Opening Acts

Discussion in 'General Music and Vinyl' started by Aron, Feb 11, 2019.

  1. Aron

    Aron Well-Known Member

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    I'm not sure if this is a thread that will be of interest to the masses or not, but, it is a subject that I've been thinking about coming off of this weekend of live shows. Opening acts.

    So I saw two shows this past weekend, Neko Case and Lucy Dacus. Totally different settings (Neko played a nice size indoor theater...Lucy played outdoor stage at a club on a particularly cold and nasty night), and artists that are at different stages of their careers. The same could be said of the opening acts for each of the headliners. Neko's opener was Jennifer Castle, who has recorded a handful of albums, one of which was nominated for Canada's Polaris Music Prize a few years back. The opener for Lucy Dacus was illuminati hotties, who put out their first album just last year.

    The audience reaction to these openers was as different as could be as well. I felt really bad for Jennifer Castle. People in the quiet, seated crowd were openly stifling laughter while she played. Admittedly, her songs were a bit on the precious side. Like diary entries and poetry about nature. The bigger issue was that she was all alone. Just her in the middle of a very large stage with a guitar and, at times, a harmonica. She has a strong voice, but it is rather reedy, and, at times, child-like. I'm not going to say I was a fan of the performance, but I know that is a tough thing to get up and do. I listened to her most recent album, and it wasn't as sparse. The set felt long even though it was about 40 minutes in length. Compare that with the illuminati hotties set. They played about the same length, but they had that crowd in the palm of their hands from the opening note.

    There are a number of factors as to why those audiences reacted in such different ways, but it really got me to thinking about those unsung heroes...the opening acts. Some that I've seen graduate to headliners, and some that simply disappeared.

    What are some of your more memorable opening act stories...good or bad?
     
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  2. lee newman

    lee newman Well-Known Member

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    I think the single person on stage thing has got to be hard, but I’ve manage to catch Bedouine, Aofie O’Donovan and Madison Cunningham do single person sets and grab the audience’s attention. Bedouine opened up for Hurray for the Riff Raff and Waxahatchee. Aofie and Madison opened up for Punch Brothers. (Aofie had just released her first album and was a couple years away from I’m With Her). They are each very different and are all incredible live.
     
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  3. McGlam

    McGlam Well-Known Member

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    Last year I caught the Liam Gallagher/Richard Ashcroft tour. I'm not sure if it was officially a co-headlining tour or not, but there were no other acts and Liam Gallagher was riding the wave of a successful solo album while Mad Richard hasn't seen American success since Bittersweet Symphony. I wasn't looking forward to his opening set at all and especially after he came out onstage alone with an acoustic guitar.

    But he was amazing. He sounded incredible, played a bunch of Verve hits and some choice solo selections. Liam's full band performance afterwards was a bit of a disappointment. I guess a lot of people attending were predisposed to liking Richard's music, but everyone I spoke to who saw that tour around the country said that Richard Ashcroft ran away with it.
     
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  4. lee newman

    lee newman Well-Known Member

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    I saw a very young Tom Morello in a band called Lock Up open up for a band named Sea Hag in a seedy bar named the Thunderbird in Jacksonville, NC in the late eighties. My friends and I had to get a Marine to buy our tickets.
     
  5. Aron

    Aron Well-Known Member

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    Yeah, I've seen it done well before, particularly when artists use looping effects to make things more robust sonically, but it was not done well that night. Not sure if it was a deal she chose to go that route, or maybe it was suggested so the amount of time between sets would be shorter. I know that Jennifer Castle replaced Kimya Dawson as Neko's opener on this leg, so that could also be a factor.

    I mean, when I saw St. Vincent headline last year, she essentially just was on her own with a guitar. Granted, she is on another level as a guitar player, and she had a big backing track to help.
     
    Last edited: Feb 11, 2019
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  6. lee newman

    lee newman Well-Known Member

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    Aofie was just her and an acoustic guitar, no effects. I was floored and we talked to her after the show, she was an absolute delight. My wife and I have been huge fans since.
     
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  7. Aron

    Aron Well-Known Member

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    It's always interesting to me when the opener outclasses the headliner. On a whim a few years back, I went and saw Eleanor Friedberger play an acoustic show at the Cactus Cafe on the UT Campus. She didn't have an album or anything, but she may have been workshopping some songs. The Cactus is a small listening room, and is usually a home for acoustic, singer-songwriter acts. I had no idea who was opening, and it turned out to be one of the first shows by a local band called Sweet Spirit. There were 5 in the band at that time, but they have since expanded to like 8 members. Still, it was a pretty large number of people for that small stage and room. They played a pretty fun and memorable indie power pop set that night. Poor Eleanor had to follow them with a bunch of similar sounding acoustic tunes. Sweet Spirit quickly became one of my favorite local acts, and has developed a nice fanbase here locally. They headline their own shows now, but, for a while, I would always describe them as a band you do not want opening for you if you are a headliner.
     
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  8. Aron

    Aron Well-Known Member

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    I'm new to her, as I just got into I'm With Her. Seeing them next month actually. But, yeah, I've been pretty blown away by all of them from the live clips I've seen.
     
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  9. Aron

    Aron Well-Known Member

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    There's a thread somewhere around here discussing worst concert experiences. In that thread I mentioned the time I caught The Detroit Cobras. This was peak garage band revival era in the 2000s, and I loved those early Detroit Cobras records. I didn't care that they were essentially a covers band, because most of the songs were obscure enough as to be new to me. They were opening for The Reverend Horton Heat, who I had listened to, but wasn't a huge fan of by any means. I was going to that show to essentially see the opening act.

    What I saw was so, so disappointing. The lead singer, Rachel, was pretty crappy to everyone--audience, bandmates, everyone. She got pissy because the audience wasn't dancing more (I think?), or reacting more, and then she seemed to turn on her own band a bit. I'll never forget the looks on their faces. They looked absolutely miserable. Clearly, this was a pretty routine bit for her.

    A few years later they had signed to Bloodshot Records. I used to always hit the Bloodshot showcase at SXSW so I could see the Waco Brothers close out Saturday night/Sunday morning. The Cobras were on one of those bills, so I decided to give them another shot. Same exact thing. She half-assed her way through that set, and again, all I could focus on were those bandmates' faces.
     
  10. tvham

    tvham Well-Known Member

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    In early 2000 I went to see Glen Phillips play the cellar of an Irish pub in San Francisco, maybe 100 people there. I am a huge Toad the Wet Sprocket fan and this was his first solo show in SF since they broke up so me and my friends got there early to grab seats. Oh yeah, fully seated show. We end up front row and drain a few pints until the opener comes out, a handsome, tall lad named John Mayer who proceeds to stun everyone with his guitar playing and voice.

    After his set we grab his ep, chat a bit, and go back to our seats. Towards the end of Glen's set John comes back out and they play a Police cover and some Toad songs. I need to look him up, I wonder what he's doing these days...
     
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  11. Aron

    Aron Well-Known Member

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    That's pretty damn cool. I don't think I've ever experienced that kind of opener scenario, where the opener went on to mega stardom.
     
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  12. dbarila

    dbarila Well-Known Member

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    I saw Dr. Dog open for My Morning Jacket in 2004. Didn't hear anything more about them until 4 or 5 years later when all of a sudden they were kind of big on the indie station.

    Also, since someone mentioned Richard Ashcroft above, I saw him open for Coldplay and I guess someone was heckling him and I just remember as the opening lines of Bittersweet Symphony were happening him shouting at the guy "Do you know what it's like to write a classc?!" over and over again. Such a humble guy.
     
  13. tvham

    tvham Well-Known Member

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    And then two years later I saw Norah Jones open for John Mayer at the Fillmore...another fun show!
     
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  14. Aron

    Aron Well-Known Member

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    Back in 2004, I had a co-worker offer me a last minute ticket for the David Bowie show on his Reality tour. I had spaced out and missed out on buying my own when they went on sale. This was an outdoor show at the old Backyard location in late April. The weather couldn't have been better. The Polyphonic Spree opened that show, and they really set the table perfectly for a fun evening. I think they played their cover version of 'Five Years', but I can't remember for sure. I'm so glad I lucked out and got to go to that show as it ended up being Bowie's last tour.
     
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  15. mcherry

    mcherry Spam Slayer ☠️ & Moderator Extraordinaire

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    I saw Third Eye Blind open for Oasis in SF at that famous show in ‘96 before they broke through. My friends and I had never heard of them before but they were amazing. They stole the show. Oasis were good but nothing beat the excitement of that opener.
     
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  16. Vinylnovice

    Vinylnovice Well-Known Member

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    Some memorable opening acts in my time. Steve Poltz opening for Jewel is always fun, Black Eyed Peas for Christina Aguilera but the most memorable was definitely Butterfly Boucher when she opened for Sarah McLachlan. She was alone with her guitar but was utterly fantastic and basically had everyone queueing for her CD immediately after she finished.
     
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  17. Aron

    Aron Well-Known Member

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    The one and only time I saw New Order live was on the tour in support of Technique in 1989. It was at Southern Star Amphitheatre located at Astroworld in Houston, and it was the first show I went to without my parents. My first big boy show, if you will. Throwing Muses opened, and I hated them. I thought they sounded terrible. I just remember a lot of guitars and hair flying like they were a metal act. I was really into synth music at that point, so I'm sure they didn't really sound that heavy at all, but to my ears, it sounded like a mess. I kind of wish I could hear that set with my current ears. A few years later, Throwing Muses released "The Real Ramona", which is an incredible record that I grew to really love. It took me a while to give them a listen though after that live experience.
     
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  18. NateOEB

    NateOEB Well-Known Member

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    My favorite opening act was Donald Glover doing standup opening for a Childish Gambino show on the IAMDONALD Tour. He's the multi-hyphenate of the moment but sadly comedian has seemed to have fallen off the list. Everything he does is brilliant, but he's an excellent stand up and showed his humanizing insecurities the most doing it.
     
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  19. Aron

    Aron Well-Known Member

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    Don't forget about those triple bills you may have seen over the years. One of my favorites was seeing Neil Young with Booker T. & The MGs as his backing band. I think it was 1993. Pretty sure it was shortly after Neil Young and Pearl Jam played 'Rockin' in the Free World' at the MTV Video Awards. Neil was really riding high around then. Grunge was in, and he was making loud music that meshed well with what the kids were doing.

    Blind Melon was the first opener. The show was at the Frank Erwin Center on the UT campus. It's where the Longhorn basketball team plays to this day. Not exactly known for stellar sound, although, most of the shows I have seen there have actually sounded pretty good as far as indoor arenas go. The show started super early. I remember that, as Blind Melon was playing, the light from outside would shine through whenever people would open the doors to enter the arena looking for their seats. Anyway, Blind Melon was in support of their first record. They sounded good, but the set wasn't super memorable.

    The 2nd opener was Dinosaur Jr. They would have been touring "Where You Been" I guess. They were great, and, obviously, very loud. I remember my buddy and I were talking to this older couple after Blind Melon's set. You could tell they had bought tickets seeing the names "Neil Young" and "Booker T. & The MGs" thinking they were going to get a certain type of performance. They did not get that performance. The husband said, "That band was really loud". I smirked and said, "Well, you might want to step outside for the next act then because they are considerably louder than that first one". They waited, and midway through Dinosaur Jrs first song they got up and left.

    They came back for Neil Young, but I can't imagine they enjoyed that set as much as they had hoped. Neil turned Booker T. & The MGs into Crazy Horse on that tour. They sounded amazing together.
     
  20. POGunter

    POGunter Well-Known Member

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    A friend had an extra ticket to Moody Blues. I think it was around 1983. It was about 75 miles to the show. Our less than reliable car barely got us there. We were pulling into the top level of a parking garage a few minutes b4 the opening act was to start. We met a friendly stranger getting something out of his car so we naturally kicked back with him for a few. He said no hurry as the opening act had just started. We quizzed him on who it was as the tickets did not have them listed.

    After some back and forth we finally got that it was an unknown band called “Stevie Ray Vaughan”. He was just reaching a national audience and our local free form radio station had been promoting his album. We made a mad run for it and only missed the first song or two. That was the first but not the last time I was lucky enough to SRV play live. Wasn’t a doubt in my mind that the opening act stole the show.
     

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