By Billy Ludt
The clock strikes noon on Saturday and silence enters the small, carpeted room near the Record Connection in Niles. Conversations end and classic rock music ceases playing through the speakers. All eyes watch the stage.
Seconds later, the Foo Fighters, led by front man Dave Grohl, take the stage. The room of 150 people breaks into an uproar. Grohl slings the strap of his guitar over his shoulder and approaches the microphone.
“Hi! Good morning,” Grohl said. “Happy Record Store Day, everybody.”
Grohl’s amplified words split the room of cheering voices.
“We’re going to play a bunch of songs as fast as we can, so we’re going to have a good time here,” Grohl said.
On that note, Grohl and his band mates break into the first song of their set, “White Limo.” Leaving no time for the crowd to react, Grohl begins playing and screaming into the microphone, making every body in the room move.
People in the crowd sing along, jump, pump their fists and fan themselves. The records dangling from the ceiling by fishing line sway from the flailing limbs knocking them.
“I know we’re in a f—ing strip mall, but, actually, my uncle just told me that the first job he ever had was in a shoe store in this little shopping center,” Grohl said. “So, let’s pretend — let’s pretend this is a stadium show.”
Grohl proceeds to bang his head, play a few notes and hold for a moment, allowing the crowd to yell lyrics.
Posters for the Foo Fighters’ HBO show “Sonic Highways,” “Roger Waters: The Wall” and a plethora of local shows are pasted to the white walls. Between the posters stand security guards.
The window built into the wall behind the stage fogs. Grohl’s hair shrouds his face, and the only visible feature, his mouth, moves on a pivot, stuck to the microphone. His body and head move in every direction, but his mouth never leaves the microphone.
The Foo Fighters finish playing their 2007 single, “Pretender,” and Grohl starts telling a story.
“Originally we were going to play somewhere else, but then we found out that Joan Jett was getting into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, right?” Grohl said. “We’re very excited about that. So we thought, ‘Well okay, damn. We should be there.’”
Grohl explains how they contemplated playing a show in St. Louis and then flying to Cleveland for the induction ceremony.
“Someone had the bright idea, like, ‘Wow, you should f—ing play in the town where you were born,’” Grohl said. “I have lots of memories. We’re not very far from Grandma’s house. She’s up the road.”
Grohl goes on to talk about the band’s day in Warren and Niles. Grohl rode around the towns on a motorcycle, revisiting his birthplace and even passing by the alley that bears his name.
“Kegger in the alley,” Grohl said as they continued to play.
People unable to get a ticket for the intimate show sit outside and listen as the music passes through the double doors. Entry for the Foo Fighters’ show was only given to the first 150 people who preordered their new album, “Songs From the Laundry Room,” Thursday morning at the Record Connection at 10 a.m.
A stagnant heat settles in the impromptu venue. From the back of the crowd, nothing but heads are visible. Everyone shuffles around in the small space between themselves and the next person. Raised fists in the crowd reveal multiple tattooed wrists bearing the Foo Fighters’ logo.
The Foo Fighters finished playing a cover of Kim Wilde’s, “Kids in America,” when Grohl began giving final remarks.
“Well, hey. Thanks for f—ing coming,” Grohl said. “It’s a great way to start the day. Well, thanks for coming and we’ll see you when we come back soon, we hope.”
The Foo Fighters finished their Record Store Day set with the song, “Everlong.”
The announcement that the Foo Fighters would be playing in a small empty room next to the Record Connection in the Pine Tree Plaza for Record Store Day was announced the morning of Wednesday, April 15. Zack Lovitz and Jake Mathews were sitting out on the sidewalk, waiting for tickets before noon the day of the announcement.
“I just saw [the announcement] on Twitter this morning right when I got off work and came straight here,” Mathews said. “Dave Grohl’s my idol.”
When asked about sleeping arrangements, Mathews pointed to a bundled up sleeping bag and a half empty case of water nestled against the wall behind him.
“I wasn’t planning on doing this,” Lovitz said. “Jeff (Record Connection’s owner) kept telling me, ‘Big announcement in 15.’”
Lovitz woke up that morning and saw the announcement for the show.
“So, I came down here to see what the deal was, and I was like, ‘Alright. I’m going to stand here in line and call off work,’” Lovitz said. “I just want to hang out with Pat Smear (rhythm guitarist) so goddamn bad.”
Once the show ended, fans caught Grohl, drummer Taylor Hawkins and rhythm guitarist Pat Smear outside for autographs. A maroon motorcycle accompanied the motorcade waiting outside the venue for the band. Grohl hopped on the bike, drove under the caution tape surrounding the motorcade and rode off on his own.
In the final remarks during the show, Grohl expressed an interest in hopes of one day performing again in his hometown.
“It might not be like this, because it’s never going to be cooler than this,” Grohl said. “Happy Record Store Day.”