Foster the People, Cults, Reptar House of Blues September 16, 2011
"When you've played something like 100 shows in a year, you learn to tell during the first song whether it's going to be a good show," said Foster the People vocalist Mark Foster from the stage during the intro to the band's second song Saturday. While he spoke, he banged on a cowbell he had in hand. "And I can already tell that this is going to be a good show."
For the next hour, Houstonians of all different walks of life were treated to the poppy, upbeat and unfairly infectious tunes that have garnered worldwide attention for the California-based indie/electronica three-piece.
Foster's breakout single "Pumped Up Kicks" is arguably the next generation's "The Kids Aren't Alright," except even catchier than the Offspring tune. And its dark undertones aren't nearly as clear, at least not upon first listen - in fact, much of its audience is probably completely unaware that it's actually about a homicidal kid.
Deep, dark nuances set to melodic, upbeat tunes? We can definitely dig it. It's like subliminal messaging, but they aren't trying to get you to buy a product (other than their music, of course).
But are all of FTP's lyrics this serious? For all we know, sure. (We've only listened to the album once through.) Are all their songs as catchy? Not quite, but they're close.
Aftermath was a little wary of what FTP would sound like live, because their album is full of synthetic drumming and vocal effects, but by the time the night was over, we actually thought they sounded better than on record. And that's not to say that the album isn't good; that's to say that their stage presence is fantastic.
They put on one of the best live performances Aftermath has ever seen. And this wasn't our first rodeo. Even if Foster had lost his voice, and the band just jammed onstage for an hour while the light show beamed behind them, it would have been a great show.
The energy of the crowd, the genuine appreciation these musicians have for their fans and the overall let's-have-a-good-time vibe was as inescapable as their songs are infectious.
Also, six days ago, FTP told the crowd, the band joined forces with the Do Good Bus, an organization that... well, is really vaguely explained on its web site but has done a lot of cool stuff. With the help of the bus, FTP have raised $20 thousand for Texas wildfire relief, and for that, we tip our hats to the Los Angeles natives.
And just a year ago, Foster was delivering pizzas to people's doors.
Openers Cults, who gave the ladies in the crowd a reason to cheer for one of their own, gently burrowed their way into the hearts of everyone in the sold-out venue. We could liken them to a friend who is so sweet, you can never get mad at her. You just want to dip her in milk and gobble her up.
"I could never be myself, so fuck you" has never sounded so pretty as it did when singer Madeline Follin whispered it to the crowd, driving the ladies mad with appreciation and commiseration (or so we assume).
Before the Cults, Reptar put on a solid showing too with a blend of electronica, indie and high-pitched, screamy vocal lines. It all sounded so good, it even sat well with our hangover.
Personal Bias: Aftermath has yet to tire of "Pumped Up Kicks," because we don't listen to the radio all that much, and when we do, we tend to stay away from the stations that only play Top 40 singles over and over again. So we went in, ready to sing along.
Overheard In the Crowd: "I like when the bartenders are bigger than the bouncers. It shows what the owner's priorities are. 'Fuck the door. Protect my liquor!'"
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Overheard On the Walk to Our Car: "What's my type? My type is any girl willing to be with me."
Random Notebook Dump: At one point during the show, we received a text from a friend, asking our whereabouts. We responded and, unsure whether she was familiar with the group, attempted to add, "They sing that catchy jingle 'Pumped Up Kicks,'" but we somehow texted "Pimpled Up Kocks" instead. Seriously. You can't make this kind of stuff up.