Lollapalooza 2011, Friday: Foster the People
Rarely at this festival have I ever seen a mob of kids packed quite as densely as they were in front of the Sony stage for Foster the People. The L.A. band could've easily helmed one of the main stages thanks to the ubiquity of its breakout "Pumped Up Kicks." Maybe that's why it seemed suspicious that frontman and namesake Mark Foster emerged dressed like he had a business meeting nearby in the loop, sporting black slacks and a crisp white button down. In fact, the entire quintet looks like it could've been canvassing Mormons, save the multi-instrumentalist who braved the heat in both denim top and bottom.
Of course FTP kept us waiting for "Kicks," as any smart act would with only one big hit to its name, preceded by an upbeat if harmonica-less cover of Neil Young's "Heart of Gold." Playing from Torches, the L.A. band's Columbia Records debut, the quintet cruised through peppy, perky album cuts "Warrant," "Miss You" and "I Would Do Anything for You" among others. Despite the disc's moderate pace and thoroughly sparkly pop, never in my life have I seen more crowd surfers. People were passed around like beach balls, among them a kid with a camera smartly strapped around his forehead (can't wait to see that footage), another dude in a full orange bodysuit that masked his face as well, and another dressed as a watermelon. That these kids can get that amped about this stuff speaks volumes to the band's broad appeal.
"Man, I can't believe this—this is the most people we've ever played in front of before" said Foster at one point, more modest than incredulous. You wouldn't know it from seeing them up there. Drummer Mark Pontius and bassist Cubbie Fink (born to be a rocker with that name) stuck to their instruments, but pretty much everyone else in this band wants to be a drummer. Extra toms and electronic pads were thwacked mercilessly, with Foster's arms raining down on Pontius' crash cymbals at one point. For the most part, though, Foster stuck to his role as singer and keyboardist. "A lot of people put things in a box, so I say to these people 'Call It What You Want,'" he offered before launching into the titular house-flecked tune to a sea of pumping fists. The group eventually delivered "Kicks" to an ecstatic reception, every bleak lyric echoed by the audience ("All the other kids with the pumped up kicks/You better run, better run, outrun my gun"). "Helena Beat" closed out the set, Foster's business casual getup translucent with sweat as he and the band bid adieu to a sea of satisfied faces.