Originally scheduled to play at Club Congress, Foster the People was moved across the street to the much larger Rialto Theatre due to overwhelming demand. How a band managed to go from booking a show at a venue with a capacity of about 350 to selling out a theater holding more than 1,400 illustrates how social media can ignite an unstoppable frenzy, turning little-knowns into must-sees. It was a remarkable process to witness, and it culminated in a high-energy, intensely fun performance.
Opening act Gardens and Villa were led by vocalist, flutist and guitarist Chris Lynch, whose wide vocal range is reminiscent of that of Beach House's Victoria Legrand. While synthesizers were the common denominator in each song, the similarities in each track end there. The five-piece band from Santa Barbara took catchy pop and added unexpected, meticulously arranged effects, helping the material delve into far more innovative territory than today's typical commercial pop output. It made for a whimsical blend of influences from the 1960s to the 1980s—including playing a flute while standing on one leg, à la Jethro Tull, and quotes from Fleetwood Mac lyrics. At times, it felt like I was being serenaded inside of an Atari video game. This boundary-pushing Euro-pop act finished their stellar set with a spectacular rendition of "Cars" by Gary Numan. I found it difficult to accept that their first album was released on the very day of this show; they were on fire.
Squeals welcomed Foster the People to the stage; it is hard to believe Foster the People released one song on the Internet just a year ago, and through various repostings, word of mouth and celestial alignments, they now have a sold-out tour. There's no denying their talent and drive. They put on one hell of a show, opening with tribal drumming that led into a solid set of electronic- and guitar-based radio-friendly sing-along pop. You could see the look of disbelief and gratitude all over the face of lead vocalist/guitarist Mark Foster when he stood above the energetic crowd on a barricade while performing breakout hit "Pumped Up Kicks."