Never let it be said that a catastrophic earthquake kept American headbangers All That Remains from taking the stage.
Following a run on the Soundwave festival tour in Australia, the Springfield, Mass.-based quintet hit Japan last week to play shows in Osaka and Tokyo. The group was sound-checking for the latter on Friday when the earthquake hit -- a surreal experience to be sure, according to frontman Phil Labonte.
"The band was on stage and I was in the back with our tour manager when everything started shaking," Labonte told Billboard.com from the Narita International Airport on Saturday night as the group was waiting to board a flight back to the U.S. "We're from the Northeast; we don't have a lot of experience with earthquakes...The local crew was like, 'Yeah, it's an earthquake.' The light fixtures were shaking, all the doors were shaking back and forth pretty hard."
The group, which had played in Osaka the day before, was ushered out of the building and onto the street outside. "Everyone had filed out of their buildings, and you could tell people were concerned," said Labonte, who tweeted regular updates to his twitter.com/philthatremains page. "I started thinking, 'OK, maybe it's a little bit bigger of a deal than I realized.' There was an aftershock and you could actually see this skyscraper nearby swaying back and forth. It was unnerving to see something that big moving as much as they were."
Nevertheless, the Tokyo show went on as planned.
"[The promoters] were like, 'The show's going to go on. If you're cool with playing, we'll do it,' " said Labonte, who began tweeting almost immediately after the quake began. "Our perspective was like, 'What the hell else are we gonna do? If we don't play, we'll just sit in our hotel rooms and be nervous.'
"It was cool. It was a show they project to be sold out; by the end of the show probably 150 people showed up because all the trains were down and there was no transportation. And the people that came to the show were really, really, really happy that we played for them. They expected the show to be canceled and were glad it wasn't."
Labonte and company later returned to their hotel, where he monitored events via the Internet and kept a half-full glass of water on the table to tell if the building was shaking or not. The airport, meanwhile, was crowded with people hoping to leave the country.
"We're just hoping to get out of here, period, never mind get out of here on time," Labonte said. "All of our guys are cool. No one's injured or anything, just some fragile nerves. We just want to get out and get back to the States."
All That Remains kicks off a North American tour on May 12 in Richmond, Va., and will be part of Black Label Society's Uranium Tour 2011, which gets under way May 4 in San Diego. The group plans to post information about its experience in Japan at its web site, www.allthatremainsonline.com.