REVIEW and SLIDESHOW: Foster The People at the Bluebird Theater June 8

P.J. Nutting | Boulder Weekly

Photos by Jules Kueffer

I first heard Foster The People’s buzz-building debut track “Pumped Up Kicks” last year on a playlist of indie summer jams, and now they’re in Denver with a sold-out venue and an entire album in support. Torches is substantial and carries the group’s style across the sunny nine-song release. Not to mention it’s great summer music.

Lead creative driver Mark Foster’s career as a writer of commercial jingles might, in a sense, disqualify him from any mention of “indie,” “hipster,” “PBR-fueled,” and whatever trite but nonetheless complimentary labels you can give an indie-pop band. But for all I know about the genre (I’m no expert), Foster The People is succeeding at the same artistic merits as many indie outfits: vocal hooks that are charming and optimistic, fresh-sounding integration of electronics, and most importantly, a dedication to fostering, shall we say, a cohesive atmosphere.

As the concert begins, Foster seats himself easily in front of the keyboard and starts up the chords of “Warrant” amongst the swirling feedback sweeps that replace the studio version’s gentle choir noise.

“Got to get away, everyone inside my head,” the crowd sang along as their built-up tension released into shuffles and waving hands. Some of the band’s chilled-out moments remind me of MGMT but in a less damaged-goods kind of way; without any lyrics about parachuting heroin, the upbeat songs about simple longings are far better placed by the side of a bright suburban pool.

Foster’s boyish, high-toned voice carries impressively well onto the stage. His voice (and his songwriting to an extent) is squeaky-clean and genial, reminiscent of Phoenix and other innocence-based pop. Foster took a moment to relate a story about passing out on stage, his voice still high-pitched but with a dissociating gravel as he tells everyone that cigarettes and altitude don’t mix well for him.

“If that happens again, don’t help me. Just take pictures and exploit me on the Internet, like a normal person,” he said, smiling.

With every new song, the band members would jump to a different position, switching off on who got to bang on the centrally-located floor drum and the two keyboards. “Miss You” picked up the tempo, “Houdini” brought it back into singalong territory, and “Waste” picked it back up into dancing pace. It’s a shame they don’t have much more than Torches to offer the crowd, but then again, it speaks to their debut album that they can energize and captivate a crowd using nothing else.

This was a show that could become bragging rights for a “I saw them when” story. Whether a few more summers will see them become festival mainstagers isn’t assured but certainly possible. Who knows, an extra-catchy single could oversaturate them, and “Pumped Up Kicks” had that potential but was confidently performed in a ballad-ish style instead of demanding the spotlight. That’s part of what makes it so exciting to see them at a juncture like this. Even if they don’t explode into massive recognition, they played like there’s no doubt they will.

Check out Jules Kueffer’s photos: