HBO’s new series, Sonic Highways, is debuting October 17th, and The JetSet Family sought out Foo Fighters fans willing to tell their favorite Foo concert moment. Dave Grohl, you might be the greatest storyteller in the world, but now it’s our turn…
I’m not going to pretend that I can name every Foo Fighters song, or fake knowing the last time they played Generator live, but make no mistake I’m a fan, and simply put, this is my band. I take pride when friends + family see something Foo related, think of me and post it on my Facebook wall. I wouldn’t call myself a fanatic, but I walk the line and I’ve been to tiny shows that would knock the socks off of even the biggest diehard fans.
Recalling these shows triggered some amazing memories. This post originally began as a list of my favorite Foo Fighters concerts, and quickly turned to remembering WHY each show was so special. The common thread wasn’t the setlist, sound, light show or special guest, it was the vibe and energy the Foo fans, old and new, created.
Getting the occasional drumstick, guitar pick and setlist to add to my collection was rad, and I won’t deny rolling deep with the VIPs did not stink one tiny bit, but nothing compares being lost in a sea of people as wave after wave of your favorite tunes are sung loud enough to rattle the biggest venues.
The Foos have given us stories through VH1 Storytellers, Foo Fighters: Back and Forth rockumentary, Sound City and now Sonic Highways. But what about OUR stories? Direct from the fans? That warm connection felt the moment you look around the crowd right before a show, and the feeling of immense gratitude that washes over you. Or the lump in your throat and salty tears the second your brain + heart hear that opening chord. Or my favorite, that second you wake up only to remember how you MET your favorite band. That smile…those butterflies. Wow.
Riding the rail
Is no easy task, but it can easily catapult a show from awesome to legendary within moments. What’s the rail? The rail is the front lines. The metal barrier that separates the crowd from the stage with a small well for security and photographers to stand guard. And while I’m at it, I’m just going to toss this gem out to all you, “I’m going to ‘work’ my way up to the front” blowhard morons…there is a very special place in hell and Instagram shaming for you.
I needed to throw that in there. See, I’ve met the diehards and they are really good, loyal fans who have earned this precious concert real estate with shoddy knees + tons of air miles to prove it. There were lines to stand in, weather to brave and cryptic Twitter posts to decipher thanks to Mr. Grohl himself. I’m proud to say I’ve earned plenty of battle scars over the years defending the rail, but now? I’m happy near the closest exit and AC vent.
“They were about to play a high school. Let me repeat that, a high school.”
My first time. “Rewind to 2008. My wife and I prepared to make the trek up to Berkeley for my first Foos show. The guys were on tour to promote their latest album, Echoes, Silence, Patience and Grace, and they were about to play a high school. Let me repeat that, a high school theater. This was one of those once in a lifetime opportunities. The combination of the tiny room and an acoustic show made me realize this was in no way going to be any ordinary performance. There wasn’t a bad seat in the house. In fact, even a few rows back, we were closer to Dave than front row at most shows. He told stories throughout the night about the band, specific songs and other random stuff. It felt like we were all just hanging out having a BS session with some great music thrown in for good measure.”
“Obviously, they were getting ready for some big adventures to come.”
The legendary FFPB fans only show. I love the “Troub” and had been there many times, but never for a band as major as the Foos. It’s an iconic, yet small venue for mostly “signed but not big” acts, and holds maybe 400 people. Regardless, I made sure to get there early and perch right up front by the stage. Openers were the Atomic Punks, a Van Halen tribute band who put on a fun set, but the Foo Fighters owned the night. Something about the smaller setting brought out a different energy in the band than I’d seen in larger places they’d played. So intimate my husband + I could carry on conversations with guitarist, Chris Shiflett, while he was on stage between songs. All these years later and I still remember the feeling. Less of seeing a “huge” band only a handful of years shy of playing Wembley, and more of enjoying friends playing for friends. Obviously, they were getting ready for some big adventures to come.
“I seriously think Pat was stalking me.”
Dave to the right of me. Taylor to the right. Stuck in the middle with Foo. I’m an avid Foo fan pushing 50+ shows at this point – but I’ll never forget Vegas. I was staying at the venue where the show was being hosted and it was magical. It was like a Foo bomb had set off – there were Foo members literally everywhere you looked. I ran into Dave at the Hard Rock pool. I ran into Taylor at Starbucks. I seriously think Pat was stalking me because I can recall eight encounters over a 24 hour period. I ran into the entire band at Nobu and chatted up Rami and Pat after dinner. The band played two nights, however my favorite was the first evening. They were on FIRE that night – including a rarely played surprise of “Low” for the hard core fans. My friend and I were even lucky enough to get a nod from Dave from the stage. It was an amazing night and even as I remember to this day, I feel total gratitude for such a great time. So lucky!
“Eff off, Gene Simmons…Rock is NOT dead!”
Build it, and they will come. What happens when a group of die hard fans decide they want their favorite band to come to their hometown? They go online and ask people for money. Seriously. That’s what the good folks of Richmond, VA did and guess what? The Foos listened + I listened. Front + center with my Foo army. It’s the first crowdfunded show of it’s kind, and will go down as revolutionizing the way tickets are sold and cities are determined. At first, I hadn’t planned on it, just kinda daydreamed about it. But when the text came through saying, “I’ve got a ticket if you can get to Richmond,” I had my flights booked within 48 hours. Upon arrival, the silly venue posted no lining up before 5:00 pm. By 2pm, that request was blatantly ignored. Few understand the art of arriving hours early, and probably never experienced claiming victory at the rail. The rail is not the pit. You are either touching metal or might as well be three states away. Sure, it’s hours waiting. Sitting. Standing. Stretching. Chatting. Making new friends. Catching up with old friends, but it’s catching lightning in a bottle. Call me an superfan. Call me crazy. Call me maybe. It’s not just seeing my favorite band. I love Foo. I travel for Foo. But it is my FFPB family that makes every mile even better.
“Sorry, bro. You know how it is.”
It was my first Foo Fighters show and first concert I had ever purchased tickets for. Street Scene, an all day concert. I had driven down with my cousin and got to the pit first thing. We managed never to leave the pit not even for a restroom break out of fear that we wouldn’t be able to get back in. Just before the Foo Fighters went on some 12 hours later, Cypress Hill had performed and brought more of a stoner friendly crowd to the pit. We were slowly getting pushed back, and a small group of us had bandied together to try and stay where we were. As the Foos were getting on stage a guy over six feet tall and his girlfriend walked in front of me, blocking my view. I’m five foot eight. He turned around and said, “Sorry bro, you know how it is.” I was unable to see the Foos for the first verse of All My Life. I’m still not sure if was the adrenaline, or the [wonderful] waft of bong ripped air, but something prompted me to jump on the guys shoulders and SCREAM along to the chorus for All My Life. He quickly moved out of my way and away from me in a panic. So I yelled, “Sorry, bro. You know how it is.” With that, I enjoyed one of the greatest moments of my life and that energy is recreated every time I see them live.
“Festival style concerts really aren’t my thing, but…”
Farewell, my sweet paramania. Normally I would pick a small venue concert as they seem more intimate and special, but I honestly have to say that the best Foo Fighters concert that I’ve attended was when they closed Lollapalooza in Chicago’s Grant Park in August of 2011. Festival style concerts really aren’t my thing, but I won an all expenses paid trip to Chicago and a three day pass so what the heck? Not too far in to the show, the heavens opened up and the rain flooded the entire park. Standing in the rain, the (putrid) mud and thousands of people trying to find safety for their smart phones, I stood there and let the water and the music wash over me. It was uplifting and good for the soul. It was the perfect end to what had been a tough summer for me.
“The guy looks up from under the hat. It’s the Holy Grail of sightings, Dave Grohl.”
Foo Vegas 2008. I splurged and bought the VIP package, floor seats and a room both nights. First night I ended up riding the rail with 3 new friends, one of them had just sold me an overpriced tube of mascara and the other two were a husband wife team who taught me the value of making friends with security. We got thrashed that night, smashed against the metal railing for 3 hours fueled by a bunch of ’roided out freaks as Dave put it when he stopped the show mid set to tell them to knock it off. At the end of the show, I remained glued to my spot, ears ringing. One of the stage hands carefully peeled a set list off the floor and looked at me, my eyes widened as I watched him nod and hand it off to the security guy in front of me, “Here, you earned this,” and gave it to me. I die. A set list! Fans took photos of it, they wanted to hold it but I wouldn’t let it go.
The morning after, still sore, I limped onto a hotel massage table and told them I needed the post concert special. Walking back in my stupor, hair full of oil, I round the corner and see a guy in a trucker hat with a Venti coffee in each hand. Two girls standing inches away from him are giggling. The buzz isn’t just from the in lobby Starbucks. The guy looks up from under the hat. It’s the Holy Grail of sightings, Dave Grohl. I cut right into their conversation. “Awwww maaan!!! Here you are and I don’t have anything on me, not even a pen.” He laughed as I try to pretend that I always have this much oil in my hair. He motions to the elevator, ‘going up?’ We all pile in, me Dave and the two girls. I find out between floors 3 and 7 that those were a couple super-fans, he sees them a lot. When they exit their floor I shamefully confess I’m kinda a latecomer to the Foo fan club. (I think) He laughed. He asked me if I had a good time at the show and I told him I got thrashed. He said he saw. “You gonna come out again tonight?’ “Front again? Me? Uhhhh no, I’m too old for this” I said as I clutched my ribs. “Ok so see you tonight?” I laughed. I stood there as the doors closed and slumped onto the couches outside of the elevators, flipped open my phone to text my sister.
“I just rode the elevator with Dave Grohl”
And then there was…
“San Fernando Valley or bust.”
What a night. I could tell lots of stories, but still can’t find the words. It was pouring rain. The kind of night you dream of a wood burning fire, Ugg boots and a big pot of soup. Not the kind of night you are about to haul butt to the San Fernando Valley to see one of the biggest bands in the world perform songs from their new album at a bar. Security was tight and Paladino’s was on full-steam lock down. It was dubbed a secret fan show, but in actuality, it was wall-to-wall celebs and the smallest stage imaginable. They had just finished hours before recording at Casa de Grohl, and it was time to celebrate the completion of Wasting Light. As I entered, I walked right up to the stage as they were about to perform inches, not feet, inches from my face. I was there to see the Foo Fighters, but what I witnessed was probably the most special heartfelt performance I’ve ever seen. The stage went dark and what happened next still gives me chills. Leaving the center mic unattended in honor of their former fallen band member, Dave took a seat at Taylor’s drum kit and was joined on stage by Krist Novoselic and Pat Smear of Nirvana to perform Marigold. The silence of the crowd at that moment was deafening. I’m not even going to try and explain. Like I said, no words.
Foo Fighters + Travel = A few of my favorite things.
My rail days might be over, and I have no idea the next time I’ll be backstage for the shenanigans, but I’ll never forget the thrill. Nowadays, I’m old. Traveling and a cozy bed makes me happy. Being able watch my favorite boys travel my favorite U.S. cities like Austin, Chicago, Los Angeles, Nashville, New Orleans, New York, Seattle, and Washington, D.C. and discuss music from the comfort of my own bed is up there with Welcome Back, Kotter reruns. And you know how I feel about Boom Boom Washington and Juan Epstein. Seriously, the trailer actually gives me chills. As Pat says, “A metal chill.”
Foo Fighters are Dave Grohl, Nate Mendel, Taylor Hawkins, Chris Shiflett and Pat Smear.
Foo Fighters Play Record Store Day
Sonic Highways Premiere: The Roxy, Los Angeles
An Evening with President Obama + Foo Fighters
Foo Fighters on St. Paddy’s Day
How Dave Grohl is Saving Rock and Roll
Dave Grohl’s Birthday
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