Foster the People has gathered a large and loyal fan base, following the band through their previous release, Supermodel, in 2014, and further back to their first album Torches, which featured Pumped up Kicks, in 2011.
In July of 2017, almost a year ago today, they released Sacred Hearts Club, which generated three singles including Sit Next to Me and gave listeners a new side to their music with each song throughout the album.
Now on the road with Paramore for the After Laughter Summer Tour, Foster the People announced a select string of 8 Sacred Hearts Club after shows, one of them landing at the East Room in Chicago, IL.
Earlier in the day on July 2nd they were playing at the Huntington Bank Pavilion at Northerly Island in Chicago. This is a rather large and beautiful outdoor venue that hosts a range of popular acts each summer. It’s the type of setting where most people would expect to see a band with as much notoriety at Foster the People, and that is what made the after show at East Room so exciting and surprising.
It was tiny, so small that I questioned whether the line of people around the corner when the doors opened at 9:30 p.m. would make it in before they reached capacity. When I got inside it was already packed shoulder to shoulder, standing in a somewhat long and narrow room that lead down to a stage the size of a postage stamp. The stage was surrounded by dark red wallpaper that looked like it could have been taken from the hallway of a haunted hotel, and in the middle was a red neon Sacred Hearts Club sign that hung in front of a blacked-out window. When I finally made it up to the front I noticed the black and white zig-zag pattern on the floor of the stage which added to the aesthetic of it all. We were going to be standing only inches away from the action, first with the two outstanding openers Ganser and Vamos (both from Chicago) and with finally Foster the People.
When it was time for Ganser to come on, they squeezed their way through the crowd to make it up towards the stage. As soon as they started playing, I knew this was going to be something good. This was going to be a punk show.
Ganser is a four-piece experimental punk/noise rock band fronted by vocalists Nadia Garofalo and Alicia Gaines, who also play the keyboard and bass, respectively. Drumming for Ganser was the cool Brian Cundiff and on guitar was Charlie Landsman, whose blonde braids flew through the air as he jumped up and down melting into his guitar. Ganser’s performance was crunchy. The dynamic between the distorted guitar and Nadia and Alicia’s clean vocals added to their uniqueness. I liked their set so much that I picked up a cassette copy of Odd Talk after the show.
Vamos was also punk. Dark-garage-pop-punk, as they put it. They spun out fast headbang-worthy songs that called back to a classic era of punk music. Vamos consists of Josh Lambert, Will Wood, and Ryan Murphy and each put a ton of muscle into their set. Every song in Vamos’ set was as charged up as the last, and members from Foster the People even joined the crowd near the stage and enjoyed the last two songs amongst the fans.
It was close to midnight when Foster the People was ready to come on next. The excitement within everyone as they took to the stage was palpable.
As Mark Foster introduced the band and cheers erupted, it was obvious how happy the band members all seemed to be there, putting on a show like this for their die-hard fans. I titled this article “Why Foster the People’s Aftershow in Chicago Matters” because they brought the intimacy of a small show back to the fans in a way that very few people get to experience these days.
I’ve been lucky enough to have seen many of my favorite bands in settings like this. I’ll try to explain the experience to people by saying things like “Can you imagine seeing Lady Gaga or Jay-Z in a small bar with only 100 people? That’s what this random black metal concert was like for me!” and I don’t think they really ever get what I mean. But with this experience, they will, because it is a well known band and you can see how special this show was.
Of course, Foster the People put on an unforgettable show. Mark Foster got up close and personal with the crowd, leaning over into them and letting them sing into his microphone. Mark Pontius killed it on the drums, Sean Cimino brought excellent guitar work, and Isom Innis grooved with the bass with Tyler Halford stepping in for some songs himself. A nice touch was the handful of covers they played, including the Kinks’ You Really Got Me, the Ramones’ Blitzkrieg Bop, and Joy Division’s Transmission. Their original pieces were thrashed out fast and heavy, with Mark jumping and dancing around the stage for most of the show, adding to the overall punk feel of the evening.
I’m thankful to have been able to attend and document this show. I think it’s important that people get access to the musicians that they love in this way and it creates a stronger connection between the artists and the fans. These types of pop-up and underground shows are gems within the music community here in Chicago and other cities around the world. They give people something that they’ve never seen or heard before.
Thank you Foster the People for doing these shows, I hope you have more and I hope to be there!