Foo Fighters Turn Strip Mall Into Stadium for Record Store Day

Record Store Day ambassador Dave Grohl and company invade Niles, Ohio to perform at a local record shop down the road from the rocker's hometown

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Foo Fighters
Foo Fighters played an intimate gig at a record store in a Niles, Ohio strip mall to celebrate Record Store Day. Theo Wargo

Foo Fighters singer/guitarist Dave Grohl was feeling a bit nostalgic when he joined his bandmates for an intimate concert at the Record Connection — an independent record store nestled in a nondescript shopping plaza in Niles, Ohio, which rests just down the road from his Warren hometown.

"We're not far from my grandma's house," said Grohl, who is this year's Record Store Day ambassador and organized the show for 150 or so lucky fans to mark the occasion. "It's just up the road, actually."

He also regaled the audience with tales of riding his motorcycle past Warren's Dave Grohl Alley ("Kegger in the alley!" he shouted in invite) and of relatives who once worked near the record shop, including an uncle who formerly clerked at a shoe store in the same plaza. Indeed, it seemed weirdly appropriate when the frontman growled "memories keep haunting me" amidst a churlish "Arlandria."

Foo Fighters, which performed here as a six-piece, cast a similar glance back in its hourlong set, drawing heavily from Songs From the Laundry Room, a collection of early demos the band released in coordination with Record Store Day.

"Here's something we don't do that often," said Grohl as the crew rolled into a rough-and-tumble "Alone + Easy Target." The musicians also unearthed a punk-ish cover of Kim Wilde's "Kids in America," from 1981, and breezed through a melodic "Big Me," off Foo Fighters eponymous 1995 debut, which is now just a year removed from reaching the legal drinking age (the Foos have plans to mark the anniversary with a day-long concert in Washington, D.C. on July 4).

On its HBO series Sonic Highways, the band proved itself adept at adapting to a variety of spaces — a skill set that came in handy here. With its florescent lighting, tiled ceiling and carpeted floors, the small room appeared better suited to a business conference than a rock show. But Grohl would have none of that.

"I know we're in a strip mall," he howled. "[But] let's pretend this is a stadium!"

So while a handful of numbers evoked gritty punk dives (particularly a ferocious, set-opening "White Limo," driven by Grohl's gnarled-root screams), the band didn't shy from arena excess, leading audience-wide sing-alongs ("My Hero") and padding "The Pretender" with myriad solos that transformed the tune into an extended, shapeshifting beast. Over the course of 15 minutes, the song swung from buzzing, shoegaze-leaning passages to a section that conjured images of back country bar band stomping its way through a sweaty roadhouse boogie.

"I will never surrender!" repeated Grohl, while the players dug in as though they were gearing up for their final stand.

At one point near the song's close, Grohl even swapped places with drummer Taylor Hawkins — a reminder he once manned the kit for another high-profile band prior to launching the Foos two decades ago.

That group, Nirvana, was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame last year, and according to Grohl, this small-venue Ohio show stemmed from his adoration for one of this year's inductees: Joan Jett & the Blackhearts. After receiving word of Jett's induction, Grohl said his immediate response was "we should be there," and he rearranged his schedule in order to attend the April 18 festivities in Cleveland. Fortunately for those in attendance, he incorporated a brief detour down Memory Lane into his travel plans.

Set list:
"White Limo"
"Arlandria"
"Congregation"
"The Pretender"
"Big Me"
"Outside"
"My Hero"
"Alone + Easy Target"
"Kids of America" (Kim Wilde cover)
"Everlong"

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