Tonawanda News

July 20, 2013

MUSIC NOTES: Singing the praises of opening bands

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The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — A strange and wonderful thing happened to me a few weeks ago; I actually made it to a show in time to catch all of the opening acts.

I hate to admit it, but over the last few years, I have become a bit of a jerk when it comes to openers. I’m not sure why other than the snobbery associated with being a so-called “music journalist.” It’s time-consuming enough to cover the headliner, but then again, why should I complain, I hardly ever pay for a show anymore.

In all honesty, I have seen some pretty memorable opening acts over the years. Unfortunately, too few of them were able to make it in the music industry. One band I remember that opened up for Cheap Trick was called Off Broadway USA. They were from Illinois and I loved their opening set and recently downloaded two of their old albums.

Another band named Harlequin from Winnipeg opened for Triumph in the early 1980s, and I bought their album and loved it. They are pretty much unheard of outside of the western part of Canada.

Other openers I really loved in the 1980s included Krokus, 707, City Boy, Razor, The Cliches, Aldo Nova and Chris de Burg.

As the live music industry has changed, so has the role of the opening band. In the old days, opening for a band like Kiss was a band’s big shot at stardom, and if you don’t believe it, the list of openers for Kiss includes AC/DC, Alice in Chains, Sammy Hagar, Judas Priest, Scorpions, Motley Crue and Bon Jovi, most of whom were not huge stars before they performed before Kiss.

What I speculate has made a big difference was the move away from general admission seating after the trampling of fans in Cincinnati before a concert by The Who in 1979. It was a slow move, but it’s very rare to find shows that are fully general admission anymore, and thus fans don’t have to arrive early to get a spot and get “forced” into seeing the opener.

One of the good things about opening bands is that they have the most to prove, and in some ways, their performances are more genuine than the headliner’s show. If the opener is really good, it may even make the headliner really step up their game.

I think all too often I have had the lousy attitude that I don’t have time to catch the opener, and having missed so many of them over the last couple of years is making me wonder how much great music has been played in venues that I should have gone to early.

In reality, I probably still catch about 25 percent of the opening bands, but that is too low and feels very contradictory if I am supposed to be covering an entire show.

Therefore, my resolution for the rest of the summer is never to say to myself, “never mind the opener” it will be “I can’t wait to hear the opening band.”