. I didn’t chug my water until after “Houdini”, which featured an appearance of blow up Torches album art creatures that flailed along as we rose up to our ability. When Mark and the boys (without Mark Pontius for the first time since his departure from the group in mid-October) finished “Warrant,” the applause and cheers lasted for at least a minute. I couldn’t even believe I had just heard one of my all time favorite albums played live front to back. It was a special feeling. I was sweaty and so ready for more.

The band played five more songs after that. It was another mix of new and old with live debuts of “Cadillac” and “Walk With a Big Stick” amongst “Ruby”, the cult favorite “Broken Jaw”, and Sacred Hearts Club hit “Sit Next to Me”, which featured the Sacred Hearts Club tour neon light dropping into the background. After a brief departure from the stage, Foster the People returned to encore with 3 more songs, “Under the Moon”, “Lotus Eater” sans cover of “Blitzkrieg Bop” by the Ramones that they played during their last tour, and finally ended the night with Supermodel jam “Pseudologia Fantastica.”

When the house lights returned, it was 11 PM. Foster the People played a 2 hour long set, longer than any other night during their brief run at the Wiltern. It was the second time I heard them play that long. The other was the last time I had seen them, September 18th, 2017 at the Fillmore in Philly. That was the best concert I’ve ever been to. They played countless hits from every album released until that point. I was up against the bar watching every movement and action on stage. I even caught the set list. This was just as special in a different way.

It was an incredible night that reminded me about the importance of live music. Last year I spent so much time wondering when I would get to go to another show. I felt frustrated in losing so much of what I loved. My only consolation was to tell myself that we would be back soon enough. Although I didn’t know it at the time, this concert was one of the reasons I got through last year. It was my favorite band, playing my favorite album in one of my favorite places (California) and I felt beyond grateful to experience it.