Under the brilliant lights and to the cheers of thousands inside The Forum in Inglewood, Foo Fighters drummer Taylor Hawkins stepped out from behind his drum kit and in front of the microphone. Frontman Dave Grohl assumed a role familiar from his Nirvana days behind the kit.

After some quick banter between the two, Hawkins led the crowd in a Freddie Mercury-esque exchange:

“Can you find me?” Hawkins sang.

“Can you find me?” the crowd replied.

“Somebody!” yelled Hawkins.

“Somebody!” the crowd echoed.

“Somebody to love,” Hawkins finished with a long run, followed by another repeat from the crowd.

The band then launched into an electric, eight-and-a-half-minute-long cover of Queen’s “Somebody to Love.”

For most of the 17,500 masked and vaccinated people in the sold out arena, the Aug. 26, 2021, concert was the first they attended since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic almost a year and a half before. In fact, the show was originally scheduled for July 17 but was postponed after a member of the Foo Fighters’ team tested positive for the virus.

For thousands of Foo fans in the arena that night, the two-and-a-half-hour-long, 19-song set would be the last time they saw Hawkins perform live.

The band announced that Hawkins died Friday, hours before the rock legends were scheduled to headline day one of the Estereo Picnic music festival in Bogotá, Colombia. In a March 26 statement, Colombian authorities said the preliminary investigation found 10 substances in Hawkins’ system, including marijuana, opioids, antidepressants and benzodiazepines, typically used to treat anxiety.

For Record Store Day 2011, the Foo Fighters played to about 300 people inside Fingerprints record store in Long Beach’s East Village Arts District.

The band showed up to the store in a white limousine donning two black Fs—except for Grohl, who showed up later on his motorcycle, having been at one of his kid’s birthday parties at Chuck E. Cheese, Fingerprints owner Rand Foster said.

The band had contacted the shop about playing its latest record, “Wasting Light,” which dropped days before the event, wanting to play the release in its entirety. Foster was on board and worked with various city departments to make it happen. It was the shop’s first large-scale, full-production in-store performance, Foster said.

“They were amazing to work with,” Foster said, saying that Hawkins’ death makes his memories of that day even more special. “It’s over 10 years later and it’s still one of the main things people talk about—they wish they were there, they knew somebody who was there. It put us on the map.”

Out of the entire band, Foster said Hawkins worked the crowd best. Foster recalls the drummer taking in every moment: talking to fans, hugging them, taking pictures with them, talking about SST Records, an independent record label formed across the street from the record store’s current location in 1978.

The Foo Fighters play to a crowd of about 300 inside Fingerprints record store in Long Beach Saturday, April 6, 2011. Photo by Daniel DeBoom.

“Those were the things he was excited about,” Foster said. “He was the first one out of the limo and he was right into the crowd. Most people at the store that had an interaction with a band member, it probably wasn’t Dave—everybody has such great feelings about Taylor because he got to have those moments.”

Last year, while going through some boxes in his office at the store, Foster said he found the shirt Hawkins’ wore while playing in the shop all those years ago. He considered giving it to one of the various local super fans he knows but never did. Now, he said he will likely have it framed and hung in the store.

Since that first interaction, Fingerprints has worked with the Foo Fighters a number of times, usually in the form of pop-up merch tables at shows. Most recently, the record store was set to sell a copies of the band’s Bee Gees alter ego, the Dee Gees, at the July 17, 2021, Forum show. After the coronavirus delay, the band held up its end of the deal and let the Fingerprints set up shop on Aug. 26, Foster said.

Watching Hawkins perform, Foster said it was apparent that he was a music fan first and an artist second.

“I’m surprised when musicians talk about music because it seems like so many come from the creation side, not the appreciation side. He was a fan first,” Foster said. “Everybody who’s working for this is like, ‘Man, I would be so happy if I was able to play and rock people and make people happy and excited,’ and you couldn’t look at this guy and not feel like that was every minute of every day.”

That down-to-Earth presence made the certified rockstar a relatable idol for young drummers, according to Andy Rodesney, a percussionist from Texas who moved to Long Beach in 2013. The young drummer, now 37, was given the band’s second release, “The Color and the Shape” as a birthday present.

“I just remember the power of that drumming and thought, ‘That could be me,’” Rodesney said, noting Hawkins’ move from Fort Worth, Texas to Laguna Beach as a child. “And it just made it real to me.”

Hawkins did not write or play on the album but joined the band before it was released in May 1997.

Rodesney said he never tried to emulate Hawkins’ actual drumming but that he did always strive to achieve his power, energy and execution. Hawkins’ presence and attack could not be overlooked, he said.

Outside of his drumming, Rodesney said Hawkins always came off as genuine and a true friend. He just seemed like the guy you would want to grab a beer with, Rodesney added.

“I don’t know how you begin to deal with a loss as a friend, let alone in the future when the bridge is to be crossed to replace somebody like that,” Rodesney said, recounting his reaction to Hawkins’ death. “I just teared up.”

An image of Foo Fighters’ drummer Taylor Hawkins adorns a makeshift memorial outside the hotel where Hawkins was found dead, in northern Bogota, Colombia, Saturday, March 26, 2022. There were few immediate details on how Hawkins died, although the band said in a statement Friday that his death was a “tragic and untimely loss.” He was 50. (AP Photo/Fernando Vergara)

Dani Carter, 44, the self-proclaimed biggest Foo fan in Long Beach, said she initially could not believe the news of Hawkins’ death was real. However, she was reading the announcement on the band’s official Instagram, she said, so reality set in quickly.

“My heart sank. I read it a good 17 times,” Carter said. “Then I just burst into tears. I lost it. There was a part of me that truly thought I was going to wake up and it didn’t really happen.”

The Foo Fighters formed in 1994 and its debut, self-titled album was released in 1995, the same year Carter graduated from high school and moved away for college. She instantly connected with the band’s music, she said, and went to every show she could.

Since then, she has attended well over 100 Foo Fighters shows, including the Aug. 26 performance at the Forum and the 2011 Fingerprints set, the latter of which she slept on the sidewalk to score a ticket, she said. Over the years, Carter said she built a relationship with the band members—having long conversations, hanging out back stage and even once bowling with the group—a relationship that she said has gotten her through the lowest points of her life.

“This is the end of an era,” Carter said through fresh tears. “I expected another two decades with him and now it’s done. It just ends so quickly and so suddenly.”

Brandon Richardson is a reporter and photojournalist for the Long Beach Post and Long Beach Business Journal.