Photos By Clarissa Villondo, Words By Brandon Wetherbee
Foo Fighters occupied Black Cat for four hours on Friday evening. Multiple Dave Grohl’s showed up.
Dave Grohl The Documentarian
Sonic Highways has brought Foo Fighters to the D.C. area more than one time in the last twelve months. To celebrate their D.C. themed episode of their HBO series, the six-piece played a marathon three hour long set at Black Cat. There was no opening band. There was a screening of the episode. It was great.
Going into the concert, the screening seemed like a horrible idea. Who would want to stand and watch a show before a show? Everyone in the Black Cat wanted to watch the show. The initial appearance of all local luminaries were greeted with cheers, applause and whoops. All except Mayor Gray. People booed the first, second and third time Mayor Gray appeared on screen.
Dave Grohl is a fine documentarian. He’s able to shine a light on previously underground figures thanks to his status. He wants to give credit and make his world bigger. The first episode presented Naked Raygun to a large audience. The second episode presented Mark Anderson to a large audience (Mark biked to the show. He carried his bike helmet under his arm during the show), which leads us to Mr. Grohl’s next title.
Dave Grohl The Punk Rocker
Has Ian MacKaye ever been on HBO this much? Have the Foo Fighters ever sounded like Fugazi less? (Yes, their 2005 double album In Your Honor.)
Grohl embraces his punk rock past. He has been since anyone knew his name. The only record that’s kinda, sorta punk in their catalog is their 1995 self-titled (and actually a solo record) debut. Foo Fighters played multiple songs from the record. 19 years after its release, these songs sounded best. Did I ever think I’d hear “Weenie Beenie” at Black Cat at 1:45 am? Absolute not. It was a highlight. It appeared to be a highlight for bassist Nate and everyone’s favorite Foo Pat. These two original band members smiled brightest during these songs. What wasn’t a highlight were the bros still yelling, “Nirvana!” at Black Cat at 1:45 am.
Dave Grohl Nirvana Drummer
Who still thinks he’s going to play Nirvana songs? This rarely happens and only with Krist Novaselic on bass. Who does this? Probably the same bros (there were lots of bros at Black Cat Friday night) who had their intern wait in line for them earlier in the week for tickets.
Dave Grohl Rock Star
You know who loves rock stars? People that look like Wayne’s World 2 extras. This wasn’t the entire crowd.
The crowd was a good mix of all ages. Lots of parents with very small, very tired children. There were some men and women that could be my parents’ age. I pitied our photographer, a woman in her 20s with a very small stature. Her height was a curse at this show. She didn’t have a chance of dealing with the Wayne’s World 2 extras. (Clarissa sent an email after the show. “Photographing the show was incredibly difficult, that only turned to medium difficulty when Washington Post’s photographer was nice enough to let me borrow his stool for parts of two songs. Honestly it was probably my hardest shoot this year. Why am I the size of a five year-old?”)
Being in a crowd with people that love rock stars isn’t all bad. The woman that wouldn’t let me use my photo badge to get a clear shot of the band for this site was bounced an hour into the set. I didn’t ask why, I just made a note to thank the Black Cat staff.
In addition to attracting groupies, rock stars play arenas. Friday’s setlist was as good as it’s ever going to get for fans of the first two records, quite different from their 2011 Verizon Center show. That 11/11/11 gig featured just one song from their self-titled debut and three songs from The Colour and the Shape (but at this point, does “Everlong” even count? It’s their closer and has been their closer for a decade, not just track 11 on their second record.). Friday’s Black Cat marathon leaned heavily on their 1997 album.
Dave Grohl Rock and Roll’s Nicest Guy
If you’ve seen the first Foo Fighters doc, you know Mr. Grohl loves his friends, especially drummer Taylor Hawkins. Being nice is nice, but it doesn’t make for good set list decisions.
The worst part of the show, at least when it came to the music, was the five-song cover set. It started with promise with Cheap Trick but ended in a completely unnecessary Van Halen’s “Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Love” cover sung by drummer Taylor Hawkins. They sounded fine, but the show was at Black Cat, not Verizon Center. No one was clamoring for Van Halen. Why would anyone ever clamor for Van Halen? Van Halen sucks. Meaningless lyrics, cock rock posturing, gimmicky solos (Finger tapping! How crazy!). The opposite of the music highlighted in the HBO series, the opposite of the first few F.F. lps and Nirvana records. But the drummer likes it. Nice guys like being nice.
“All My Life” following the Van Halen cover and it made their 2002 single sound great in a small club in 2014. When Dave and Pat connected during the song it brought a smile to my face. Which leads us to my favorite Grohl.
Dave Grohl Pat Smear’s Friend
Pat Smear! Germs! Nirvana! Foo Fighters! House of Style! Out of Foo Fighters 🙁 Back in Foo Fighters :)!
I have no idea why Pat Smear needs to be in the band (Foo Fighters have three guitarists FOR NO REASON other than Dave Grohl loves rock and roll and is a nice guy and more guys can play more rock riffs) but I do not care. I love that Pat Smear is in the band. The crowd at Black Cat gave the loudest approval during Smear’s announcement. He didn’t say much throughout the show, just smiled a lot and played a lot of riffs. He also drank champagne from the bottle while his band members drank beer from green bottles. Champagne is cooler. Pat Smear is cool.
Dave Grohl The Comic
Funny guy. Not funny for a musician or funny for a film maker, but a genuinely funny guy that knows how to take a joke. When a super creep (not in a good way) informed the front man that he was the guy that brought a plank of wood for Grohl to sign the night before at a Smithsonian show, Grohl asked why. The super creep informed Grohl it was from his childhood home. The creep is a realtor and wanted something from the house to sign. That’s incredibly weird. Grohl laughed it off while maintaining his reasonable position that that man is a super creep (not in a good way). Then he smiled and played more riffs because the dude likes riffs more than chuckles.
Dave Grohl The Pilot And Tween Girl From The “Learn To Fly” Video
Sadly, this Grohl showed up. It’s their weakest single from the 90’s but people still love it. “Stacked Actors” should have been the hit, not this ode to nothing in particular. Whatever. “White Limo” was next and that’s their best song in over a decade.
Dave Grohl The Devil According To Tenacious D
Sadly, this was the one Grohl not on display.
Dave Grohl TL;DR
Foo Fighters played a three-hour set at a small club, it never got tired, the band never sounded bad, lots of songs from the first two records (even “Hey, Johnny Park!”), bros are bros, more people now know about Mark Anderson, the bigger a band gets the more their crowd looks like Wayne’s World 2 extras.
Finally, this guy. This guy did not end up seeing the show. He maintained a smile throughout the evening. A friend bought him a drink. Some guy paid him $1 not to kiss him.