Over The Weekend: Foster The People at The Loft

Foster The People, Gardens & Villa
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The Loft
July 3, 2011

Better than:

going to a dance party where the host played some Foster the People. A little better, anyways.

There's something to be said for bands that can reproduce their recorded sound faithfully, note for note, at their live shows. 

Making your live show sound that much like your album is not easy, especially considering the amount of production and post-production that is layered onto most modern-day records. 

But is sounding just like your album a good thing or a bad thing? 

That question was raised at Sunday night's Foster the People show. 

Foster and openers Gardens & Villa sold out The Loft, packing the small space shoulder-to-shoulder with young hipster glitterati. 

No surprise there: Foster the People have been generating a firestorm of buzz surrounding the meteoric rise of their super-catchy single "Pumped Up Kicks", and the subsequent release of their first album, Torches, this past May. 

Frontman Mark Foster still looks a bit awestruck by his sudden fame, and this shy-guy attitude colors his performance. He and his band spent most of the show hunched over their instruments, making very little contact with their adoring crowd until the last couple songs. 

They looked like they were working very hard, though, and their hard work paid off: Foster's live vocals are impeccable, and the band's catchy pop tunes sounded exactly like their album -- to the point where even the most casual fan would've been impressed. 

The aura at this show was that of a dance party rather than a live band; the crowd didn't care that the musicians were too busy perfecting their sound to do anything other than bop up and down in place while staring at the ground. This audience was there to party, and party they did, with hands in the air, singing along to every song. 

When the band finally launched into "Pumped Up Kicks," Foster finally began interacting with the audience a bit, holding out his mic to the crowd as they sang along. He looked completely bowled over by all the attention, grinning like a schoolboy at the forest of hands outstretched toward him. 

Foster the People is being lauded as a one-hit wonder in the making by such publications as the UK's The Guardian. But their solid catalog of songs alludes to a more fleshed-out career -- they certainly have more than one good song (last night's stick-in-your-ear encore, "Helena Beat," seems to have "hit single" written all over it). And live shows are becoming more and more of musicians' bread and butter. 

Reproducing the album sound live is no small feat, but, for the fan that is looking for a different side to Foster the People than that which is displayed in their recordings, this band's live show leaves a little more to be desired. 

Openers Gardens & Villa, meanwhile, looked straight out of Revenge of the Nerds, and their synthesizer-heavy pop sound similarly hearkens back to the '80s. The band stocked the tiny stage with a plethora of instruments, including bongos, flutes and wooden blocks. This could have been gimmicky in the wrong hands, but Gardens pulled it off, seamlessly blending electronics and organic instruments into songs that blended the '80s vibe of The Cure and Missing Persons with a more modern, garage-y sound. Very little zero stage presence, though. The people in the band took a back seat to the music itself. 

A good thing? Depends on what you go see a live band for. 

Critic's Notebook
Personal Bias:
None. I had heard of Foster the People, but I hadn't heard any of their music before a couple days prior to this show. I listened to the album and loved it, though. Rock bands have been staying away from pop music for years, and it's great to see a young indie band playing straight-up pop. 

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