Saturday, 28 October 2006
ARTIST: Sounds of the Underground Tour 2006
VENUE: Gibson Amphitheater, Los Angeles, CA
DATE: 10-28-06
REVIEW BY: Mark Ziemke

Grassroots sensibilities, camaraderie and devotion are just a few of the characteristics that describe the Sounds of the Underground Tour that took place this summer in North America. Host to a very unlikely collection of bands such as As I Lay Dying, Trivium, Cannibal Corpse and The Black Dahlia Murder, this tour was zig-zagging the nation, going head to head with some heavycompetition. But walking around the Gibson Amphitheater on the closing date gave me a really good idea of what the tour set out to accomplish. Sending out the message that “Metal and Hardcore will Rise Again” gave the concert-goers, regardless of who they were there to see, a sense that they belonged to something bigger and greater. Watching a group of hardcore kids not even blink an eye when a group of metalheads walked by covered in green and red GWAR monster jizz let me, and the other 4,000 or so people, feel that they are truly among friends.I had the chance to ask some questions to Paul Conroy, who founded the tour, and Anders Fridén, lead singer of In Flames, to see what a tour like this really means to the fans and the bands themselves.


Can you give me a little bit of background on why you started the tour in the first place? I’m really curious to see what your initial goals were from the get-go, as this tour seemed really more for the fans than for money. Is that true?

This tour is initially about providing a unique experience for the fans and also elevating the scene first. The partners in this tour worked with these underground bands going back when they were playing VFW halls. Due to our respecting these artists so highly we felt a responsibility to them to make sure their music gets exposed to as many kids as possible in an environment that can still feel cool verses overly corporate. This festival is ultimately something that we want the kids and artists of this lifestyle music to take ownership in themselves.

Compared to some of the other tours this year, SOTU is definitely unique. You weren’t going for the biggest names in the business to get people to buy tickets, you seemed to be equal opportunity, bringing out bands that you feel deserve a bigger venue. What is the idea behind that way of thinking?

We really want the artists from this scene to take ‘ownership’ of this festival. Whether it be SOTU 2005 headliners Lamb of God, or recent headliner, As I Lay Dying, those involved with this tour have both close personal/professional relationships with these bands that go back for years. It is important for us that these bands can look at our festival as a something they helped develop from the ground up, while we can help develop these bands further as well. The ‘community’ aspect of this scene has existed for years before this tour was ever conceptualized.

Would you consider the tour a success overall? Can you give me some details as to what you felt went right and what you might want to do to improve it for next year?

The tour was absolutely a success. There were a bunch of heavy-rock tours this summer (Unholy Alliance, Family Values, Ozzfest, etc.) and we held our own out there. The main reason it was a success, however, is that being out there each day, the organizers felt we delivered the bands and the fans a great experience. Time will improve our tour. By that I mean, with each passing week heavy music is getting bigger and bigger. Looking at Lamb of God scanning over 60k the first week is amazing. Most people would not have expected that 5 years ago. As these bands get bigger, our tour will ultimately get bigger with it.

Were there any standout moments this year? Something you can take with you, look back and know deep down that you did a good job?

This is a funny standout moment but I think sums up the point of our tour. During the first night after the show, I was doing my typical walk-through of the band parking lot to make sure all of the bands were having a good start to the tour. Off in the distance, I saw this overly rowdy bunch that looked like they were having a great time but I could not see who they were. As I approached, I started laughing my ass off when I realized that it was Behemoth and Terror having a great time with each other. Behemoth and Terror could not be further apart stylistically and from their appearance. Seeing them having beers and having fun is what the tour was all about. Breaking down barriers with the bands and the kids so heavy music in general can grow without limitations.

How would you compare the success this year vs. last year?

I think they were both successful in their own right. Last year it was just great to ‘pull off’ a festival tour that everyone had a great experience on. This year it was about fine-tuning things from a production and presentation perspective to improve upon the experience. We are still making tweaks and will do so for years to come. This tour is one of the great challenges of my career and there is so much work to do. With the great challenge comes the great reward of helping so many bands and knowing that so many kids are having a great experience.


I read that that you weren’t exactly happy with Ozzfest last year and that there was a big disconnect with the audience. Has this tour been any better for you?

Yeah, it’s been a big difference. Ozzfest was more divided between headliners and openers. And also from an audience perspective, opening the main stage with a 20-minute set didn’t really work—cramming our catalog into five songs. That’s why we focused on our new material because obviously we were there to get a new market, but it was too bad for the core fans who were there to see us. It was kind of a rip-off. It definitely worked though. The new album is selling faster than ever, but at that point, playing in front of an audience eating their burgers and drinking Coca-Cola or whatever, it didn’t feel rock ‘n’ roll whatsoever. It was strange.

What have been the benefits of this tour?

It has been a really good atmosphere on this tour with all the crew and bands. We hang out afterwards and play cards. It’s cool. The audience is cool. You have your Chariot and Behemoth, and on the other side, In Flames and Trivium, then GWAR and Cannibal…it’s a diverse mix, but of the most extreme genres. And for people who want to see Sabbath or Maiden, they just want to see Sabbath or Maiden, and not really want to sit through all the other bands. So this tour is good for that. I feel more relaxed here and a lot more comfortable.

Compared to a headlining tour, would you rather do that or be a part of this tour to help embrace the scene as a whole?

They work together with each other I would say. I would not be a support band forever and I wouldn’t be a headlining band forever. It’s great to headline and have the attention and do whatever you want on stage. But after the show everyone is gone, there’s nothing to do. To be a support act you don’t have the same responsibility. You just go out there and you can be a lot more relaxed and drink beer after, say ‘fuck it,’ basically. I couldn’t do just one.

So overall, what does it mean to you to be able to reach this new audience?

We have an awesome fan base. We get a new fan base as well, which is way younger. The way I got into Iron Maiden they can get into In Flames. I would be stoked to hear a band like In Flames and go back and visit their old records.

As far as the newer groups, do you think they are benefiting from a tour like this?

I really think it’s good to have a tour like this that is not just the bigger names that get a chance to play because it’s fucking important when you come out as a younger band to play live to a new audience and get better. It’s how you grow. It’s easy to be good on records…there are so many tools. There are so many bands that I’ve heard that sound awesome, but then you see them live and you’re so disappointed. Honestly, in the early days we weren’t that good live. But that’s something we’ve learned through the years and we’ve gotten better and better. So a tour like this is great to help the younger bands.

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