Foo Fighters will close out JAS Labor Day Experience on Sunday

Paul Pawlowski
Special to The Aspen Times
Dave Grohl of the Foo Fighters performs at Festival d'été de Québec on Saturday, July 8, 2023, at Plains of Abraham in Quebec City.
Amy Harris/Invision/AP

To really appreciate what you have, it is important to know what got you here. 

The natural wonders of Aspen have a way of providing comfort, healing, and rejuvenation. So, anyone familiar with the recent history of Dave Grohl and his bandmates in Foo Fighters would understand if the only thing bringing them to the Roaring Fork Valley this weekend was a well-deserved break to seek solace and continue recovering from the loss of Taylor Hawkins, the band’s beloved, charismatic drummer.  

Hawkins’ unexpected death at 50 years old on March 25, 2022, sent shockwaves of grief through the music community and shattered those who were closest to him. As Grohl’s “best friend and partner in crime,” losing him was also a devastating personal blow, which could have understandably brought about the end of Foo Fighters; but the tragedy is something all too sadly familiar to Grohl. Music has always given him tools to forge ahead.  

As the drummer for Nirvana, the trailblazing band synonymous with the grunge movement of the 1990s, he helped create the soundtrack of a generation. He also saw the band’s meteoric rise to stardom and his personal life come crashing down when lead singer and songwriter Kurt Cobain committed suicide on April 5, 1994.  

Left adrift in the wake of his friend’s death and the band’s demise, Grohl turned to the only thing he knew to guide the way forward. To help cope with the loss and his grief, he wrote and recorded songs that started out as an “experiment” but quickly became the blueprint for Grohl’s next musical chapter — and was released as a new band’s eponymous debut album, “Foo Fighters.”  

Stepping out from behind the drumkit to center stage, he had to navigate his transformation to frontman. Embracing this as a rebirth, he dusted himself off, assembled a band, and threw himself into the music that combined hard rock, pop, and energy reminiscent of his punk roots, as well as the genre-defining sound he helped establish in Nirvana. As the Foo Fighter catalog grew, the band evolved and became as well-known for more delicate melodies as its hard guitar riffs, thundering drums, and his throat-shredding vocals.   

The Foo’s, as they are also known, quickly built momentum to become a “well-oiled stadium rock machine.” They built a reputation for their marathon, adrenaline-filled live shows, which approached — and sometimes exceeded — three hours.  

From the opening chord to the final cymbal crash, the band gives audiences their money’s worth. Watching Grohl perform, you get the impression that he does not take a single second of the rare air he occupies for granted. Running from one side of the stage to the other, his movements are a frenzy of arena-rock guitar licks interrupted by hair-splaying, head-banging howls of unbridled joy. 

Josh Freese of the Foo Fighters performs at Festival d’ete de Quebec on Saturday, July 8, 2023, at Plains of Abraham in Quebec City.
Amy Harris/Invision/AP

It sometimes seems as though he just cannot believe he is up there onstage. Often stopping to gratefully soak in a moment to be one with the audience and hear his lyrics sung back to him in a “time-delayed, full-throated singalong” by thousands of people, Grohl is energized by how he moves them. Whether the gratitude comes from having a second chance at a one-in-a-million opportunity or from just realizing the rock star dreams of a kid from the Virginia suburbs who learned to play drums on pillows in his bedroom, nothing stops him from taking the stage.  

In one of the band’s most memorable performances on June 12, 2015, in Gothenburg, Sweden, he severely broke his leg two songs into the show. Undaunted, he returned to the stage and continued to perform before 50,000 fans while a doctor held his grotesquely broken limb in place. 

Further cementing his reputation for resilience and a sense of humor, Grohl continued to perform the rest of the 2015 tour seated at an on-stage throne similar to the “Game of Thrones.” The Iron Throne was colorfully adorned with guitar parts, lights, and a Foo Fighters logo.

He later wrote of the inciting incident in his autobiography, “The Storyteller: Tales of Life and Music,” that he knew “we just experienced a defining moment in our career. This band, born from the heartbreak and tragedy of our broken past, was a celebration of love, life, and the dedication to finding happiness every day. And now, more than ever, it represented healing and survival.”  

Picking himself up, Grohl did back then what he always does — and continues to do: Turn to the music, the live performances, and the audiences that lift him up, sustain him, and bring him salvation. 

In a career marked with tragedy and filled with milestones, including two inductions into The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame with Nirvana in 2014 and Foo Fighters in 2021, he clearly has earned many hard-learned lessons.  

A conspicuous absence will be felt on Sunday at the drum kit, left vacant by the departed Hawkins. On May 21, the band revealed its new drummer: Josh Freese, who has played with Guns N’ Roses, Nine Inch Nails, Weezer, Sublime, and Sting, among others.

The 2023 tour, and certainly this stop in the Roaring Fork Valley, will be another major step along the timeline of one of modern music’s most seminal bands and one of its most enduring frontmen. Whether you are coming to watch history unfold, share a cathartic scream, be uplifted, or just be entertained, Foo Fighters are certain to give it their all and deliver a night to remember. 

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