Winning over a crowd is no simple feat. It takes exemplary stage energy and a thirst for challenge. It also requires the innate ability to feel out different audiences. Opening bands continually face hurdles on tour — without the custom light show or production enjoyed by a headliner, support acts must play into their own strengths to make a lasting impact on another band’s crowd.
San Antonio natives Upon a Burning Body turned heads on the national circuit this fall by doing just that. Though they were the second band to hit the stage on the Band of Brothers Tour featuring We Came As Romans, UABB gained new fans in every city with its stage-shredding act. The band returns to its hometown Sunday as part of the December Decimation tour with headliner Winds of Plague.
Born in San Antonio five years ago, UABB’s hardcore/metal hybrid and DIY ethos serves as a model in the underground scene. Their high-speed riffs, brutal breakdowns, and complex time changes earned them a nod in the Current’s College Survival Guide (see “Must-see local bands,” August 26, 2009). UABB caught the eye of Sumerian Records in 2007 when it participated in Headbang for the Highway, a national battle-of-the-bands contest. After winning two preliminary rounds, UABB traveled west for the final round at the SoCal Death Fest, which it won outright.
“After the contest we ran into some problems because our drummer left,” said UABB frontman Danny Leal. “It was tough to come back from that, but we found our current drummer Ramon and had to gain everything back. I kept bugging the guys at Sumerian about anything new and exciting we were doing.”
Leal’s pestering paid off. He said UABB always eyed Sumerian, and a year and a half ago, the group signed with the label. A popular destination for up-and-coming hardcore and metal acts, Sumerian’s founder Ash Avildsen is known for recognizing young talent and helping bands develop as professional artists.
UABB utilizes a unique philosophy when it comes to CD sales. The band buys copies of their debut album, The World Is Ours, from the label for $5 then sells them to fans at cost. Doing this negates any profit, but it ensures that fans get a copy of the CD. The strategy seems to be working, as the band has sold over 7,000 copies since the album’s March 2010 release date.
“People are starting to recognize our name,” said Leal. “It’s great to hear people almost everywhere saying that they’ve heard of us. Even if they haven’t heard us, they’ve heard of us.”
The buzz surrounding UABB grew considerably over the course of the fall tour. The tour manager for We Came As Romans complimented the band for pushing the envelope as an opener with an explosive live show while moshing crowds reinforced the sentiment. Leal uses a comic’s timing as a frontman, believing that singers have to be ready for change at any moment — that the successful ones feed off the crowd and improv constantly.
Despite frequent national tours, UABB save some of its biggest moments for San Antonio. Earlier this month, the band filmed a music video for its party song “Intermission” at the White Rabbit, the SA music venue they’re proud to call home. The band invited fans to be part of the shoot, and a whopping 250 people showed up at 10 a.m. on a Saturday to mosh, dance, and stage dive. White Rabbit Operations Manager Jennifer Holt said she could see admiration and respect for the band clearly expressed in every pumping fist. During the shoot, Leal told the crowd, “This video was made for this city by this city.”
Holt said she’s always proud when UABB gets picked for prestigious tours. She remembers their first show, and says they will always have San Antonio’s support because they’ve never forgotten where they come from.
“The kids have been there since day one,” said Leal. “To see that many of them show up for the video shoot was absolutely mind blowing. I couldn’t ask for anything better.” •
Winds of Plague w/After the Burial, Carnifex, War of Ages, Upon a Burning Body, & Silence the Messenger
4pm Sun, Nov 28
2410 N. St. Mary’s