Singer, songwriter and harpist Joanna Newsom will perform this Monday at Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall.
If you have never been to the sprawling McMenamins’ Edgefield, I can tell you that it’s an estate of art, tiny bars, a winery, a spa, gardens, and even a movie theatre tucked away behind a restaurant. In the summer, they take the huge green space on the east side of the property and bring in crowd-drawing artists for huge outdoor concerts.
This was my first time at an Edgefield “concert on the lawn”. We arrived pretty early, and were astonished at the amount of people there to share the experience with us. We were here to see Foster The People, at my daughter’s request. She just turned eleven years old and this was one of her birthday wishes.
This could be in part to me playing the first album throughout her growing years. She had this obsession with that video for “Helena Beat”, which is a bunch of kids wreaking havoc in a post apocalyptic world. Those kids must of had a blast making that video.
Once you get into the venue you walk through a small wooded area, which was a quick respite from the heat, before getting into the expanse of the lawn. It was crowded, and we barely found a place to sit. Everyone was getting into the opening band, Sir Sly, who share a similar catchy sound to Foster The People. They were getting kind of wild on stage, and left everyone nodding along and singing ” it feels good for the first time in a long time“.
As the sun set the headliners took the stage. They opened with “Pay The Man”, a single from their latest album Sacred Hearts Club, released over the summer. This, along with “Doing It For The Money” from the same album, actually allude to the opposite-which is NOT doing it for the money.
All three albums have a reverberating despondency to over-indulgence, superficiality, and capitalism. For example the song “Call It What You Want” on their first album Torches (I’ll pause here to remember the time I went to an un-crowded Foster The People show the first time they visited Portland). Second album Supermodel seemed a little more psychedelic and dealt more heavily with this subject matter, including the meaning behind the title of the album and especially the song and video for “Pseudologia Fantastica” (which they nailed live in the open air, BTW). And now Sacred Hearts Club, which still incorporates these ideas with a little bit of 80’s glam (including the huge neon sign bearing the album name on stage), and more mature electronic textures.
Undoubtedly it’s all wrapped up in a danceable, electro-pop package, though, with plenty of happy and romantic songs in the mix. Each album carries a signature “Foster The People” sound, but they are also stylistically distinguished from each other. The compositions and messages are still getting stronger and growing creatively, and their energy on stage is strong. These are things that can sometimes be difficult for a band three albums in.
They played a great mix of their entire discography, and even threw in a cover of The Ramones “Blitzkrieg Bop”. Since it was a really early show I saw a lot of families with kids dancing, despite the cramped quarters. So I didn’t feel so bad about bringing a kid.
She couldn’t have been happier.
Frontman Mark Foster talked about his love for Portland and spending time with his grandparents who lived here for much of his childhood. “I must have about 150 family members up front here.” he said.
He went on to talk about inclusiveness and hope:
“It seems like everyday there is a new crisis, a new bombing, the crisis in Syria. The political turmoil that erupted in our own country, dividing friends and family alike. As I was going into the studio I just felt like as an artist that we wanted to make a joyful record. Using joy as a weapon, because joy is the best weapon against aggression and oppression. I just want to say with nationalism spreading around the globe, and these ideologies like sexism, racism, and homophobia, all of these things that I thought we were evolving past, and now it’s back stronger than ever. These ideas that are telling people around the world that if we’re all homogenous and look the same and think the same that act the same and talk the same and do the same things, that the world is going to be a more beautiful place. But what makes life more interesting to me are the things that make us different and not the things that make us the same. Whether you’re black, brown, or white. Jewish, Muslim, or Christian, gay or straight, male or female. You grew up having a lot, or you grew up having a little. That’s what makes you who you are and that’s beautiful. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.We have to deal with enough, without having to deal with people pushing other people down. We need to put our hands out and help pick people up. ”
The crowd cheered loudly as they broke into the hit that put them in a spotlight, “Pumped Up Kicks”. The lyrics come from a dark place, but I had always interpreted it as a song about standing up to bullies.
Everyone was dancing, including the birthday girl and me.
Pay The Man
A Beginner’s Guide to Destroying the Moon
Life On The Nickel
Doing It For The Money
Are You What You Want To Be?
Don’t Stop (Color on the Walls)
Blitzkrieg Bop (Ramones Cover)
Coming of Age
Sit Next To Me
Pumped Up Kicks
Loyal Like Sid & Nancy
Call It What You Want