Friday, March 12, 2021

Always The Opening Act, Never The Bride!



As a veteran musician, knowing what you know now, what ONE musical myth would you bust for your younger self in hopes of making the road easier for them?

Stay away from heroin. Sure, that one's probably number one with a bullet.

My friends in the studio engineering/production side of things would no doubt love to have back all that time spent rewinding and fast-forwarding, but, more importantly, all the actual human hours of mic'ing various amps and drum kits in various rooms over the years that can now all been boiled down to a few affordable plug-ins.

For me, it changes day to day, but today I find myself wishing I had never placed so much importance on opening for big name acts, as if doing so gave legitimacy to my little dog and pony show. 

Back in the day, so many motherfuckers thought it all boiled down to who you'd opened for or how many names you could drop in a single paragraph, but, at the end of the day, all we did was mow down an innocent forest and keep Kinko's in business another ten years past their natural sell-by date. 

In my own defense, you can actually book an entire national club tour, and drum up a little press too, without sending out a single promo pack, like I did back in 2008.

Back in the 80's/90s, doing so would have required spending endless hours trying to get the right person on the phone to deliver your sales pitch, but, with the advent of email, this grunt work was made SOOO much easier.

By 2000 or so, with the right email address and the ability to cut and paste a single paragraph of bullshit, you could get actual paying gigs. I found that club bookers are a lot like drummers. They want it simple.

In other words, "We've opened for The Fixx, Men at Work and Fastball" (stop laughing) was just an easier way of saying "We're a tad more savvy than nine out of ten other bands that want a gig at your joint" while still being ambiguous about your actual ability to draw a crowd. 

If you brought the motherfucking goods musically, most clubs didn't care if your following was only ten people, they'd book you again. I have seen bands play the same venue three or four times to nobody, but by the fifth time, they've all busted through and are able to draw a decent crowd on their own.
  
In other words, if the Metro doesn't want you back because you didn't give away enough free "Rock Against Depression" tickets with your band's name circled on them, then tell Joe Shanahan that he still owes you four more gigs.

It might work.

Also in my defense, once you learn how to weasel your way into a respectable opening slot, you realize just how fucking meaningless such slots are to venue booking agents because, at the end of the day, any club booker worth their salt could fill every decent opening slot vacancy with just those bands they know personally  (and, trust me, club bookers know a lotta bands, whether they want to or not) so the fact that your podunk parade band got a gig opening for Los Lobos or the Replacements is a story well worth plastering all over your press kit. 

Everybody else who got to open for Grand Funk at Sumerset Junction County Fair back in 1985 because their uncle was on the entertainment committee, shut it.

The other bad thing about opening for big name acts at the large club and small theatre level is that you can get addicted to the lifestyle of the headliner life without actually being a headliner. You still get the dressing room, the comped booze, the VIP passes, soundcheck, and, yes, groupies with the added bonus of only having to play for forty-five minutes.

Yep, the perfect job.

Just think, if Jimi Hendrix had been happy just to open for the Monkees, maybe he'd still be alive.

No comments:

Post a Comment