In 1998, a little-known band out of Boston stopped in Colorado Springs, played the Colorado Music Hall, kicked ass and then split town. The show was raw rock power infused with attitude, high-energy performance and an intensity rarely present on stage at live shows anymore.
The band was Godsmack, and the 50 or 60 of us who witnessed the show were grateful for the experience. Little did we know that this was just the beginning. Who would have thunk that someday they would return to our humble city and play to a nearly sold-out audience at the World Arena?
With the exception of the last three months, Godsmack has been touring non-stop for the past three years. In the process, they have built a fan base from the bottom up, earning legions of devoted followers and the reputation of one of the hardest-working bands around.
These days, Godsmack is no stranger to large audiences. They were special guests on last year's Anger Management tour with Limp Bizkit, and they were part of Ozzfest in 1999 and 2000. They've opened twice for Black Sabbath and played the memorable Woodstock '99. All the while they've been playing their own individual club dates when they can. Suffice it to say, they've been very busy.
"We love it. We absolutely love it," said bassist Robbie Merrill of the band's continuous tour schedule. "It's really productive for Godsmack to be on tour. It's how we reach our fans."
And there is no doubt that they value their fans. Between a photo shoot and an evening performance, Merrill called in from Salem, Va. to chat about Godsmack's current tour and their new CD, Awake.
In a thick Boston accent, he describes the material on the new CD as "more aggressive and raw. There's no rap, no gadgets, no techno. ... It's hard, loud rock. Period."
Indeed, the overall sound of their sophomore release is a little edgier than that of their self-titled debut CD. But then again, the band -- including front man Sully Erna, guitarist Tony Rombola and drummer Tommy Stewart -- is a little edgier than when they first began.
"A majority of the material for this was written on the road," Merrill explained. "And, well, we've been on the road for a bit. So I think it conveys the emotion and the immediacy of that. It's heavier than our last CD."
To contain that "immediacy" and raw energy, Godsmack recorded "at this smelly-assed warehouse above a boxing gym," recalled Merrill. "Those surroundings helped us keep the edge on." During their shows, that edgy and raw emotional energy unabashedly comes across. "Recreating it on stage is not a problem. When we write, we try to write for the stage. We're all fans of energetic, live acts."
While Godsmack has now comfortably settled into their place on the landscape of today's new rock scene, Merrill says it's been a long haul and there have been some bumps along the way. "When we first started touring, occasionally we would take flak for our name, particularly in some Bible states. But it's getting better now because a lot of people know the story and they know us."
The story is that lead singer Sully Erna walked into rehearsal and saw that his drummer had a cold sore. Teasing ensued over the next several days, until Erna walked into rehearsal one morning with the same thing on his lip. "We joked that he'd been smacked by God," laughed Merrill.
If anything, the band has received a positive love tap. With a gold record, a platinum-selling CD and a brand new CD under their belts, Godsmack hits town on March 19.
"We've got a new show, new stage, new lights and we're playing a lot of stuff off of the new CD," Merrill summed up. "Come to the show. Just have fun, because that's what we do."