Get There Early ... and Pay Attention
You're the opening act at a concert. To the majority of the people in the crowd, you're just up there to pass the time. They converse with their friends and act like you aren't even there. And those are the nice ones.
Quite often you'll be heckled. And the heckles are never even clever. "Get off the stage!" is quite common. "You suck!" is an old reliable one. Perhaps after saying, "This is our last song," you'll be greeted with a loud "Thank God!" That one always amuses me -- not because it's funny, but because it's so unfunny, and because the person who shouts that invariably has an extremely pleased look on his face (it's always "his" face), like he was the first person ever to come up with that comic gem.
It may surprise Extremely Pleased Guy to know that some of us actually want to hear the opening bands. In fact, some of us go to shows specifically to see the pre-headliner acts. In that spirit, here are five openers coming to town soon that are well worth your rapt attention.
Destroyer (opening for the New Pornographers ): Destroyer mastermind Dan Bejar is actually a member of the New Pornographers, and the group will serve as his backing band on this tour, only increasing the possibility that he will steal the show. While there's no denying the power-pop mastery of the NPs, Bejar's tunes for Destroyer are just more interesting. They zig and zag, build to cathartic crescendos and hold together thanks to Bejar's clever wordplay and his chirping, Bowie-esque voice.
The Child Ballads (opening for the Fiery Furnaces Oct. 15 at the Black Cat): Stewart Lupton, former lead singer of the late, great Jonathan Fire*Eater, finally resurfaces with a new band. It's a bohemian, folksy affair, lacking much of the pomp and circumstance of JF*E. Lupton remains a magnetic frontman and his poetic lyrics still take center stage. Betsy Wright serves as a perfect vocal foil when called for, and the whole thing recalls the ragged, torn and frayed sound of late-'60s/early-'70s Stones.
The Reigning Sound (opening for the Detroit Cobras Oct. 17 at IOTA): There's garage rock, there's garage rock and then there's Greg Cartwright. He's the main man in the Reigning Sound, and was also the main man in Memphis garage-blues bands The Oblivians and The Compulsive Gamblers. His songs will make your hips shake, your head nod and your feet act like the devil has got a hold of them. And isn't that what rock-and-roll is supposed to be all about?
Damian "Junior Gong" Marley (opening for U2 Oct. 19 and 20 at MCI Center): I'll admit I was skeptical of yet another Marley progeny entering the reggae world. I mean, just because his dad was a reggae star doesn't mean he's qualified to be a reggae star, right? What kind of logic is that? But man, that "Welcome to Jamrock" is a catchy song. And Marley's album of the same title (his third, and his mainstream breakthrough) is a very consistent affair, updating his dad's famous reggae beats for the 21st century, embracing dancehall, hip-hop and other club sounds. It'll be very hard for him to win over the MCI Center crowd, but at least give him a chance.
The Fruit Bats (opening for Son Volt Oct. 21 at the 9:30 Club): It's somewhat amusing that the Fruit Bats are opening for Son Volt (featuring former Uncle Tupelo songwriter Jay Farrar) because on its latest, "Spelled in Bones," the Chicago band sounds more than ever like that band from the other Uncle Tupelo songwriter, Jeff Tweedy's Wilco. It's not an exact match, but like Wilco in the past few years, the Fruit Bats are moving away from their country past. Instead of becoming more experimental, though, the Fruit Bats are going more folk-pop. Frontman Eric Johnson is up to the task with a collection of laid-back, effortlessly catchy tunes.
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