mark foster

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.

Sacred Hearts Club: Album Review

July 21st was a big day. I worked Check-In for travel packages for a Phish show and two of my favorite music artists released their new albums. I didn’t have much of a chance to listen to both because of work, but I got on it this morning. I figured I’d start with a review of Foster the People’s latest work Sacred Hearts Club because I’ll be seeing them in two weeks when I head to Chicago for my second Lollapalooza. At this point, binging on their new album is necessary.

Stylistically, their new album has a much different feel than their last two. There are songs that have the classic Foster the People sound like “Doing It For the Money” and “SHC”, which were both released in April as part of their 3 song EP entitled¬†III and others that add elements from other styles of music. “III” sounds like a deep house track. If it wasn’t for Mark Foster’s signature vocals, I’d think I was listening to a Flume song. There’s more electronic influence in songs like “Loyal Like Sid & Nancy” and “Harden” too. Foster the People has always used synth in their music but these songs just sound more electronic. Maybe it’s me and how my listening style has developed, but I’d argue regardless. I even feel like there’s a jazz influence in some of their songs, particularly in “Static Space Lover”.

As I said before, I believe this album sounds different to me, but Foster the People has been blending genres since their first record. There’s dance, punk, and hip-hop blended into their previous albums. There’s just something about this one that stands out though. The band wanted this record to be a uniting voice amongst a world filled with negativity too. I think it has the potential to be just that as many songs express camaraderie lyrically. I believe listeners will be able to relate and use this music to rise above the hate in the world.

If you asked me who my top 5 favorite bands are at this point in my life, the first band I’d name would be Foster the People. Torches is still one of my favorite albums of all time. So for me, buying this album was a no-brainer. I would have even bought it blindly. Therefore, it might be hard to believe my opinion is unbiased when I say that I think this album would appeal to more than just Foster the People fans because of the development of their music style. I promise it’s worth checking out though so do yourself a favor and pick-up a copy.

Musical Enlightenment Part 2: A Hipster Story

So last week I talked about how I went through a whole “musical enlightenment” as a freshman in high school. To me the whole concept is rare because it’s only happened twice in my life. The first of which was under the influence of Dashboard Confessional. The second I’ll tell you about now.

Right before I graduated from college was a super weird time. I was sad and scared and way less happier than I was about getting out of high school. I’m sure so many people have felt that, but as a result I found some new outlets to become immersed in. One of those was a TV show that I’ll save for another time. The other was indie music.

Ok I know what you’re thinking. Wasn’t Dashboard Confessional an indie band too? Didn’t I already listen to that stuff? Yes and no. Sure Dashboard was an indie/emo style that was big in the early 2000’s but it was 2011 and this was the stuff that hipsters liked not emo kids. Plus in the years since Dashboard I explored so many musical genres that I really fell out of the indie scene (I liked ska, pop punk, late 80’s hardcore, etc.). It was like a rediscovery of indie. The style had also seemed to progress from the Dashboard time period. Some bands had a more electronic indie thing going on, while others didn’t. The emo vibe was definitely phased out though.

Anyway, at the time, my friend and I used to text each other music to listen to (I’m convinced everyone should have a friend like this). She knew of and listened to plenty of indie bands/songs. Most of what she recommended was that style, which sort of encouraged me to try to find similar music to send to her because that’s what I knew she liked, not the pop-punk/punk/alternative stuff I was currently into. I ended up liking a lot of songs she recommended which made it easier and motivated me to find more just like them too. My friend and those recommendations were a huge part of my second “musical enlightenment” and I’m forever grateful, but there’s more to the story. There had to be one specific band that was a game changer for me right? Right and here’s who they are and how it happened.

Another friend of mine made me a mixed tape (mixed CD) at the time. There were a few catchy songs on it and I uploaded the ones I liked to my iTunes. During the same time period I used to watch Dancing with the Stars with my mom (I still watch it on occasion). That season one of the “stars” on the show was Chelsea Kane (formerly known as Chelsea Staub from the Disney Channel…yeah I know..judge me) and I was rooting for her to win because 1. I knew who she was and 2. I followed her on twitter. Around then she started a website that she was pretty active on. She talked about fashion, travel, food, and music to name a few. Because I followed her on twitter she used to post when she’d update and because we had some similar interests I used to check out her posts. So one day she made a post about a band she was into at the time whose first album was soon to be released. She also posted a youtube/music clip link to their most popular song. So I naturally started listening to it and I was hooked immediately. The funny thing was though I felt that I heard the song before. Lo and behold, I had heard it. It was the first song on my friend’s mixed tape and it was one of the songs I already put on my iTunes. I immediately texted my friend who made the mixed tape and told him about how good the song was and how I heard about the band on this famous girl’s website. That band was Foster the People and the song was “Pumped Up Kicks”.

Within the next month of my Foster the People discovery, I bought their album Torches and listened to it nonstop on the drive to Williamsburg, VA (my vacation destination of the year). I planned and bought tickets to see them in Philly in June (never ended up making it to the show…worst night…still bummed about it). I stayed up late to watch them perform on Jimmy Kimmel. I also texted my friend who I shared music recommendations with shortly after the discovery and recommended the song to her. She hadn’t heard it yet and loved it too.

Foster the People’s music is considered to be indie pop and that’s just what it is. It’s upbeat indie with a bit of that electronic/synth style I mentioned. It was much different than what I was listening to 2 months prior, but I loved it. They were the first band that sparked a dramatic change in what I listened to since Dashboard Confessional did this 7 years earlier. Although my interest in that type of music started a little before I discovered Foster the People, they were the band that really put the change in full swing.

Their first album Torches is on the list of my favorite albums of all time. Even though “Pumped Up Kicks” was the song that reeled me in, “Helena Beat” was the song that kept me wanting more. I fell in love with “I Would Do Anything For You”. I had dance parties to “Don’t Stop” and “Houdini”. I sang at the top of my lungs to “Call it What You Want”. It’s just a great album. Their second album Supermodel which came out this past year can’t compare to Torches in my mind. It’s good, don’t get me wrong, but Torches was way too catchy and will always be highly regarded by me. When I finally did get to see Foster the People live the following summer, I knew the words to almost every song (I was so mad about the ones I didn’t so I downloaded those songs the next day). It was all thanks to falling in love with a band from a different music scene.

So that’s the story of my second musical enlightenment and I guess how I became a hipster. Shoutouts to all the people mentioned above for making it happen and here’s the Foster the People song recommendations:

1. Pumped Up Kicks (you should know this song by now as it got pretty big in the months following my discovery)

2. Helena Beat

3. Broken Jaw

4. Coming of Age

5. Don’t Stop

But really, just listen to all their music, especially that first album. It’s love, love, love and if you have it, it’s amazing.