Quick Concert Review: Foo Fighters / Social Distortion / The Joy Formidable

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The last arena rock show I had attended before the Foo Fighters-headlined show at Verizon Center last week was when Pearl Jam rolled through the same venue about 5-6 years ago.  It was one of my weirder concert experiences since I was in the owner’s box and technically working while my divorced-boss’s-kid-visiting-from-out-of-town tormented me with random kicks, punches, and items thrown in my general direction.  I’m sure the band did their part to Rock the Casbah — Eddie, Stone, Jeff and company always do — but being made to feel like a grown-up at a rock show does not contribute to the rock and roll experience.

To me, the best way by far to experience an arena rock show is on the floor, particularly since most contemporary shows have gotten rid of floor  seats.  I’m sure that this arrangement is as advantageous for the fan as it is for the promoter’s wallet given how many more people can be packed into the venue.  So, for this show, I was pleased to be amongst the people on the floor.

And amongst the people I was.  I had some West Coast tourist dude in front of me who had been Bob Marley-ing his hair for a decade or so, and damned if it/he didn’t smell like a barn.  I had the old guy next to me who was smoking like it was a Tom Petty concert.  I had  frat boy types to my left that clearly will not remember much of the show, other than being able to affirm to each other….”That was awesome, bro!!!!”.  And, you had those like me, who dig what might be the last remaining ROCK band while knowing that the old Sloan lyric, “It’s not the band I hate, it’s their fans“, is quite fitting when at a show of this nature.  (Hello, acid washed jeans people from the Maryland suburbs…I am snobbishly judging you!!!)

There’s a certain irony to seeing a guy who was part of the band that brought down hair bands and arena rock engaging in….hair band arena rock. I’m ok with that.  As Dave Grohl stated during the show, it’s ok to change over the course of 20 years.  Besides…I don’t trust purists, anyways.

Grohl, of course, is a native of the DC suburbs and was clearly feeling the love from a sold-out crowd largely comprised of….people from the DC suburbs.  I’m done hating on you, suburbanites, for in this instance you displayed good taste.  Let’s finally get the obvious out of the way….the Foo Fighters rock.  They rock hard.  They rock long.  They rock porn star-style.

They rocked before they were even on stage.  They rocked for choosing two kick ass bands to open up, The Joy Formidable and Social Distortion. Now, I’m not remotely an objective observer when it comes to these two bands.  All I can say is, they’re great bands that I’ve happily gone to see as the main attraction multiple times and this was definitely a triple threat of a show. Mike Ness warned the audience early on that the main event was going to last three hours, and his prediction was spot on.

It was three hours of pure rock and roll entertainment. It was three hours of guitar solo and riff-driven cock rock that had been torn from the zeitgeist by Grohl’s previous life’s work. It was three hours of sweat, riffs, and theatrics that while honed and clearly pre-planned were deployed ably enough to never feel forced or, gasp, inauthentic.  In three hours, Grohl, Pat Smear, Taylor Hawkins, Nate Mendel, and Chris Shiflett put it all out there and earned the pretty pennies they had extracted from a crowd enthusiastic about the bargain.  (I’m a particular fan of Shiflett, whose brother Scott plays a thumping bass in one of my all-time favorite bands, Face to Face).  They laid down a strong sampling of their 7+ albums and 29-ish singles that have charted over the years, and at no point did it feel tedious or ripe for conclusion. In three hours, the Verizon Center crowd also got a promise from Grohl that the band would come back and play a 4-hour set at 9:30 Club.

It’s safe to say that of the 20,000+ in attendance at Verizon Center, there are well more than 1,100 who will line up to see Grohl hammer his custom Gibson guitars in that relatively intimate venue.  I will be in line amongst them.

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Behrnsie has a love for music that dare not speak its name. He attends many shows and can often be found counting out the beats for no discernible reason. He played alto saxophone in his middle school jazz band, where he was best known for infuriating his instructor when it was revealed that he played everything by ear, and could not in fact read music. He takes great pride that this is the same talent/affliction that got Tori Amos kicked out of the Peabody Academy. He does not live in his parents’ basement….except during the holidays.