Richmond doesn’t get a lot of huge names for concerts. We get a lot of great ones for sure, and some that are definitely noteworthy, but in the grand scheme of things, current acts that can headline a festival such as Bonnaroo or Coachella… well, they ain’t coming here. Why? Well, there are plenty of reasons.
Richmond doesn’t get a lot of huge names for concerts. We get a lot of great ones for sure, and some that are definitely noteworthy, but in the grand scheme of things, current acts that can headline a festival such as Bonnaroo or Coachella… well, they ain’t coming here. Why? Well, there are plenty of reasons. DC is only a few hours away, as are some of the bigger venues in North Carolina. Our biggest arena, the Richmond Coliseum, is in pretty bad shape and definitely can’t compete with better and more popular arenas in Charlottesville, Norfolk, or even Fairfax. There was also an incident last year with the legendary Toots Hibbert that surely didn’t help our cause much. The list goes on, and I’m only telling you this in order to accurately relay to you just how big of a deal it was that the Foo Fighters came to Richmond last night.
By now I’m sure you know the story as it’s been told a thousand times and mentioned in every major music publication. Guys start crowdfunding to get Foos to play first show in Richmond since 1998, crowdfunding reaches it $70,000 goal, Foos are cool enough to agree to it, The National agrees to be at complete capacity to help round it out, and Mayor Jones declares it Foo Fighters RVA Day on September 17th. Years from now, this concert might be looked back on as a game-changer that opened the door for cities to not be at the mercy of greedy booking agents and stubborn venue owners. That’s definitely cool, but in Richmond, I don’t think people will be talking about that in the years to come. They’ll be talking about this night, and the band’s instantly legendary performance. If you were there Wednesday night, you know that’s all that needs to be talked about.
To paint the picture of this night accurately, we need to go back to before the doors for the show even opened. When the show was announced at The National, it was also announced that doors would open at 7 and line-up could only begin at 5:30pm, not before. My wife arrived at 5:40 so naturally the line had sprawled all the way from the National’s box office to around the corner in just ten minutes. The National has had plenty of sold out shows, but just from getting in line for doors, it was clear that this one was on a completely different level. The crowd in line was the perfect mix for a concert, too, featuring all ages and backgrounds. People in front of us were discussing the contest they won at Brown’s Volkswagen, the people behind us were talking about the last time they saw the band and how pumped they were, and the people next to us…yeah. Let’s just say there’s pre-gaming before going to a concert and then there’s downing a Gatorade bottle full of vodka (and half of another one) and then being utterly unable to stand up longer than two seconds. Probably not the best idea in the world. Overall though, it was a spectacle in itself just being in that line, long before doors even opened. As a documentary crew walked by with cameras multiple times, the crowd had an excuse to cheer as loudly as possible and put a voice to the blistering anticipation that had been building for over sixteen years.
Photo by @arayrva
Avers kicked things off at quarter to 8 before a packed house that was somehow still growing inside the Broad Street venue. I’m sure the Richmond supergroup has played before bigger crowds than the 1500 people in The National, but I’m also sure that those bigger crowds were not as receptive and rabid as this crowd was. Everyone there was feeling the RVA love that night, but it was really the band’s dazzling 30-minute set that got the crowd buzzing early on, as if they needed any more reason to. This was my second time seeing the sextet this month, after seeing them on the same stage at Fall Line Fest Night Two. That set itself was incredible so the bar was set pretty high, but here, the band easily shot past that bar and set a new standard for what an opening band, local or not, should aspire to be when kicking off sold-out nights for huge acts. I could sit here and spit out every compliment under the sun about the band’s performance (and it’s warranted), but that’s not what this review is about, unfortunately. All you need to know is that Avers proved themselves worthy of opening up a night for the Foo Fighters, and clearly made all of Richmond proud with a set that was truly magnificent.
Photo by @sbsmith10
After what felt like an eternity, project organizers Andrew Goldin, Brig White, John McAdorey, and Lucas Krost hit the stage with smiles wider than the Grand Canyon as they led an RVA chant and thanked everyone possible for their success (with the help of copious f-bombs). They downplayed their contribution by saying it was really us, the fans, who made it happen, but we all know that’s just being humble. If it wasn’t for the four’s constant promotion (to the point of polite and necessary badgering), this never would happened. It’s true. Foo Fighters weren’t coming to Richmond without Andrew, Brig, John, and Lucas getting together, starting something, and having the determination to actually pull it off. All the kudos in the world to them. As they left the stage and the crew continued with their sound check, the crowd erupted multiple times into chants of Foo Fighters and RVA before finally, the band answered the call.
Photo by Sarah Nunnally
As Dave Grohl, Taylor Hawkins, Chris Shiflett, Nate Mendel, & Pat Smear entered the stage and assumed their positions for the next two and half hours, the beyond capacity crowd practically exploded with cheers to fill up The National in a way that’s easily never been done before. Never has and never will again. Even if Foo Fighters come back in a month and sell out The Coliseum, no way in hell the people there will be as rowdy and receptive as this crowd. Dave Grohl stood there taking it all in at first before feverishly working his way into the opening song, “All My Life,” which kicked off an unforgettable set that highlighted their illustrious career. Dave took plenty of time to address the crowd, but for the most part, the band spent their time rocking from one song to the next whether it was a big hit like “The Pretender” or a forgotten track like “Hey, Johnny Park!” One hundred and fifty minutes blew by, as did the 20-plus songs from their 20-plus year career. Their set played out on easily one of the smaller stages the band has played on in the past decade, but the band was as comfortable as ever delivering pure rock and roll to a sold out crowd hanging on every guitar strum, head bob, and cymbal crash.
Photo by @callmerobey
Dave Grohl had plenty of words to say about the event, most notably that despite the many years he’s been in the business, he’s “never played a show like this before.” As much as he raved about the event and crowd, the loquacious frontman was even more candid as he expressed his love for Richmond itself, and its musical history. He dedicated the song “Weenie Beenie” to local metal band Lamb Of God, name dropped Milk and Death Piggy (both of which featured members from GWAR), and had stars in his eyes as he discussed the first time he saw GWAR in its proper form when visiting his sister at VCU. He even laughed as he told the story of the late, great Dave Brockie insulting him and his Grammy “accolades.” During “Arlandria,” a song with clear Virginia ties, he pointed out his mom in the balcony, describing her as the “Sweet Virginia” from the song’s lyrics as people rushed to snap a photo of the rock God’s mother. The band’s banter, particularly from Dave and Taylor, has a strong reputation for being candid and hilarious and this show was no exception, as they joked about pandering to the crowd and teased Pat Smear. Dave himself even sang a love song to some random fan in the audience early on, in probably the weirdest moment of the night. But it was the way Dave spoke about Richmond, Virginia, and the crowd itself that gave his words that unadulterated emotion you know can never be replicated.
Photo by @teslalalalalalalala
The crowd at The National – where do I even begin? I’ve been to plenty of sold out shows at The National and seen tons of amazing crowds show up for those, but nothing compares to this. For one, there’s “sold out” and then there was this crowd. The floor, the balcony, and even the VIP section were all filled completely to the brim with people absolutely hungry for anything and everything Foo. The band played a good chunk of older, lesser-known tracks and the crowd ate them all up, whether it was “I’ll Stick Around” from the first album or “Up In Arms” from The Colour And The Shape. The crowd even gave a huge reaction to Pat Smear, something Dave was clearly taken aback by. I don’t know if there were a lot of Germs fans in the audience or if they just know how underrated Pat’s contribution to the band is, but as a fan of the peanut butter cretins, I kind of hope it’s the former.
Photo by @fortis_et_ignis
The band ended their proper set with what can easily be described as their signature song: “Everlong.” Of course, it got perhaps the loudest reaction of the night. After wrapping up an insanely great version, the quintet departed for a quick breath before being practically ordered by the crowd to come back for more. They were more than happy to oblige with a three song encore of “Times Like These,” “This Is A Call,” and “Best Of You” delivered with the same musical vigor as the first notes the crowd had heard two hours prior. After bringing up a family of God knows how many from the floor to sit on the stage and enjoy the show comfortably, Dave closed out the night remarking how it certainly won’t be another long wait before the band returns to Richmond, possibly even at The National. You could say that’s a pipe dream, but so was this concert in the first place–and it happened.
Photo by @hellatall
There’s too much to say about the Foo Fighters return performance in Richmond, and no amount of words or pictures will accurately describe it for those who weren’t there. You just missed out. There’s just no way those who were there could forget the roar of the crowd when Dave first became visible shortly after 9 pm, or the visual of just how many people were lined up an hour before the doors even opened. We won’t forget Dave leading the crowd to chant along to “My Hero,” or having Dave order the lights to be turned out so his band could rock out for a little bit in full mystery. We won’t forget Pat’s unbelievable sneer as he played with the snarky tone he’s famous for, and we certainly won’t forget Taylor Hawkins looking like he took an ice bucket challenge by the end of the night. Every word, every song, every moment; it’s on repeat today in the minds of that crowd of 1500, and will be for months to come. Even if the Foo Fighters come back to The National every year for the next decade, they’ll never be able to capture the pure magic that was floating around the venue on that night. Richmond will try for years to top this show, but it’s never going to happen. The crowdfunding that made this happen can definitely be called a game-changer, but what’s even more game-changing is just how amazing the crowd was that night, and just how unbelievable the Foo Fighters really are live.