As a concert promoter I often hear complaints about opening acts.
Not specific opening acts like “Man, that group sucked,” but objections to opening acts in general.
They don’t want to sit through someone with whom they aren’t familiar. They whine. They ask what time the “real” show will start. They come late or stand in the lobby and talk rather than going in and listening.
Personally, I don’t get it.
Some of my favorite musicians I discovered as opening acts.
A great example is Billy Pilgrim, a now defunct band that featured Kristen Bush (currently half of country duo Sugarland) and Andrew Hyra (who happens to be Meg Ryan’s brother.)
Billy Pilgrim opened for Melissa Etheridge in the early nineties and I was immediately taken by their sound. It’s a country/folk/rock/singer-songwriter thing with close harmonies. They sounds a little like a male version of the Indigo Girls, the Indigo Guys if you will.
I love their lyrics, which are quite clever and literate.
They wrote the only song I’ve ever heard that mentions Dramamine and the lyrics for their song “Falling Apart” include “Now I know what falling apart meant. Got my own falling apartment. There are cracks in the ceiling, tears in my clothes. I got gaps in my mind where nobody goes.”
(Ok, so it sounds better with the music, but I just love those lyrics.)
If I had skipped the early part of that Melissa Etheridge concert, I never would have discovered a group that became a staple of my regular playlist.
Even if you don’t fall in love with an opening artist, they might go on to become famous and you can do that “I saw them back in the 80s when they opened for Aerosmith” thing that makes you seem way cooler than you actually are.
I saw Shawn Mullins open a show before “Lullaby” was a hit, which isn’t all that impressive but still kind of fun.
And if the promise of new music or early access to the next big thing isn’t enough, people should come to see the opening acts simply to support the artists.
Everyone has to start somewhere and often opening for a well-known musician is the support act’s first big break.
Is giving up 30 minutes of your time too much to ask for these hardworking musicians?
So next time, instead of skipping an opening act, give them a try. You might be pleasantly surprised.
And at the very least, you’ve done your part to support a new artist.