Foster The People Live At The Doug Fir Lounge In Portland

By: Jase Luttrell
Posted: 19 February 2014
Category: Features Comments View Comments


After a year hiding in a studio, one of 2011's biggest chart topping bands announced its new single, album release date, and a surprise show in Portland, Oregon, USA. The band thrilled the audience on a sleepy Monday evening playing a mix of its old familiar songs with the raucous beats of its freshest-but-still-surreptitious material.

Foster The People, which is based in Los Angeles, played to a sold-out crowd at The Doug Fir Lounge in Portland, Oregon, in the US on 20 January 2014. The surprise, "secret" show was announced via the band's mailing list and local radio stations roughly a week before the event in an attempt to limit ticket scalping, although this wasn't particularly successful. This concert was the band's first show in 2014 and was a lead up to the release of its highly anticipated second album Supermodel, which will be out on 18 March in the US.

Rebecca Marie MillerThe doors opened at 7:30pm and the show started one hour later, featuring Rebecca Marie Miller as the opening act. When she began there were some sound issues with her guitar so, after quickly introducing herself, she left the stage briefly for the sound technicians to work on the problems. After a few minutes she returned and appeared a bit flustered but settled into her first, very short song.

Rebecca Marie Miller's songs were mostly simple ballads with matter-of-fact and descriptive lyrics. She strummed the acoustic guitar and utilised many of the same chords, transposed by a capo to differentiate the keys. Her voice was soft and melancholy at times and, more rarely, full of emotion and power. By the time she reached her second-to-last song the audience had grown restless (and perhaps bored) and rudely began talking very loudly. Several people tried to hush the crowd and the noise eventually relented. Throughout this she bravely sang on and her final song was powerful and slightly more up tempo than anything she had played previously. Without a doubt she has talent and the venue suited her singer-songwriter style but the crowd did not.

After approximately 30 minutes of sound check and extensive instrument and cable shuffling, a promoter/announcer appeared on stage to announce Foster The People and asked that the audience not film the show as the point of the concert was to promote the new album, not promote piracy. With that, Foster The People appeared with lights flashing and the audience screaming.

The band immediately played multiple songs from its debut album Torches, including its opening song "Call It What You Want", as well as "Waste", "Houdini", and "Life On The Nickel". These songs were all played with an energy and artistry that the band is well known for. Slight variations, such as a slowed down ending of "Waste", offered something new for the audience that was all too familiar with these songs. The music was precise and clear, and the addition of two female backing vocalists lent a nice touch, especially to the repeated chorus of "Life On The Nickel".

At this point the band started playing a few of its new songs. One of these, "Level Up", featured the strong electronic sound the band is known for but also incorporated more standard rock and roll electric guitar. The lyrics were hard to discern with the soaring music but the chorus hollowed out, allowing the audience to hear lead singer Mark Foster sing the lyrics "standing in the corner, wondering when the bottom fell out". Three other new songs were played but the music, which featured a blend of electronic, rock, and dance beats, drowned out the vocals so I don't know what songs they were.

Foster The People Live At The Doug Fir Lounge In Portland

Even without knowing the songs the audience cheered loudly and danced along to the incredible performance. One of the new ones was especially dark and utilised heavily distorted electric guitars and a raucous beat, which resembled the early grunge of the 1990s. This song was extremely powerful and the bridge included Mark Foster singing a steady stream of quick, undecipherable lyrics that clearly held significance for him. He was deeply invested emotionally and it was a strong and memorable performance. Based on this track it is probably safe to say that the new album will be intense and darker than Torches, while also steering more towards guitars rather than synthesizers and loop machines.

At the midpoint of the show Mark Foster sat down in a chair with an acoustic guitar in hand. He started idly strumming and tuning the guitar, and then told a story. He told the audience he had family in the Portland area and that he visited his elderly grandmother in the hospital before the concert. He shared with the audience that they talked about her life as she grew up in India and in boarding schools elsewhere. It was an emotional story and at the end of it I could see the tears in his eyes as he recounted holding her hand and saying goodbye to her, for what would probably be the last time. With this realisation he stopped strumming the guitar and stated that the band wasn't going to play the next song (whatever it was intended to be) because the band members wanted to "celebrate life". He got up from his chair and put the acoustic guitar away while the other musicians shuffled about the stage to prepare for the next song.

The band then played "Coming Of Age", the first single from its new album. The song is a beautiful anthem about its eponym and made for an apt celebration of life in light of the story of Mark Foster's grandmother. At the end of the song he indicated that was the last song the band created for the new album. Apparently, the band was working in the studio on the song and Mark was having a conversation with one of the producers, saying he was having difficulty coming up with something catchy for the chorus. He recalled telling the producer the song was like a John Hughes movie in that he continually pictured Molly Ringwald and a main character (he couldn't remember the name) walking off into the sunset - a real coming-of-age story. At this, the producer said "that's your chorus", to which Mark exclaimed that his producer was "a genius".

Foster The People Live At The Doug Fir Lounge In Portland

Mark then said it was funny that the last song they created was the first one people heard of the new album (the video premiered on YouTube on 13 January 2014) and that the band would now play the first of its songs that anyone had ever heard, at which point it launched into "Pumped Up Kicks". The crowd reacted positively immediately, yet all the band members seemed tired of playing the song. Unlike the performances of the other songs off Torches, "Pumped Up Kicks", the band's most recognisable anthem, was not extended in any way; there was no lengthy intro or mid-point jam session. Even the ending seemed rushed, as though the band was ready for the song to end so it could move on to something else. The band then played an ecstatic, heart-pounding, and percussive "Helena Beat", and an equally impressive "Miss You".

The audience roared as the band left the stage and the volume in the small venue was deafening while everyone waited for the encore. Very quickly, Mark Foster took to the stage solo, an acoustic guitar in hand, he sat down on a chair in front of the audience to begin playing the new song "Fire Escape" and it was a rare treat to see an emotional song played solo by a prominent artist. It also showed off his lyrical ability and his vocal range. Previously I hadn't thought much of his singing ability but this stripped-down song showcased his clear and consistent vocals.

Unfortunately, as there was for Rebecca Marie Miller, sound issues created a buzzing noise and I could detect a hint of irritation in his face. With the conclusion of this song the band returned to the stage to play "Don't Stop (Color On The Walls)". Its final performance was playful and frenetic and when the song was over the crowd cheered on as every member in the band bowed in thanks and left the stage.

YouTube link

Foster The People continues to impress audiences years after its debut release in May 2011. Its new album will be out on 18 March 2014 in the US and 31 March in South Africa. The new single is "Coming Of Age" and the video is now available on YouTube. A North American tour has already been scheduled and the itinerary is available on the band's web site.

Tags: #music, #portland

On The Internet
Foster The People: Official Site, Twitter, Wikipedia
Rebecca Marie Miller: Facebook, Tumblr, Twitter, Vimeo Comments Speak Your Mind

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