PHOTOS / RECAP: Foster the People (w/ Mayer Hawthorne / Kimbra) @ Red Rocks, 7/3/12

If you are the kind of person who goes to a lot of shows, as I am sure our readers surely are, you probably have been to a few where you just felt out of place. Either the genre isn’t quite your style or the crowd isn’t quite your scene or any number of little things that makes the experience slightly less than you expected. If it weren’t for the masterful song writing of Foster the People and their imaginative production design, I probably would have felt just that way at their Red Rocks debut on the 3rd.

I arrived in the venue just in time for opener Kimbra, a moderately popular singer/songwriter with heavy pop overtones and live flare that was pleasantly surprising. I had given her 2011 release Vows a listen a few days previous and found her solo work very refreshing in light of her recent fame as the featured artist alongside Gotye in his enormously popular single “Somebody That I Used to Know.” Despite her energetic and soulful performance, I was shocked to see the crowd, which had already filled the sold out venue completely from front to back, was remaining seated and still, almost oblivious to the efforts of the performers on stage.

Up next was Mayer Hawthorne and the County, a personal favorite of mine with a neo-soul sound comparable to a Issac Hayes, Buddy Holly, Weezer mashup. Again, despite the funky rhythms, catchy lyrics, and undeniable style, the majority of the crowd still seemed largely unimpressed, remaining seated and still, patiently awaiting the evenings headliner. A few had gotten the bug, dancing in place to the tambourine rhythms and keyboard hooks that should have had the whole place swing dancing, but for the most part the younger than usual crowd was mellow and complacent, swaying in their seats and checking their phones.

Of course once Foster the People took the stage, all bets were off. Everyone in the place jumped up, screaming and shouting so loud I found myself wishing I had brought my earplugs. Multiple percussionists brought up the energy even further as they layered rhythms with a precision that teetered on the edge of chaos while synth and guitar melodies led the crowd through an full set of sing-a-long hits and underplayed gems. An animated LED sun overlooked the stage as bubble machines and strobe lights kept the production captivating and exciting for the younger than usual crowd. I was especially impressed when frontman Mark Foster called for donations for Colorado Wildfire relief, a request which did not go ignored as patrons shoved dollar after dollar into firefighter’s boots as they were passed through the venue. Shouts of “Pumped Up Kicks!” pulled the band back on stage for their encore which featured the radio hit prominently, leaving the masses satisfied, and ending the show with more screams and shouts than it began with.

Overall the show was great. Musically and visually all the acts gave fantastic performances that put a smile on my face and movement in my feet. My only qualm was the very strong feeling that the mainstream success of these acts through several very popular radio hits has endeared them to a crowd of musical tourists. Fans who aren’t interested in the songs they don’t know or the openers they’ve never heard of. People who just wanted to see a show at Red Rocks because they heard it was the cool thing to do or those who really only wanted to hear ‘Pumped Up Kicks’ and ‘Helena Beat’ because they knew the words. I suppose that this is how many with an unrealized passion for music get started, seeking out the bands that have busted into the top 40s and buying shirts and LPs before they have even seen the show, but I only hope that true mastery of the performers isn’t forgotten as the interest of this fair-weather crowd fades. If you have the chance, go check out this tour and show these kids what live music is all about; dancing, discovering, and digging the beats! Thanks to Winnie from Columbia Records for allowing us to cover the show and check out our photos from the evening below!