How do you follow-up a stint in the most influential and impactful rock band of your generation? Start the most consistent and long-lasting one. Suddenly relieved of his drummer duties in Nirvana following Kurt Cobain’s 1994 suicide, Dave Grohl dropped his sticks and grabbed his pick, assuming the role of singer/guitarist for a new solo project he dubbed Foo Fighters (named after a World War II-era military term for UFOs). His scrappy 1995 debut under the alias—performed and recorded almost entirely on his own—revealed a Cobain-like gift for folding insidious hooks into raw, grungy riffs. But on the more polished 1997 follow-up, The Colour and the Shape, Grohl revealed a commercial ambition and crowd-pleasing congeniality that his former group never would’ve entertained. On that record, the Foos became a proper band, with Grohl flanked by former Germs and Nirvana touring guitarist Pat Smear, Sunny Day Real Estate bassist Nate Mendel, and the hard-hitting but ever-affable drummer Taylor Hawkins.
From the late ‘90s into the 2020s, the Foos have reigned as alt-rock’s most reliable hit machine and—thanks to their comedic, heavily costumed videos—most eager court jesters, cranking out mosh-pit ragers (“All My Life”), jugular-seizing power ballads (“Best of You”), and steady-as-Petty sing-alongs (“Learn to Fly”) with equal aplomb. And as one of the few ‘90s-era rock bands to maintain their festival-headliner status well into the 21st century, the Foos have become the genre’s most committed keepers of the flame. Whether building their 2014 album Sonic Highways around an HBO music-history series or collaborating with legends like Paul McCartney, Foo Fighters are the sturdy connective tissue between the classic-rock era and the modern age.