The Foo Fighters celebrated their 20th anniversary with an all-star assemblage at Washington, D.C.’s RFK Stadium on July 4th. Dave Grohl proved that not even a broken leg could stop him from missing the hometown blowout he planned for Foo Fighters’ anniversary. Incredible artists like Buddy Guy, Trombone Shorty, Joan Jett and The Blackhearts, LL Cool J and Heart were tapped to join in the celebration. The day was filled with classic hits from groundbreaking artists, most of who were featured in HBO’s Grohl-directed music doc series, Sonic Highways.
D.C.-based rock/hip hop/punk fusion trio, RDGLDGRN (Red, Gold, Green) kicked off the festivities. In 2013, the band recorded their self-titled EP at Sound City Studios in L.A., where they met Grohl who played drums on their track, “I Love Lamp”, from that record.
New Orleans’ Trombone Shorty and Orleans Avenue transported the DC crowd straight to Jazz Fest opening with “The Craziest Things.” Shorty traded his signature trombone for a trumpet and wailed on a long solo. They covered Green Day’s “Brain Stew”, replacing verse vocals with Shorty’s signature trombone. A cover of Big Tymers’ “Get Your Roll On” closed out the set.
Joan Jett and The Blackhearts rocked their hits, like “Bad Reputation”, “Cherry Bomb”, and “I Hate Myself For Loving You”. Jett covered Tommy James and The Shondells’ “Crimson and Clover,” adding her signature rasp and distortion-heavy arrangement to the classic track.
As Jett’s set ended, concert organizers announced severe storms moving into the area, which resulted in an hour and half delay. Once the clouds cleared, however, the first licks of Gary Clark Jr.’s “Bright Lights” echoed through RFK Stadium, beckoning concert-goers back to the stadium field. He followed up with “When My Train Pulls In”, complete with incredible guitar solo, and included a version of his tune, “I’m Gone”.
Next up, Rock & Roll Hall of Famers Heart hit the stage, opening their show with “Crazy On You”. Ann and Nancy Wilson affirmed their rock maven status, bringing out all the hits. They played 80s-era tracks like “These Dreams” and “Straight On”, with Ann Wilson strolling the adjoining catwalk, belting out their famous rock anthems and closing with “Barracuda.”
Hip hop pioneer LL Cool J opened his set saying, “It feels good to be back in Chocolate City!” before launching into Biz Markie’s hit, “Just A Friend”. The excited D.C. crowd sang along with every word of LL’s 1990 hit, “Mama Said Knock You Out”, creating RFK Stadium’s signature ‘bounce’ effect with stands moving as fans jumped up and down in unison. LL’s “I Need Love” followed, and he finished with “Rock The Bells”, complete with head-spinning break-dancers on either side of the stage.
Chicago blues legend Buddy Guy opened his set with “Damn Right I Got The Blues”, and wailed on a teaser of Jimi Hendrix’s “Purple Haze”. Guy remarked of dreary Washington skies and played “Feels Like Rain”, using a drumstick to play his guitar during the solo. He brought out 16 year old protégé, Quinn Sullivan, a gifted guitarist who’s toured with Guy since the age of seven. The two played Cream’s “Strange Brew” and the blues standard “Meet Me In Chicago” to close out the set.
Local go-go music heroes Trouble Funk added a taste of D.C.’s unique music culture to the lineup. The band covered Wild Cherry’s “Play That Funky Music” with festival organizer/owner of D.C.’s renowned 9:30 Club, Seth Hurwitz, on drums. Trouble Funk performed their own hits as well, like “Hey Fellas” and “Pump Me Up”, with a snippet of 90s dance hall classic, “It’s Time For The Percolator” by Cajmere.
After their set, a large curtain with the Foo Fighters’ logo dropped over the stage. The anxious crowd cheered and turned collective attention to the screens flanking the stage. While fans waited for the band’s arrival, clips from HBO’s Sonic Highways series ran, spotlighting artists from the daylong festival’s stellar lineup.
When the stage lights went dark, the crowd roared as Dave Grohl’s distinctive scream echoed throughout the stadium. The curtain lifted to reveal Grohl gliding down the catwalk on a motorized throne, adorned with lights and guitar necks-somewhat reminiscent of the Iron Throne a la Game of Thrones, but altered with Foo Fighters’ benchmark kitsch. However, this throne was perfectly suited for the prevailing King of Rock & Roll, Dave Grohl.
The show opened chronicling the band’s history of hits, now classics, namely, “Everlong,” “Monkey Wrench,” and, ”The Pretender.”
Following the latter, Grohl screamed, “In Washington D.C., on the Fourth of July, people want to rock & roll…Light ‘em up, I want to see these mother fuckers.” House lights came on Grohl addressed his hometown crowd recounting youthful memories of RFK shows and his now famous fall from stage in Sweden where he fractured his leg. In true self-deprecating Grohl style, Dave explained, “We started playing our set… one guess what happened next…I fell off the fucking stage.” He showed the video clip of the fall, lowered and shook his head and said, “show it one more time.” The crowd cheered as Grohl next pointed to preliminary, hand-drawn sketches of his throne on the video screens. He pointed to a photo of himself on a morphine drip and said that he was rather intoxicated while designing his throne, but was not going to miss this show under any circumstances.
The band played some covers as well, including the Queen/Bowie classic “Under Pressure” and pieces of both “Owner Of A Lonely Heart” by Yes and “Another One Bites The Dust” by Queen were teased during band introductions. As they played their hit “Walk”, Grohl stopped in the middle of song to say, “You gotta sing this one with a smile on your face,” referencing lyrics, “Learning to walk, again…” and his severely broken leg.
Guitarists Pat Smear and Chris Shiflett accompanied Grohl for acoustic versions of “My Hero” and, “Times Like These,” then the band picked back up with all-out screeching renderings of, “All My Life,” and “This Is A Call.” The set ended with inspirational anthem, “Best Of You,” on which Grohl requested audience participation on vocals.
Grohl embraced his D.C. roots, saying that he hopes to hold a Fourth of July blowout at RFK again next year. As one of the hardest working musicians in the business, Grohl vowed not to let his broken leg cause him to miss his D.C. homecoming. Hopefully, by this time next year, Dave will not need a throne to make an entrance fit for a king.