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Concert Review: Foster the People

Lars HindsleyBy Lars Hindsley Mon 11 Apr 2011 7:00 AM EST | 2279 Views
PHILADELPHIA (DL)  Lars Hindsley, staff writer for PCM Magazine reviewed Foster the People in support of their album Torches at Kung Fu Neck Tie resting atmospherically under a Septa train track in the Fishtown section Philadelphia PA. The venue is true Philly, edgy and small!

Attending a concert for a band where your song exposure is limited to one is a risky night out. It can be a bit like opening a present. You don't know entirely what will be inside, you just know it's supposed to be something good. I opened that present Sunday evening, April the 10th 2011. This would be the break out year for Foster the People.

With press pass privilege, being inches from the band, it was a raw power overload. It all started with cliché low light. The buzz of a sustained synth cord was struck and five bouncing bodies began to draw energy from the crowd. This was going to be good.

College Radio

Mark Foster of Foster the PeopleMaybe it was the excitement of the band soon being bound for England; I think however it was the from the small tight stage and close proximity of their audience at Kung Fu Necktie, but  Foster the People bounced their energetic beat right out into the audience and back this night of April 10th 2011. It was like turning on a light-bulb in an empty room. Everyone walked into it blindly without an idea of what they would experience when the light came on. The light did come exposing a great groove and band that will build a huge following.

New signed  Foster the People did not have the benefit of an audience that knew them, but they did have an audience that knew of them.  Thanks to the local college station WXPN it was impossible for anyone in the room to not have heard Foster's up and coming underground hit, Pumped Up For Kicks.   Labeled an L.A. band their true roots are in the front man Mark Foster from the heartland, Cleveland Ohio.  Foster's keen appreciation for yesteryear synth pop bands like Joy Division and New Order drive within a modern bass line. The band's original three man assembly consists of Mark Foster and his L.A. counterparts  Bassist Cubbie Fink, drummer Mark Pontius with a five man stage presence that is charged up out of the gate. 

Foster the People press photo
Mark Foster (lead singer)
Mark Pontius (drums)
Cubbie Fink (bass)
Sean Cimino (guitar/keys/sythn)
Isom Innis (keyboards)

You have to wonder if they know they in the early stages of something big because there is no evidence of any pretentious stage presence, it's all grounded in exuberance.   What I can suggest is seeing them in a smaller space.  If you view any YouTube videos, there's a difference in the energy the put out when on a larger expansive stage. 

If you only have heard  Foster the People, the rest of their set list will be a real treat.  Attached to every song is both a driving groove and hook.  Opening with Houdini a flavorful and colorful collage of bouncing baby grand piano cords and light crescendo's in faux keyboard horns members of the band scramble from instrument to instrument entertaining the audience with their own infectious excitement in their effort to keep the sound as 'big' as possible.  Songs like Helena Beat belong in a live environment  sweeping your senses from instant toe tapper to edgy dance anthem.  

By the middle of the set the band unloaded Pumped Up For Kicks, their modern day tongue in cheek take on guns at school. The tempo was only slightly quicker with a few subtle sound differences for the live audience to appreciate in reward for having come out to experience it firsthand. 

No doubt from what I've heard live and from their debut EP,  Foster the People's new album Torches being released May 24th is a must buy on your list. 

Mark Foster & Isom Innis on Keyboards "Live" at Kung Fu Necktie, Philadelphia PA - April 10th 2011

Foster the People concert ticketFoster The People On Tour

 4/17/11 Indio, CA                 Coachella
 5/30/11 George, WA            Sasquatch Festival 
 5/31/11 Vancouver, BC       Venue 
 6/1/11 Portland, OR            Crystal Ballroom 
 6/2/11 Sacramento, CA        Harlows 
 6/7/11 Salt Lake City, UT     Urban Lounge 
 6/8/11 Denver, CO             Bluebird Theater 
 6/10/11 Lawrence, KS          Bottleneck 
 6/11/11 Minneapolis, MN       Fine Line 
 6/12/11 Chicago, IL            Lincoln Hall 
 6/13/11 Cleveland, OH         Grog Shop 
 6/14/11 Columbus, OH         Newport Music Hall 
 6/17/11 Montreal, QC          Club Lambi 
 6/18/11 Toronto, ON           The Mod Club   
 6/20/11 Brooklyn, NY          Music Hall of Williamsburg 
 6/21/11 New York, NY         Bowery Ballroom 
 6/22/11 Washington DC      9:30 Club 
 6/28/11 Philadelphia, PA      TLA 
 6/29/11 Nashville, TN           Mercy Lounge 
 6/30/11 Atlanta, GA            Masquerade 
 7/2/11   Austin, TX              Emos 
 7/3/11   Dallas, TX                The Loft 
 7/5/11  Tucson, AZ              Club Congress 
 7/7/11  Los Angeles, CA        El Rey Theatre

BIO: Foster the People

We just want people to feel better about their lives.

Mark Fosters mission statement for  Foster the People is awfully simplistic on first glance. Its striking how profound it is in its honesty and rarity. Too often, indie rock is every bit as exclusive and beholden to judgment as the jock culture to which it's supposed to serve as an alternative.  So it's not surprising that the upbeat band of friends from Los Angeles still feel like outsiders for having such an all-inclusive philosophy they do not want to be the hippest band out there, just your favorite.  Luckily, their effortlessly cool soundtrack for your eternal summer is likely to accomplish that task.

As a teen approaching high school graduation in his hometown of Cleveland, OH, Foster had no idea where he wanted life to take him.  It would be easy to say that he reached a crossroads, but that would imply a clearly dictated path one way or the other.  Despite experimenting in a number of bands, none of these attempts pushed Foster to pursuing music seriously.  It was a staggeringly honest piece of advice from Fosters father that set everything into motion.  Having witnessed his six-year old son at his happiest after buying him a Beach Boys cassette as a gift, he realized all along where Marks true passion lied. Go out to Los Angeles, he said. Try it for a year or so, and if it doesn't work out, you're still young and have options.

With only a few contacts and a high school diploma, the 18-year olds complete freedom inevitably led to total chaos. He would stay at Hollywood flophouses where Armenian gangsters and a pimp named Pockets were frequent visitors.  Mark worked a slew of odd jobs so repetitive and thankless that his fondest memories are from delivering pizza.  He'd subsist on a single 7-11 hot dog per day.  Foster never lost sight of his original goal.  A year later, to help transition from fan to songwriter, he relearned the piano after 15 years of dormancy and purchased rudimentary tools for self-production  a simple PC, Cubase software and a MIDI controller.  For inspiration, he looked to New Order, Joy Division and David Bowie, legends of synth-pop and post-punk for inspiration.

Four and a half years later, he found himself much like he did in back in Cleveland “ rudderless, burned out, and stuck in a situation where anything could happen, but nothing ever did.  Though fiercely independent his whole life, he was also wise enough to realize his limitations, and sought collaborations to flesh out his vision: to bring clarity to songs that pulled from pop music in all its iterations.  In a city as expansive as Los Angeles, where the musical community is incestuous and everyone is committed to more than one band, Foster was lucky enough to link up with bassist Cubbie Fink and drummer Mark Pontius. It was right about this time that Foster says the vibe just felt right. This is probably because each member contributes a complimentary aspect clear to the outsider: Foster as the artistic engine, Fink the emotional glue, and Pontius as the logical and calculated steadying hand. 

The addition of Fink and Pontius was crucial to the bands direction.  Without them, Fosters artistic compass was spinning wildly, a bemused combination of all of his prior interests.  Shortly after joining forces in October of 2009, the trio played their first show at the Dakota Lounge in Santa Monica for a crowd of about 30 friends.  A humble beginning, but one that made each band member realize they had something real, something to focus on.

As magical as their first show was, it paled in comparison to the buzz garnered around their first single, Pumped Up Kicks, which at first, was only offered on their website.   Then, a friend working at NYLON Magazine asked to use the single in an internet campaign for fashion mogul Anna Sui.  A mere month after it became available to the public, the February 10 issue of BlackBook made a bold statement, saying Foster The People had created the song of next summer. Regardless of the season, the point was clear: Foster The People had a hit on their hands.

The band had the world's attention and they made the most of it.  Word of their super catchy (KCRW) music spread in a manner that was shockingly quick even in the age of endless internet churn.  This wasn't a case of a couple of blogs hollering in an echo chamber: The Guardian called Pumped Up Kicks an alternative anthem while being equally wowed with the diversity of their other tracks.  Likewise the mighty NME named them their Radar Band Of The Week in June, and the reception back at home in the U.S. was every bit as rapturous, from Radar to MTV, everyone agreed on one thing: this was a band on the cusp of an undeniable breakthrough.

Plenty of artists have buckled under the weight of such hype, but what keeps the band focused is the music itself, which Foster describes as if Brian Wilson and Aphex Twin had a man baby.  Hes only sort of kidding, as its precise to say that the complexity of the electronic trickery never overshadows the classicist and ecstatic pop songwriting. 

The bands brazen pop sensibilities shine on the trios debut self-tilted EP. Pumped Up Kicks, leading the pack with its true infectious nature, is a sing-along set to a steady beat and bouncing bass line, followed by Helena Beat a track that showcases the bands edgier, synth-indulgent side. Rounding out the EP is a track named Houdini, a piano laced, euphonic jam that begs to be played on repeat with its buoyant melodies and bouncy beats.

 Foster the People isn't just a pun on its singers last name.  It's a manifesto from a band that values the communal happiness of the listener over anything else.

Kung Fu Neck Tie: 1248 North Front Street Philadelphia PA (215) 291-4919

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