With their ninth album, Concrete and Gold, coming out on September 15th, Foo Fighters were already set for a busy release week. With several secret shows, a festival date, TV and radio spots, and a sold out show at the O2, it looked as though they could do no more.
Then, on September 11th, they announced that, on the Thursday of the same week, a pub bearing their name would open in the East End of London.
The Foo Fighters Arms was, for one week only, a place of pilgrimage for fans from all over the world. Whether they were already in London, or just visiting, people made plans to trek to Bethnal Green and take in what was probably going to be a once in a lifetime opportunity.
I made the journey on Monday (September 18th) to see if the pub lived up to the hype that I was seeing on social media. The pub was based in what would normally be the Dundee Arms on Cambridge Heath Road. In recent years, the area has seen an upturn in regeneration and what was once a gritty East End pub is now a slightly less gritty East End Pub that serves micro-brewery beers.
Knowing that the pub wasn’t supposed to open until 4pm, I turned up early in the hope of meeting new people and that it would open a little earlier. It didn’t. Apparently the times had been changed to 6.30pm and no one had been notified. Oops… (Thankfully, they did manage to open at 5.30pm, which gave me time to nip in and have a look before making a run back to the Midlands.)
Rounding the corner and being greeted by the hanging sign bought probably the biggest smile to my face. In the early afternoon light, it looked incredible and I felt honoured that I’d been able to make the trip.
There was a long wait ahead of us and, thankfully, several other fans had already arrived. They’d travelled from Manchester and Birmingham (via Germany, a trip that they’d cut short to make it back in time to visit the pub). As always, there was that wonderful sense of camaraderie with people swapping stories and contact details. When music fans get together, something special happens, and a kind of magic weaves around them as they learn one another’s names and where they’ve travelled from. There’s a bond there, one that was created by the songs that they love, and it doesn’t matter who you are, or where you’re from, it’s guaranteed that someone will talk to you. And before you know it, half of the line are the best of friends with the other half. It’s so beautiful to watch and incredible to experience!
When we finally made our way inside, I felt the privilege of having been able to visit wash over me. Because we’d waited in line for so long, security allowed just the first ten people to enter and gave us a few minutes to take it all in and to grab the photographs that are now dotted across social media. You’ll have seen the group portrait as well as all of the individual ones. Above the bar was a red, neon Foo Fighters sign and the band’s new logo decorated windows, mirrors, and chalkboards. Nestled on a shelf above the velvet seats were copies of every one of the band’s albums. The TV showed Foo Fighters videos and concerts on repeat and their songs streamed from the stereo. In the outside smoking area, old concert posters had been plastered across the walls to create the image of a much loved music venue.
With just thirty minutes until I had to leave, I managed to get in to the store and collect the items that friends had asked for. One of the people from the line offered to buy me a drink and, well, when in Rome… The La Dee Da IPA was lovely! A crisp golden colour and with a light taste. Definitely one I’ll buy if it ever gets a commercial release!
Being in a room with a group of like-minded people was a wonderful and refreshing experience. It doesn’t matter who you are or where you’re from, to spend time in presence of people with similar interests is beautiful. It’s time well spent and something that I’ll now never take for granted. For me, this time spent talking and laughing and singing was the absolute highlight of the day. Despite the delays and the rain and the distance that was travelled, it was an experience that will stay with me for many months to come.
Did you visit The Foo Fighters Arms? Did you meet anyone new? What did you think? Leave your experiences in the comments below!