Being a floor tom ain’t easy. You labor in the corner of the drum set, the last stop on solos and fills (if the guy with the sticks even gets to you). You watch as song after song is written about your bigger, bassier brother, the kick drum. Always the bridesmaid, never the bride. Well the times they are a-changin’, thanks to a phenomenon that was on display at September 23rd’s Foster the People show at the National in Richmond, VA. I’m talking about the lead singer floor tom solo. Please tell me you’ve seen this… there’s an extra stand-alone floor tom set up within reach of the frontman, and as the song reaches a crescendo, he or she grabs a set of drum sticks and starts pounding away. Mark Foster of Foster the People did just that at the National during “Helena Beat” (start at the 3-minute mark), and the gents of Dale Earnhardt Jr Jr did the same just two days before at the Southern in Charlottesville. It never fails to get people going, and it’s symbolic of a larger theme that united both shows — how to put on a satisfying live show when your studio music relies heavily on sampling. The lead singer tom solo is fascinating to me, in part because it strikes me as a form of vicarious audience participation. Few people at any given concert can play a full set of drums, but just about everyone, if given the opportunity and some sticks, could wail away on a floor tom. I think that’s where the excitement comes from — people can picture themselves on stage, taking all their energy and aggression out that drum, just as Mark Foster was. Maybe I’m wrong, but either way, it works… and so did Foster the People. They put on one of the highest-energy shows I’ve seen, running around the stage, earning every single clap, whistle and shriek (yes, shriekers were out in full force). I walked away from the National with a great deal of respect for a band that had a meteoric rise to fame, but can back up their notoriety with a hard-working, substantive live show. To see what I mean, check out the video I found of the night’s very last song “Pumped Up Kicks” above (studio version below). Be sure to stick around for the floor tom action at the 4:15 minute mark! If you dig it, buy their album here.
What the Hell Just Happened?!? Week: Day 2 — Reptar
I’ve written before about how an unfamiliar song can hit you just right, forming an instant connection. It’s a great feeling. Now take that feeling, multiply it by 1,500 people, add a healthy dose of personal space violation and what do you get? Reptar! The Athens, GA four-piece was the first of three bands to perform before a jam-packed, early-arriving, capacity crowd at the National in Richmond, VA on Friday night, but if you didn’t know any better, you would have thought they were headlining. Sure, the attendees were no doubt pumped up to see the night’s main attraction, Foster the People. Nonetheless, Reptar elicited a remarkably strong response for an opener with just one EP to its name. What’s even more remarkable is that, to my knowledge, their set included just one song — the wonderfully layered and bouncy “Phonetics” — of the five featured on their EP. (By the way… the name of this EP? Oblangle Fizz, Y’all. I love it. Doesn’t Oblangle Fizz, Y’allsound like it should be the title of an Outkast album? Can’t you hear someone in a record store saying, “Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik was dope, but Oblangle Fizz, Y’all is my JAM!” And isn’t it a little weird that Reptar hails from Athens, just down the road from Outkast’s Atlanta? Hmmmmmmm…) Testing new material when you’re the first of two opening acts strikes me as ballsy, and that ballsiness was rewarded handsomely, as one new song after another was greeted with cheers, dancing and percussive clapping. In a word, they resonated. It seemed like so many of us were having that rare instant-connection moment, which made for a first impression I will not soon forget. You can preview the first four tracks of Oblangle Fizz, Y’all here, listen to “Phonetics” below, and click here to snag the EP from iTunes.