Sounds Of The Underground
Review by O.M.O.M.
Photos by Rob Kern
Click here for more photos featuring Clutch, GWAR, High On Fire and many others from Sounds Of The Underground.
Attention all metal bands! Quiz time.
Q: You are a long-standing metal act from the 80’s/90’s. You want to sell records, keep in the public eye and mount a successful tour. In today’s 200+ channel, Sony PSP, cell phone, Internet, media saturated market do you:
A: Release a record every 2.5 years.
B: Mount a short tour behind said product and then go home.
C: Lock yourself in the tour bus and give minimal interaction to the remaining fans that remember you.
D: Act like it’s 1989 and pout and moan that you should be playing arenas instead of the small clubs that you have been reduced to.
E: All of the above.
Q: You part of the new wave of metal/hardcore with a handful of releases to your name. You want to sell records, keep in the public eye and mount a successful tour. In today’s 200+ channel, Sony PSP, cell phone, Internet, media saturated market do you:
A: Do your best to keep new releases and product out to keep your name alive.
B: Tour, tour, tour in as many cities and on as many different bills as you can.
C: Make yourself accessible to your fans.
D: Act like you give a shit and are happy to be playing for fans whether it’s a concert hall or parking lot.
E: All of the above.
Being an old fogey, I’ve seen the 80’s metal craze that had pretty much every act hitting either arenas or mid-sized venues while the bands acted as if they were all Rock Gods that didn’t want to be bothered with fans (unless they were of the smokin’ hot female variety). I’ve also sat through the alternative explosion of the early 90’s, which featured bands that moped about as if they hated every moment of their success, and the more the fans wanted to interact with them, the more sullen they became. Well, the Sounds Of The Underground tour is here this summer to show the old folks a thing or six about packaging a tour for the fans.
For the uninformed, Sounds Of The Underground is a day long festival featuring some of the top and up and coming names in the metal/hardcore scene. Giving fans a chance to see established acts such as Clutch, Lamb Of God and Strapping Young Lad as well as newer acts such as All That Remains, Norma Jean and Devildriver. For a full lineup of the acts head right over to www.soundsoftheunderground.com and find dates near you.
|Gwar autograph session|
Country music has held a yearly festival for quite some time featuring new talent alongside older, established acts in a fan-friendly atmosphere that features live performances and meet and greets that allow the fans to rub shoulders with the artists. A good part of modern country music’s popularity (which I for one cannot understand) can be traced back to festivals of this sort; no better way to ensure a fan remembering you than to take a few minutes, shake their hand, listen to their story and autograph a memento. Hell, I met Manowar in the mid eighties and they went out of their way to talk with us and sign posters and albums; twenty years later I’m still a fan of those leather-clad goofs. It always amazed me that the metal scene never tried a big production tour that would bring the fans closer to the bands in order to guarantee a longer life span for the acts involved.
|Hats off to the organizers of Sounds Of The Underground; they have done one hell of a job putting together an almost spot-on day of traveling heavy metal/hardcore. Where Ozzfest smacks a tad too heavy of commercialism and Warped borders on insane overkill with it’s seemingly 6,000 punk/emo acts spread out over 10 stages, SOTU combines a perfect balance with its one stage and 20 acts that offer a little something for everyone. With tickets in the thirty-dollar range the price can’t be beat, even if you are only familiar with a handful of the acts. Chances are you will walk out of the show at the end of the day with at least one new favorite band.|
High points of the Cleveland stop of SOTU:
Fan friendly factor: A meet and greet booth set up that featuring most of the acts throughout the day; even headliners Lamb Of God. From the fan perspective, nothing beats going to a show and scoring a signed poster or cd cover to take home and put on the wall. Seeing Gwar in full outfits trying to fit into the autograph booth was priceless. Not to mention the video game lounge where fans could test their hand-eye coordination against bands ranging from Madball to Lamb Of God.
Rock factor: 20-25 minute sets (with longer 50-60 minute sets for the headlining tier) pretty much guaranteed top-notch performances by the acts. With so many bands on the bill, making yourself be noticed is a top priority, most of the bands were up to the challenge. Extra points to Throwdown for a slam-dunk version of Sepultura’s “Roots Bloody Roots" that pumped up an already frenzied crowd. NYC hardcore legends Madball proving they can serve it up just as furious as the young bands. High On Fire for pure balls out metal power (why did I miss their last headline swing through town?), do not miss their performance at SOTU. Strapping Young Lad’s Devin Townsend playfully taunting the Cleveland crowd by yelling “C’mon Toledo!” An over the top midday performance by Gwar. Not to worry, the daylight didn’t detract from the spectacle of Gwar, an awesome blood and bile soaked time. Clutch. My only complaint is that 50 minutes is just not long enough. The addition of an organ added to the flat out boogie-metal coolness that is Clutch live. Cap off the night with a hometown performance by Chimaira and show ending set by Lamb Of God that proved the crowd still had enough energy despite ten hours of punishing volume.
|High On Fire|
|Madball's Mitts goes head to head with a fan at the video game lounge.|
Snafu factor: Surprisingly low. The crew working behind the scenes on this tour deserves a standing ovation. With 20 bands playing on one stage the opportunities for Spinal Tap-like mishaps and sound problems could sink a tour. The road crew rose to the occasion, consistently hitting the 5-minute between band changeover marks and presenting fans with a uniform live mix for all bands involved. On a tour of this size, the unsung heroes were definitely the roadies who kept things moving smoothly the entire day. A giant-sized set of metal horns to you, ladies and gentlemen.
A quick recap for bands that whine about no airplay, mp3 downloads and claim that metal is dead in America; quit circling “E” on your quiz and look to the acts on Sounds Of The Underground for some pointers (keep checking “E” on your quiz guys). Be it touring, recording or chatting with the fans they are doing one hell of a job getting their names out to the public. For fans of metal or hardcore, scrape up thirty dollars and get your asses to a Sounds Of The Underground date near you and get your recommended monthly dose of intensity in one day.
|Gwar, front row.||"Hello Toledo!" Strapping Young Lad|