Foster The People at First Avenue, 12/4/11


Foster The People might be the biggest band in America right now.  There's no better marker of the evident crossover between indie and pop than the massive popularity garnered by the young band, whose platinum-plated hooks and disco leanings have caused a buzz across the entire radio dial. 

Their rescheduled appearance in Minneapolis marks the first time that a band has appeared at KDWB's annual Jingle Ball and followed up with a sold-out club appearance the same night, but FTP's rise hasn't been halted by questions about genre or "cred"--they're aiming at danceable, feel-good music for the masses, and they've nailed that target with debut album Torches. But do the good times on record translate to a great live show?

Everyone in the huge lines wrapping around both sides of First Avenue were banking that FTP would come through in a live setting, but there was a sizable portion of the crowd that turned up early to catch locals Polica at one of their largest shows thus far.  The brand-new Minneapolis quartet has been subject to plenty of hype in the past few months, and it's easy to see why.  Polica is not a band that's trying their hand at a variety of sounds to pull in more fans; their sound is so fully developed it's hard to imagine they didn't spend years stripping down to exactly this point.

Foster The People at First Avenue, 12/4/11
Photo by Nick Wosika

That sound is a smoky, low-slung thing, and it's eerily seductive.  Two drummers and one bass player provide muscle but give frontwoman Channy Casselle (previously of Roma di Luna) plenty of space to maneuver in the upper range, and she does an incredible job of controlling that space with a voice that manages strength and soul without the slightest hint of bluster.  The band uses extended rhythm breaks to build anticipation for Casselle's vocals to kick back in--it's an acknowledgement of their particular strengths, and exactly the kind of attention to detail that's going to serve them well on their trip to the top.

But, as exciting as the prospect of a local band like Polica is, the majority of the crowd was there for Foster The People, and they cheered as the screen drew back and the band took the stage.  For all their enthusiasm, the crowd was surprisingly polite, and there was no huge push to get to the front of the venue once the headliners started.  Everyone was content to dance in place with a big smile on their face and a drink in each hand.  No shoving, no discomfort, just good vibes.

FTP took the stage enthusiastically, not looking like a band worn out from twelve consecutive months of touring or breathless after an earlier set at the Target Center.  After running through "Houdini" and "Miss You," the band took a short break to talk to the crowd, saying that this was the last proper show of the tour.

That was one of the only times that the band addressed the crowd (aside from an unfortunate incident where onstage moustache removal was attempted unsuccessfully), more interested in connecting with the crowd through their music.  Fans trotted back and forth to the bar, and all of them were mouthing the words to the songs as they grabbed another drink.  As a young band with a smash debut album, there's obviously not a ton of material to draw on, but FTP managed to wring every last bit of goodwill from their songs.  Towards the end of the set, "Call It What You Want" was a definite highlight, with the band and the crowd expending their last bits of energy.

After closing their main set with "Helena Beat," the band trotted offstage before their inevitable encore (what, like they weren't going to play their biggest hit?).  Luckily, they didn't go for hit-single-by-the-numbers, instead opting for a huge, rave-y remix of "Pumped Up Kicks" to close out the night.  After hearing the song so many times (on purpose or not), it was refreshing to see the band do a different take.  If they can keep managing their fans' expectations with similarly deft (but relatively safe) moves, you can bet that they'll continue to grow.  That's why the showing at First Ave is sure to be a special, one-time occurrence: by the time they come back, Foster The People will likely need a stadium.

Slideshow: Click here for Foster The People photos from Nick Wosika.

Personal bias:  Even though I'm a sucker for huge piano lines and big hooks, FTP can play too safe on record.  Still, the joy in the crowd won me over.

The crowd:  Late 20's/early 30's Current listeners (with little deviation) and all of them beyond excited to be there.

Overheard in the crowd:  "Is this that song about Reeboks?"

Random notebook dump:  Lots of amazing drum work tonight.  Polica and FTP both have some hardworking percussionists in their ranks.

Miss You
Life On The Nickel
I Would Do Anything For You
Broken Jaw
Call It What You Want
Don't Stop
Helena Beat

Pumped Up Kicks (remix outro)

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