I've got (another) confession to make: despite spending most of my teenage years being into
rock music and having listened to "Everlong" probably over 600 times following the demise of an important two-month relationship at the age of 16, I only know three Foo Fighters songs. And in case you were wondering, these are the aforementioned: "Everlong", "Best of You" and "The Pretender" – three unavoidable songs.
Nonetheless, my lack of knowledge about The Foo made me the perfect person to check out their latest venture in a rational, non-biased manner. The location: a Foo Fighters pub, named 'The Foo Fighters Arms' and announced on Twitter with the words "KEEP CALM AND COME ON" (…come on what?). Running from last Friday 15 September to this Wednesday and incorporating a merchandise shop to coincide with the release of their ninth studio album Concrete & Gold, the question remains: why Dave Grohl, WHY are you doing this?
There are a litany of enquiries, really. Who will be there, what will be going on, will they be playing Foo Fighters all night, how, exactly, does one foo-sify a pub, will Dave Grohl AKA The Nicest Man in Rock™, be behind the bar pulling pints? To find out, I headed to east London on Friday evening, ready to meet some people and ask some questions – because, yes, rock has caught up with the times and the pop-up pub of Foo is located in cool and trendy Bethnal Green as opposed to dying and dark Camden. Anyway: let's get it.
When I arrive at 6PM I'm surprised to find there isn't a queue. Then I remember The Foo Fighters probably have the kind of fans that are a bit older and have real jobs with office hours, not jobless freelance hipsters like myself who are free to be anywhere at any time as long as it's not before the ungodly hour of 11AM. Entering to the sounds of "Best of You" on the speakers – one of the three Foo songs I know – I take this as a good sign for the night.
Right, what exactly is 'Foo' about this pub? The first thing I see is a lot of white men in different stages of white male life – namely: with hair, balding and bald. So far so Foo.
There is a neon "Foo Fighters" sign behind the bar, bespoke beers on tap named after tracks on the album ("Concrete & Gold", "La Dee Da", "Dirty Water"), a TV playing live footage of the lads doing their stuff, strictly Foo on the speakers (with the exception of one play of "Seven Nation Army", obviously). There's also a smoking den plastered with some animated Foo Fighters posters, surely because fans of the Foo Fighters love cartoons.
Perhaps the weirdest thing though is the fact the pub walls have been covered with oil-painting style posters of the band as some kind of Lords of Olde. These are good and funny and the punters are absolutely loving it, taking selfies with them, their little faces lit up with joy.
Beneath one of these priceless works of art, I get chatting to Tess and Jeff, a couple in their thirties. What's their verdict on the pub of Foo so far? "It's around the corner from our house. There's always sports on in here, it's quite nice to not have sports on," says Tess. Will they be buying any of the limited-edition merchandise on sale? "Probably not". So far, so normal. Well done Dave Grohl, this looks like it is going really really well.
After wandering around downstairs for a while debating whether or not I should have a grilled cheese toastie (the only thing here that is not Foo-themed), I decide to join the queue for the merch store – a line that begins upstairs and finishes downstairs deep into the pub. It's like a Supreme drop if Supreme's clientele was mostly badly-dressed (ill-fitting plaid shirts, pleather jackets, even-worse-fitting jeans) people in their thirties looking to buy branded pint glasses, rather than Insta-savvy 14-year-olds who can't wait to vote Tory just like mum.
I ask Marcus and Chloe, a couple in front of me in the queue about what they're looking to buy once they get upstairs. "Certainly not the £250 tea-set", says Marcus. Sorry what? "I gather there is a limited-edition teapot and cups available for £250. I might settle for a mug or a print". It seems that Foo Fighters have even more in common with Supreme than I initially thought, but with the key distinction that anyone buying said tea-set will probably be doing so with money earned from their steady and sensible office job and not using their mum's credit card.
One pint later, we gain access to the hallowed store. It's small and absolutely rammed with merch – mugs, prints, t-shirts, a penny board, key rings, pint glasses, the new album on vinyl – and the infamous tea set. It's also glaringly bright and crammed, and seems strangely cold and sterile compared to the jovial mood in the pub itself, so I descend the staircase to find some more Fun Foo Friends.
I notice the security guard in charge of the queue is wearing a ring with a skull on it, surely a clear signifier of a love of rock music. Is he a Foo Fighters fan? "I know a couple of their songs, but I don't know their names". That's a no. Will he be buying anything from the shop while he works here over the next five days? "Probably not, I'm into salsa. I'm Colombian". Shout out Rio the bouncer, a man after my own heart. True love.
But where are the super fans? The ones for whom Foo is life? The people who might actually buy that ridiculous tea set? Suddenly, I spot them, sitting in the corner, drinking the special edition Concrete & Gold IPA – Steph, Jean and Angie: daughter, mother and grandmother. Three generations of Foo fan, down from Manchester for the day just to come to The Foo Fighters Arms. With a tear in my eye, possibly due to being three pints of Dirty Water IPA deep at 8PM, I ask nan what her favourite Foo Fighters song is. The answer is "Breakout". I make a note to check out this new unheard (by me) track and take my personal Foo discography up to four.
Disappointingly, Dave Grohl isn't here in a wig pulling pints, although word on the streets (of the pub) is that Tuesday will be the day to return if you want to catch a sighting of The Grohl himself alongside the paintings. Joy has come up for a drink from Watford tonight, and will be back on Tuesday hoping to meet her hero. "I'm a huge Foo Fighters fan – Dave Grohl is the reason I started drumming".
Feeling slightly overwhelmed by all the niceness, I decide it's time to return to a more natural habit for mean little cynical shits like myself. By this time, people are queuing around the block to get in. I'm talking Supreme drop day levels of people, rivalling those of that merch queue downstairs. I decide to do one last journalism before I leave, and before I know it I'm having a Deep & Meaningful with three lads in the queue: James, Matt and Alex 'Birthday' Barlow.
Although having planned the trip up to London for Alex's birthday months in advance, the surprise pop-up has added yet another layer of fun to the weekend's proceedings. We're back to the topic of Dave Grohl: "Obviously he was in that grunge scene with Nirvana and all that, but he took that further and went and created his own sound, his own band, and no-one's been able to touch him since," James tells me.
"And yeah, he might have done a couple shit albums since – and I would say that to his face and he would accept it! Dave Grohl is a man of the music". Would you call him a man of the people? "A man of the people, a man of the music. All he does is he writes music because he loves music". Whom amongst us does not have a couple of shit albums? Let him cast the first stone!
At the end of the day though, it all comes back to this, doesn't it: £250 tea sets sold to fans in a pop-up pub in Bethnal Green. Grunge, rock – whatever. I want to finish by saying something about Kurt Cobain spinning in his grave but that is mean and I am a nice person after my time in the Foo Fighters Arms so instead I will end as so: see you back there on Tuesday, my lovely friends. While writing this piece I also discovered I've previously heard "Monkey Wrench". Great song. Great band. Great bunch of really nice people.