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Monday, November 10, 2014

Things Your Local Band Should Know About Opening for National Acts

Posted By on Mon, Nov 10, 2014 at 3:19 AM

As close as a typical opening band might get to meeting KISS. - PHOTO BY CLEVER CUPCAKES VIA FLICKR
  • Photo by Clever Cupcakes via Flickr
  • As close as a typical opening band might get to meeting KISS.

By Chris Lane

Your band has been playing shows for a while and seems to be getting popular. Perhaps you're still just rising stars on the hometown circuit or have hit the road a few times to try your luck at touring. Eventually, the day comes when you get a dream gig opening up for a big national act -- a band with a certain amount of fame and success that you've always looked up to, or at least respected.

Does this gig mean Death Hippie has finally made it and superstardom is around the corner? Can you and your bass player finally quit your jobs cleaning up "accidents" at the porno theater where you both work? Will you at least make industry connections and become friends with your rock & roll heroes after your band opens the show?

Probably not. But as with most things involving the music biz, you'll probably learn some lessons along the way. I certainly did.

4. Just Getting the Gig Doesn't Mean Your Band Has Made It

Think about it: How many times have you gone to see a semi-famous band, only to sit through one or two local bands opening up for them? It's a pretty common setup: A local promoter needed to pad the lineup, and called up Death Hippie and XCiter to open the show. Sometimes you get lucky and discover a great band you hadn't known about; other times you just want them to finish up so you can see the band you paid to see.

That promoter's decision might have been made for any number of reasons -- local popularity, or your band plays a style of music similar to the headlining act, or maybe you were just the first band to answer the phone. Who knows? Sometimes a local radio station might hold a contest to decide which local band gets to play.

There are lots of reasons you might get offered the gig -- but that don't necessarily mean your band is rocketing to the top. Yes, it's probably a good thing to get to support larger acts, but think of how many long-forgotten bands you've sat through while waiting to see the headliners. It puts things in perspective when you realize that you never heard anything from those opening bands again. Either they didn't rise to fame, or the members of Krokus have a policy of murdering everyone who ever opened a show for them. Actually, the band did have an album called Head Hunter, so it's not that unlikely.

A high-profile spot opening for a national act can create momentum for a less famous act, but it might also end up just being another show. Next week Death Hippie might go right back to opening for that scary hobo who juggles dogs down at the local community center.

You won't be hanging out and taking any selfies with this guy, sorry. - PHOTO BY ALAN MOORE VIA FLICKR
  • Photo by Alan Moore via Flickr
  • You won't be hanging out and taking any selfies with this guy, sorry.

3. You May Never Meet the Band You're Opening For

This was one of the weirder things I learned, although it makes perfect sense. Your band might never interact with the famous band you're opening for. You might never meet the people in that band. I know a guy whose group toured with several others opening for a relatively famous heavy-metal singer.

My pal was a huge fan, on top of the world at getting the gig, and figured that he would become best buds with his hero. He was only in the same room with the guy a handful of times, and very briefly at that. After a monthlong tour, he finally managed to get a photo of the two of them together, and that was the extent of their new "friendship."

Everyone is different, but many rock stars tend to be insulated from a lot of the things that make their concerts possible, and that includes the opening bands. A lot of times the guys in a famous band are either sitting in a private area backstage or they don't even show up at the venue until right before they go on. Afterward, they're immediately whisked away to wherever the oiled midgets and swimming pools full of cocaine are located. They're not generally going to be interested in having a few after-show beers with the local bands who opened their concert, especially bands they've probably never heard of before.

Years ago, my friend Doug's band opened up for KISS at a beach concert. The closest he got to any members of KISS was in a huge tent set aside for the bands, and the sex-obsessed senior-citizen clowns in KISS were in a separate, roped-off area. My friend got just close enough to hear Paul Stanley make a derisive remark about him (that he looked like Nikki Sixx, but without the money). Burned by Paul Stanley! Oh, the humanity!

So, yeah, even bands that play multiple shows on the same tour with a famous act might never really spend much time with its members. They might be traveling independently of one another, staying at different hotels and only be in the same general place when they're at the venue for the show.

Story continues on the next page.

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