It was a night of rock history for Richmond.
In the first major crowdfunded rock concert, the Foo Fighters took the stage at the National before 1,500 rabid fans who rarely stopped clapping, singing along or shooting cell phone video for the entire two and a half hour set.
All day long, the National was deluged with fans picking up bracelets; diehards who had contributed money as part of the Tilt crowdfunding campaign that raised $70,000 to bring the band back after a 16-year absence.
Dave from DC was there because his friend Prabir Mehta – who was recently badly injured in a mugging – had given him his ticket. Many others won tickets through contest promotions. There was a buzz in the air from the get go.
It was rumored that “60 Minutes” was present with a team reporting, not to mention other national media outlets. Earlier in the day, Mayor Dwight C. Jones had issued a proclamation declaring "Foo Fighters Day" in Richmond.
Locals Avers kicked things off by stepping up their game and delivering a strong set of heavy, psychedelic tinged rock that kept most of the Foo fans entertained. Then the organizers -- fans Andrew Goldin, Brig White, John McAdorey and Lucas Krost – took the stage and pumped up the crowd, expressing their deep gratitude to everyone involved while also seeming exactly like the excited fanboys they are.
This was clearly a night for the fans. Foo frontman and guitarist Dave Grohl continued to drive home this point. A Virginia native, Grohl is a charming guy who clearly loves what he does; from the moment he bounded onstage with his guitar, he kept the energy high and the FM stadium rock at full blitzkrieg. He was aided by a tight three-guitar attack featuring strong drum work by Taylor Hawkins and workman-like guitar by Pat Smear, formerly of the influential punk group, the Germs.
The Foo Fighters are a 20-year-old band and about two months away from releasing its next record, “Sonic Highways.” But tonight, Grohl said he was going to dig deep in the band’s catalog. The entire night he displayed a veteran sense of showmanship -- the kind won by playing packed stadiums around the world.
“I've played a lot of shows," Grohl told the ecstatic crowd. "But I've never played a show like this before."
While the band tore through its songs, Grohl stalked the stage, long hair flailing. He pointed out his mother in the balcony several times (his sister attended Virginia Commonwealth University) and at one point, told a story about how he first came to Richmond to see Death Piggy and later Gwar, which blew his fragile, eggshell mind.
“One of the greatest non-compliments I ever got in my life: I saw an interview with Dave Brockie,” Grohl said. “He said, ‘Dave Grohl’s actually had teeth removed so he could fit more Grammy dicks in his mouth.’ So let’s give it up for Brockie. He would hate that I’m dedicating a song to him.” Later, Grohl dedicated a heavier song to local metal band Lamb of God.
Avers bassist Alexandra Spalding said during the Foos set how much fun the night had been for the local band –- and how impressed she was by Grohl’s intense energy level. “He’s amazing, even at soundcheck, he was like, ‘Wooooo!! so glad to be here.”
Gary Bongiovanni, the CEO of Pollstar, a trade publication for the concert industry, says that while there have been some small shows crowdfunded before, he had never heard of anything quite like this with such a major artist.
"I think Grohl did it because he could and it was an interesting thing for him," Bongiovanni says. "I don’t know if it’s a business model for the future."
Bongiovanni believes there will be some situations where it makes sense, but the difference would be in the ability of everyday fans to produce a viable event without the handholding of a major artist.
"I think the Foos were comfortable coming in because they were aware Bill Reed of the National was involved," he says.
Bongiovanni admits that there is tremendous ongoing experimentation via social media in regards to the concert industry. He notes that something like crowdfunding for concerts might make even more sense for smaller bands who are exploring where to build their fanbase.
SET LIST: • All My Life • I'll Stick Around • Rope • Up in Arms • Big Me • White Limo • Arlandria • My Hero • Cold Day in the Sun • Generator • Walk • These Days • The Pretender • Learn to Fly • Breakout • Skin and Bones • Weenie Beenie • Monkey Wrench • Hey, Johnny Park! • Everlong Encore: • Times Like These • This Is a Call • Best of You