November 17, 2014
by Tony Thaxton

The Foo Fighters do everything right. I’m not saying that as some super fan who claims they don’t write any bad songs. Sure, I like them. I always have. But I don’t like ALL of their songs. I’m not even really talking about their songs, though; I’m talking more about everything else they do. They are a band having fun. They’re a band being a band for all of the right reasons.  

Take it back to the beginning. In 1994, Dave Grohl found himself suddenly without a band. He had a bunch of songs he had written, though, so he recorded them, played all of the instruments himself and called it Foo Fighters. It was that simple. He only called it Foo Fighters to let people judge the songs on their own merits, rather than them being the new project from “the guy in Nirvana.” He had no real intention with it—he just wanted to make some music.

Grohl has said in interviews that he thinks Foo Fighters is a terrible name and if he had known it would last for 20 years, he would have put more thought into the name. That’s maybe the only thing he’s really done wrong. And at the end of the day, I think it worked out alright.

Obviously, things kind of took off after that. It’s pretty amazing that he was able to find a way to not just be “the drummer of Nirvana.” He pulled a Phil Collins. There aren’t many drummers who have moved out from behind the drums to go on and front a successful band. That in itself is quite an accomplishment.  

What I love about Foo Fighters is that they seem to genuinely enjoy what they are doing, even after all of these years. So many bands seem to just be going through the motions, or feel the need to have a look or a gimmick. The Foo Fighters just seem to love playing music. Take, for example, their recent week-long residency on The Late Show with David Letterman. Sure, they were there promoting their new record Sonic Highways and HBO series of the same name. But they waited until their final day on the show to even play one of their own songs. Every single night of the week they played a cover song with a special guest. Songs they weren’t trying to sell somewhere. Songs they just wanted to play. I certainly wasn’t expecting a performance of “War Pigs” alongside Zac Brown, but it was badass. The whole week was. They even pulled the ol’ switcheroo when they covered Cheap Trick’s “Stiff Competition” with Rick Nielson joining them on guitar; Grohl and drummer Taylor Hawkins switched places for the night. Grohl went back on drums and Hawkins took over lead vocals, complete in a Robin Zander-inspired white suit.  And it ruled. You could just tell how much fun it was for them all.  

Sure, it’s much easier for a band the size of the Foos to do the things they do. Not just any young band could pull off stuff like this. But I never get the impression they are doing anything just to make a quick buck.  They seem to genuinely like each other, and love playing music. They seem to do things because they love doing them. Look at the Sonic Highways series; sure, it chronicles the making of their new record, but it’s not solely about that. It’s the story of American music, and Grohl’s love of it. And it’s not a narrow-minded view of music. Sure, Grohl grew up in Virginia loving punk rock. But he also has a love and appreciation for music in general. He likes what he likes, and makes no apologies for it.

Just look at the bill for their upcoming show next year at Wrigley Field.  Their openers are Cheap Trick and Naked Raygun, bands that make next to no sense together, but bands that the Foos love. I’m sure Naked Raygun never expected they’d someday play Wrigley Field. But that’s pretty amazing.

Whether you like Foo Fighters or not, young bands should take note.  You could learn a lot from them. Appreciate where the music you love came from. Do it for the right reasons. You’ll be a lot happier, and probably last a lot longer if you do. 

Tony Thaxton played drums in Motion City Soundtrack from 2002-2013. He currently hosts the Feliz Navipod podcast and drums in The Pride of Erie PA. Follow him on twitter.