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Party at Harlow’s with Foster the People

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You know that song with the can’t-get-it-out-of-your-head whistling called "Young Folks" by Peter Bjorn and John that people seem to either love or hate?

Los Angeles band Foster the People has a comparable track called "Pumped Up Kicks" – a sing-along with a cheery melody and dark lyrics about youth gun violence – that has the same effect.

Polarizing song? For sure.

One-hit wonder band? It doesn’t look like it.

Without seeming like they had anything to prove, the young group with more buzz than a beehive let its music speak for itself for a sold-out crowd at Harlow’s Thursday night.

Support act The Chain Gang of 1974 (aka Kamtin Mohager) from Denver came ready to warm up the crowd with solid post-punk and new wave stylings. Imagine The Bravery writing an album after watching a 24-hour John Hughes marathon.

The Chain Gang had played Sacramento before, and things were a little different this time around.

"The last time we played here was at a pizza place in front of two people," Mohager told the packed house, referencing a November 2010 show at Luigi’s Slice Fungarden.

Foster the People is vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Mark Foster, bassist and backing vocalist Cubbie Fink and drummer Mark Pontius. Originally called Foster & the People, the new name stuck after the original was misheard enough times and the band warmed to the image it invoked of "taking care" of the people.

The synth-enhanced dance-rock music and Foster’s falsetto draw comparisons to Passion Pit and MGMT, but they still find a way to project an identity and make their broad pop sound unique. It took about an hour for the band to run through all 11 songs on their recently released debut album, “Torches”.

Although you would have no problem throwing on “Torches” as the soundtrack to your summer pool party, the songs come alive and breathe when performed live. A track like "Broken Jaw" really shines when performed live, allowing Foster to demonstrate his vocal range and making at least one person in the crowd turn to his friend with his own jaw dropped in amazement as soon as it was over.

The band members had fun as they rotated on instruments throughout the show, taking turns on the various synths and energetically banging on the stand-up bass drum. Can’t go wrong with a tastefully used Apache war drum.

Throw in some yellow maracas and a drunk blonde in a black dress from the audience dancing on stage, and you have yourself a very satisfying, high-energy soiree.

With sold-out shows as they tour through October, upcoming performances at huge music festivals (Lollapalooza, ACL Music Festival) and iTunes love ("Helena Beat" was the Free Single last week), expect Foster the People to keep the party going for a while.

Photos by Steven Chea

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