Remember when the Foo Fighters had announced that they were touring pretty much everywhere but the United States in the months following the release of Sonic Highways? Yeah. That's done changed. The Foos announced that they'll be kicking off a massive arena and stadium tour on July 4 at Washington D.C.'s R.F.K. Stadium, and the three-month trek will have them lapping the country and hitting a ton of notable spots (Fenway Park! Wrigley Field! The Gorge!) through October 7.
Back before the number "8" started taking on a certain significance for Foo Fighters fans, Dave Grohl and the masterminds behind Sonic Highways started dropping serious hints about the grandeur of the project. After Grohl posted images of master tapes labeled "LP 8" in January of 2014, producer (and Garbage drummer!) Butch Vig confirmed that he was at work on the Foos' eighth album later that spring.
In May, the Foo Fighters' involvement with HBO made headlines as news of the yet-to-be-titled series they were shooting started making the rounds. The scope of the record was unprecedented, as the Foos revealed that they'd visited and recorded in eight cities intrinsic to the identity of American music: Austin, Chicago, Los Angeles, Nashville, New Orleans, New York, Seattle and Washington, D.C. A surprise show at New Orleans' famed Preservation Hall, where the Foo Fighters were recording and taping, furthered chatter centered around the geographic focus of the project.
Details regarding the title and scope of the series would soon be revealed: The Sonic Highways teaser and eventual trailer dropped towards the end of the summer, with Grohl specifically outlining the album and the documentation of its creation as the making of a "map of American music." In the trailer, Grohl cites the decision to record the album in various studios scattered across the country as the initial inspiration for the project: "Working with different musicians, producers and studio owners, you can tie all of these people and places together with these sonic highways." Boom. Title secured, mission statement articulated and out there and footage of the Foos plugging in and getting down to business in a number of different cities all set the tone for both the record and the footage surrounding it.
What to Expect: Each of the cities the Foo Fighters picked as destinations for Sonic Highways embraces a storied musical tradition and a penchant for a particular genre. Grohl says himself that he "really believe[s] that the environment in which you write or record an album influences the musical result."
If that's the true motivation behind the Sonic Highways sessions, this could wind up being the Foos' most eclectic output yet, with influences reaching from the punk acts that put Washington D.C. on the map to the jazz of New Orleans and Chicago to the banjo-pickin' country straight from the Grand Ol' Opry of Nashville, Tennessee. As for Seattle's grunge? Yeah. It's safe to say that Grohl won't be shying away from that reverb.
The Trailer: In the full trailer for Sonic Highways, the Foo Fighters are in excellent company, with everyone from Barack Obama to Slash to Dolly Parton talking about their connections to music and place in front of the camera. Pharrell, Macklemore, LL Cool J, Willie Nelson, Joan Jett, Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys, Carrie Underwood—the list of notable musicians and celebrities (and, y'know, the President of the United States) featured in the trailer alone is something to marvel, which means that the musical depth of Sonic Highways could be one that forces us to reconsider notions of genre in American music entirely.
Each of the previously name-checked cities gets airtime as well, with shots of Grohl waiting on a snowy Subway platform segueing into shots of the Foo Fighters working alongside members of New Orleans' Preservation Hall Jazz Band in the Big Easy.
Gary Clark Jr.: Clark sat in with the Foos when they rolled through Austin, the Live Music Capital of the World and his hometown. As Willie Nelson's attached to the project as well, maybe there's an epic jam session between the Outlaw icon and the young guitar god in store (and on tape).
Ben Gibbard: Death Cab for Cutie fans, rejoice! Gibbard gets in on the Seattle love with the seventh track on the record, "Subterranean," which they recorded in Nirvana (and the Postal Service)'s hometown.
Zac Brown: The country buff brought his acoustic guitar and Southern sensibilities into the studio in Nashville. This wasn't the first time he and Grohl put their heads together in a collaborative capacity: Brown and his band released The Grohl Sessions Vol. 1 in December of 2013, an EP which was written and recorded after the singer encountered the Foo frontman in line while they were both waiting for their altered GRAMMY duds at the Varvatos store in Hollywood. (TBD as to whether or not he has a production credit on "Congregation" as it was recorded at his studio!)
Preservation Hall Jazz Band: We'd recognize that tuba anywhere! They opened the Foo Fighters' surprise NOLA show last spring and also hopped onstage for the closing number, so we'd be surprised if they didn't work their way into Sonic Highways.
The first single to drop from Sonic Highways is the Foo Fighters' collaboration with Rick Nielsen of Cheap Trick, "Something From Nothing." A sneak preview backed the dialog in the Sonic Highways trailer, but fleshed out, "Something From Nothing" absolutely channels the snarling guitar of '80s hair bands. It's kind of perfect that the man who made "Surrender" and "I Want You To Want You" jukebox staples lends his solo skills to this particular track, and Grohl's screams are beyond unhinged here.
With "The Feast and the Famine," the guys made a pilgrimage to punk rock Mecca—a.k.a. Inner Ear Studios in Arlington, Virginia—to channel Grohl's roots and work with iconic producer Don Zientara.
1. "Something From Nothing" ft. Rick Nielsen (recorded at Electrical Audio in Chicago)
2. "The Feast and the Famine" ft. Bad Brains“ (recorded at Inner Ear Studios in Arlington, VA)
3. "Congregation" (recorded at Southern Ground Studios in Nashville)
4. "What Did I Do/God as My Witness"
5. "Outside" (recorded at Rancho de la Luna in Los Angeles)
6. "In the Clear"
7. "Subterranean" ft. Ben Gibbard (recorded at Robert Lang Studios in Seattle)
8. "I Am a River" (recorded at The Magic Shop, New York, NY)
It's a little strange that the Foo Fighters' first dates for the tour behind Sonic Highways are abroad, given the heavy geographic theme of the record and its intention to chronicle the music of America. The flipside of that logic is maybe it is perfect that the Foos are bringing Sonic Highways international before touring behind it at home, in that it'll serve as a sort of musical ambassadorship and give them a chance to truly perfect new stuff onstage in South America, Africa and elsewhere. Either way, the Foo Fighters are spending the tail end of 2014 and early 2015 going global (with the exception of two headlining spots at Life Is Beautiful Fest and the Voodoo Music Experience), and have confirmed the following shows. Here's hoping a full-on American tour is announced soon.
10/26/14: Life Is Beautiful – Las Vegas, NV
11/2/14: Voodoo Music Experience – New Orleans, LA
12/10/14: Capetown, South Africa
12/13/14: Johannesburg, South Africa
1/15/15: Santiago, Chile
1/18/15: Buenos Aires, Argentina
1/21/15: Porto Alegre, Brazil
1/23/15: São Paolo, Brazil
1/25/15: Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
1/28/15: Belo Horizonte, Brazil
1/31/15: Bogota, Colombia
It's been bonkers, to say the least. Since news of Sonic Highways dropped, fans have been clamoring for the Foo Fighters to start touring again—and this is before they announced that they'd be playing pretty much everywhere but the good ol' USA. The Foos played a crowdfunded show in Richmond, VA after fans raised the cash to bring them there. Fans in the UK followed suit, successfully funding a similar mission in full in hopes of coaxing the Foo Fighters to play a Birmingham gig. The band has yet to confirm whether or not they'll make it to that particular venue across the pond, but English rock fiends just might get a chance to hear "Everlong" on Ozzy Osbourne's home turf after all.
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