WASHINGTON – More than two hours into their surprise show at the Black Cat, Foo Fighters frontman Dave Grohl turned to drummer Taylor Hawkins to ask how he felt.
“I’m feeling kind of sore, and like I’m 42,” Hawkins responded.
“Well, I’m feeling 45 and fine,” said Grohl before launching into another song and playing for another 30 minutes.
It’s not every day that a band like the Foo Fighters play smaller clubs like the Black Cat. Come to think of it, this wasn’t the first time the band put on a “surprise” show in D.C. In May, the Foo Fighters played a secret gig at the 9:30 Club to celebrate Trouble Funk bassist Big Tony’s birthday.
Grohl, who grew up in Springfield, Va., played in local hardcore band Scream before joining Nirvana and later forming the Foo Fighters.
The Black Cat show, which was just announced Tuesday afternoon, began with a screening of Grohl’s HBO series “Sonic Highways,” this one focused on the D.C. punk and go-go scenes.
The episode is heavy on interviews with people associated with the area’s hardcore punk scene — including Black Cat owner Dante Ferrando, and Ian Mackaye of Fugazi and Minor Threat, but also features archive footage of Chuck Brown, the Godfather of Go Go.
D.C. Mayor Vince Gray and up-and-coming band RDGLDGRN were also interviewed for the episode. While Ferrando, and Mackaye elicited cheers from the audience during the screening, Gray received audible boos every time he appeared on screen.
Still, the real highlight occurred when the Foo Fighters took the stage and played songs from the band’s nearly 20-year history, including the song “the Feast and the Famine,” which was recorded in Arlington’s Inner Ear Studios.
The song was not only recorded in the local studio, known for its association with area’s hardcore scene, but is about Washington, D.C. (There’s a notable reference to 14th and U Street, arguably the epicenter for local music.)
The track will be released on the Foo Fighters’ new album – also called “Sonic Highways” – out November 10.
On Friday, the band played a blistering mix of newer and older songs, including covers of Queen’s “Under Pressure,” Van Halen’s “Ain’t Talkin’ About Love” and Cheap Trick’s “Stiff Competition.”
For “Stiff Competition” Grohl and Hawkins traded places on the stage.
Seeing a band that usually plays arenas like the Verizon Center (with a capacity of over 18,000) play a venue like the Black Cat (capacity of about 700) is an entirely different experience. It allows a closeness to the band that isn’t there otherwise, and allows way more interaction with the band than usual.
At one point, a woman crowd surfed up to the stage. (Er, that isn’t allowed; she was quickly removed from the stage and the venue.) At one point, the aforementioned RDGLDGRN (pronounced Red, Gold, Green) took the stage to demonstrate the “chop” dance during Foo Fighter song, “Monkey Wrench.”
As for an encore, forget that. The band played straight through, ending with “Everlong,” a sing-along tune from 1997 album, “The Colour and the Shape.” The audience already sang along for much of the show, but Grohl kept shouting to the audience to sing louder.
The crowd seemed really excited for the Black Cat performance, but you couldn’t get in unless you bought tickets from the venue the day it was announced. There were grumblings on Twitter about how inaccessible the tickets were to people with day jobs.
Well, maybe not for everyone.
“It was the perfect alignment of everything for this to come together,” said lawyer Mike Santonocito, who was able to leave his office and buy tickets.
Others weren’t as lucky. Sam Melrod drove down from Baltimore on the day the show was announced, but arrived too late to get tickets. He came down again Friday afternoon and stood outside the show to beg for tickets with a series of signs.
“I will let Dave Grohl shave my head for a Ticket,” one sign said.
“Will do the Truffle Shuffle for a ticket,” said another.
Melrod conceded after a while: “I know that I had a less than one percent chance of getting a ticket by coming down here, but it was worth the shot.”
Melrod made friends with a man who came down from New York that day hoping for a ticket. He was a die-hard Foo Fighters fan, showing off one of the same tattoos Grohl has on his forearm.
It’s unclear if anybody had an extra ticket for either of them. The Foo Fighters had my full attention.