Foster the People Mural Release
DTLA/Santa Fe Condos Building
When I go to these major label type events it's as a social guest. I don't know anyone besides who I'm introduced to. I don't have any business with the people there, but these events, whether they be radio show season jamborees, album release parties or tumblr parties (wait for it), I find them super interesting, just to see the audience and how they act. I'll go anywhere for an interesting, attentive, down-with-it audience, whether they are listening to a top 40 country act or a band whose record I've released.
This event, which I believe was sort of a launch event for the new Foster the People record, SUPERMODEL (March 18th, Columbia Records.) took place in a parking lot on the back side of the Santa Fe building in Downtown Los Angeles(hereinafter "DTLA"). Foster the People commissioned an artist to do a seven story high mural, and then the band played in the parking lot. Tickets were free, and handed out to fans who showed up at MOCA earlier that afternoon, prompted by a tweet from the band.
The crowd was about 1,000 people, with another 50-100 who only got in for the last three songs of the 45 minute set. The mix was about 75% hardcore Foster the People fans and 25% harder core music industry people: All of Columbia Records, in town for the Grammys, William Morris agents, ASSORTED ENTERTAINMENT INDUSTRY VETERANS, the guy from Sigur Ros(.?!?) The event was well managed, the space wasn't overcrowded. Sound was excellent but of course echoey (unavoidably so.)
I watched the set trying to figure out if I'd ever seen Foster the People life before. I wanted to say yes but settled on no. I think they've added two back-up singers and maybe a band member or two in an effort to shake a (I'm not saying it's justified because I haven't seen them) "boring life" tag that has emerged in response to their top line billing at the 2014 Coachella festival.
So are they boring live? Nope. Mark Foster isn't exactly Prince up there but who among us can match that master showman. The drummer was pushed up to the front of the stage in a move that seems designed to create more kinetic energy with the audience, and the two female back up singers will be also moved up stage for the summer festival circuit (they were positioned towards the back of the stage for this set.)
The real audience was super into it- so many videos and photographs from the now ubiquitous pose of a concert goer with his or her hands placed together in rectangular fashion to accommodate a side ways oriented Iphone or Galaxy. For a good number of these devices (1) The screens of many of these devices are so big that you OFTEN get the visual impression of watching a live sporting event from the concession stand while the television mounted on the interior stadium wall plays said sporting event.
The industry audience was politely attentive and respectful, thought I wouldn't go so far to say that Foster the People is so rapturous in a life setting that hardened industry professionals go fan boy for them. And they certainly don't need to be, anchoring the set in the middle with a smash like Pumped Up Kicks. There are other hits in there two, and at least three legit radio singles on the new record, so yeah, I think Foster the People is going to be ok on the summer concert circuit. Not holding Pumped Up Kids till the end of the set is a class act and they should keep it that way.
After the show Foster made a nice (if slightly surreal) speech about the meaning of art and the importance of doing stuff like painting murals on the side of condo buildings. There might have been some irony in the juxtaposition of that sentiment with the actual residents of skid row looking on from across the street, but I fully agree with the sentiment, and I think it's better to bring people into economically mixed neighborhoods instead of "cleansing" them of low income people first.
Neighborhoods like DTLA are places where establishing a community faces challenges, but it is also where community building can be at it's finest. For whatever reason, Mark Foster appears to genuinely support that idea, and good for him- that's awesome. If its a market ploy to create sympathy for Foster the People among the minds of critical/internet elites who might otherwise be inclined to dismiss the radio friendly alt pop of Foster the People, then it is a clever ploy and one that deserves to be singled out for applause. Good for Columbia Records, good for Foster the People.
After the show the band invited the fans to add their own painted hand prints to the wall. Almost all of them stayed to do so, lining up in a queue that curled all the ways around the parking lot and patiently waiting as the band laboriously painted their band name at the foot of the mural.
(1) "Devices" is my early nomination for the Oxford English Dictionary's word of the year prize. I'm using it in a sense that accommodates everything from an Iphone to a Roku and generally includes all contemporary cell phones, items of the "smart internet," game systems, stream boxes, etc.