If Tuesday night’s sold-out Foster the People show proved one thing it’s that radio is not dead, at least in Santa Barbara. Co-promoted by Club Mercy and KJEE 92.9, the evening was a far cry from FTP’s last S.B. stint, where they were one member lighter and sandwiched in between local boys Gardens & Villa and synth shredding Spaniards Delorean. Since that fateful September night, Foster’s not only signed a hefty recording contract (with Columbia), but scored themselves a ubiquitous rock radio hit (“Pumped Up Kicks”). They’ve also seriously tightened their show, which brought no shortage of programmed beats and dual drummer percussion work to SOhO’s packed house on Tuesday.
Starting the night off were those other burgeoning Los Angelinos, We Barbarians, who have been plugging away — and earning some sizable opening slots — in recent months. (Those who showed up early would best remember them from last December’s Passion Pit show at the Granada.) With a personal style (and penchant for David Byrne-penned covers) so reminiscent of the Local Natives, it’s tough not to make comparisons. But similarities or no, the trio put on a solid showing and provided the perfect, percussion-heavy start to Foster the People’s party.
Come show time, the main room went from full to downright jam packed, leaving me to wonder how the FTP boys would stretch their lone three-song EP to headlining act lengths. What we got was a set filled with high highs (namely, “Kicks” and set closer “Helena Beat”) and mediocre lows (including one reggae-tinged, Maroon 5-esque crooner that fell flatter than flat). Still, the majority of the under-an-hour set was both groove-worthy and well received. With addition of an auxiliary player, Foster’s drum builds and computer generated noises hit and hit hard. Likewise, the tracks we did know came far closer to their meticulously recorded counterparts than they had last year. In other words, with a little love and some time to grow, these guys could escape the threat of one-hit-wonderdom. My fingers are staying crossed ‘til the album drops.