Tuesday, January 24, 2006

We Have A Set List

Rock concerts; drunk and stoned fans, over priced concessions, concert t-shirts, long lines at the restroom, mosh pits, standing room only, whining pushy people rushing the stage after the show has started, lighters held aloft during the ballad, shouts of play "Freebird", scalpers and bootleg merchandise people outside the venue, gorillas in security shirts, and stepping over the puddles of vomit and people who've passed out after the show. That doesn't even include the actual music which can veer from transcendant to total crap depending on who's playing. Many times you'll go to a show and find an opening act that blows the headliner off the stage, or perhaps the opening act is so bad you can't sit through them, or the opening act is inexplicable in some way. Whatever the case, it's often the opening act that stays lodged in your memory and this is what this post is all about.

Blown Off The Stage (All events taking place in Nashville)

Magnapop opening for Mudhoney - April 4, 1993 at 328 Performance Hall.

I'd never heard Magnapop before the show. Their blend of classic and alternative rock along with their super cute girl singer made for a pleasant forty minutes with the big winner being their cover of the Big Star classic "13" which just about brought tears to my eyes. Mudhoney came on stage and proceeded to bore the hell out of me. I was a huge Mudhoney fan at the time and perhaps being mucho disappointed has colored the event, but the guys in Mudhoney were lifeless and the music felt the same.

Urge Overkill opening for Dinosaur jr. - Thursday May 9, 1991 at 328 Performance Hall.

I loved both these bands so I was stoked when the bill was announced. Urge Overkill didn't disappoint. They were out supporting The Supersonic Storybook at the time and once again a cover song caught my ears: their version of Hot Chocolate's "Emma" sent shivers down my spine. Dinosaur jr. were loud as advertised, but it was apparent that J. Mascis had no soul. Their set had thud, but no heart.

Y & T opening for Twisted Sister - some Saturday late in the summer of 1984 at Municipal Auditorium.

Dokken was also on this triple bill of metal and technically were the opener with Y & T being the middle act, but no matter how the gig was billed Y & T were the highlight. Dave Meniketti and his bunch lit up the place with their pop metal AOR groove. Then they got the crowd really amped up when the Y & T metal man joined them on the stage. Twisted Sister just came across like louts as Dee Snider did his usual berate the fans for not standing up routine. Even as a joke, it just came across lame.

Megadeth opening for Dio - Tuesday January 19, 1988 at Municipal Auditorium.

Dio was on the way down at this time. His stage show budget had been sliced to the bone and instead of fighting dragons he fought real cheap looking electronic spiders. Megadeth were on the way up to superstardom and their set was killer. I started some slamdancing with the Gonz and Mike and then got Mustaine's autograph between sets. Savatage were also on the bill and they too were better than Dio this night.

The Alarm opening for Bob Dylan - Friday July 22, 1988 at Starwood Amphitheater.

Dylan wasn't bad, He was actually really good, but he acted like he didn't give a shit and he barely played over an hour. DD Blank and I couldn't help but feel a little ripped off by him. We cooled our jets and decided to give the old man a pass since he was and is a living legend. We had The Alarm's incredible opening salvo to lift us up. Mike Peters was like a man possessed with the true spirit of rock and roll as he exhorted the crowd even if it meant running out to the soundboard in the middle of the seats once. It was anthemic and uplifting.

Worst Openig Acts

Barkmarket opening for The Pixies - Saturday February 1, 1992 at Memorial Gym.

Damn Barkmarket sucked. They were noisy, They were tuneless. They were sorta ugly too. That was probably their point, but I didn't have to like it or take it. After about five songs I told DD I was going to get a coke and that I would be back. I was telling DD a lie. I had no intention of subjecting myself to the full blast of their muck furnace. He found me a few songs later sitting at the bottom of a staircase and he gave me hell for bailing on him. We stayed there until Barkmarket finally finished both knowing we had shared an historical event - the worst group we were ever likely to hear.

The Nerve opening for Ted Nugent - Friday April 20, 1984 at Municipal Auditorium.

The Nerve, a local Nashville band, weren't supposed to open for Ted. Bon Jovi had been slated as the openers. I was actually relieved that I wouldn't have to sit through "Runaway" which was their big hit at the time. But The Nerve blew chunks. They were old looking, Some of them were even bald! And there seemed to be way too many people in the band. I guess they were some sort of hippie jam band based on their music...hey dude cue the bongos! The crowd wasn't too appreciative letting The Nerve know that warming the stage for a metal god like Nugent wasn't too cool. They started getting things tossed at them and it wasn't women's underwear. Lucky for us they split rather quickly.

Autograph opening for Van Halen - Saturday February 11, 1984.

David Lee Roth was jogging buddies with the lead singer of Autograph. That's how they came to open for Van Halen. They had yet to have success with "Turn Up The Radio" and were complete unknowns to the crowd who only had one thing on their mind; rocking out to Van Halen. The booing was so bad I felt sorry for Autograph who were gamely trying to win the audience's favor. They only way they were going to do that would be to leave the stage, which they did after the whiskey bottles started flying. My pity didn't stop me from throwing one too.

Afghan Whigs opening for Teenage Fanclub - Tuesday May 12 at 328 Performance Hall.

I really liked the Whigs before the gig. I had their Sub Pop release with the picture of the cut hand on the cover and it had become a constant on the record player. They had moved on to a little different sound by the time of this show. It didn't do too much for me. It was strictly dullsville; plus Greg Dulli was a pretentious nob the entire set. Their naked drummer didn't help out visually either. Teenage Fanclub were great. I've still got their setlist from that show.

Marky & The Unexplained Stains opening for Volcano Suns - late 80's or early 90's at Elliston Square.

Mark Nevers has gone on to be an excellent producer, but Marky & The Unexplained Stains was one terrible band. I believe they were trying to bring some NYC flavored rock to Nashville, but it was just a cacophonous mess.

The Inexpicable (strange and wondrous)

Firehose opening for Soul Asylum - Thursday September 19 at 328 Performance Hall

Firehose were their usual awesome selves, but it just didn't seem right for them to be opening for the soon to be megastars for a moment Soul Asylum. Sure, they were both out of the indie college alternative circuit, but Firehose were far superior to Dave Pirner's bunch in my opinion. I think they were on the same label at the time.

Dead Milkmen opening for Living Color - sometime in the late 80's or early 90's at the Cannery.

I bought Big Lizard In My Backyard after hearing "Bitchin' Camaro" back in 1985. So I was down for the Milkmen. My old band, The Dislocated, were known to bust out some Living Color songs like "Middle Man" or "Desperate People" so I was up for some Vernon Reid guitar slinging. But on the same bill? It was just totally weird. A huge contingent of Murfreesboro punk wannabe's came to the show just to see the Milkmen. It seems they'd all heard "Punk Rock Girl" and thought it was great. So they proceeded to slam dance and act like total idiots to the people who had come to see Living Color. I'd never thought of the Milkmen as being punk in any way. I ended up spending some of their set outside talking to a dude who had come all the way to Virginia just to see Living Color. He had gone outside because some of the Milkmen's fans had said some racist crap to him. He didn't want to get in trouble for kicking their heads in and then miss Living Color so he was cooling off.

The Replacements opening for Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers - Saturday August 5, 1989 at Starwood Amphitheater

The first words Tom Petty told the audience were "We're a little different. We have a set list." His opening act, The Replacements, had just spent a good half hour drunkenly taunting the crowd. I had seen The Replacements before as a headliner at the National Guard Armory where they were awesome, but I knew about their reputation for dissolute drunken gigs. As soon as they walked on stage that hot summer evening I looked over at DD and we both said, "they're totaled." We weren't talking cereal consumption. They played a few of their own songs halfway decent and then they starting fooling around with "Walk On The Wild Side" and it went nowhere. It was just an aimless mess. Then they started taunting the crowd, which was packed with Petty fans that had never heard of The Replacements, while slugging down bottles of Jack Daniels. "F*%# You, but we love your whiskey," they snickered. They announced a drum solo by Chris Mars and he threw his sticks into the crowd instead of playing. It was completely awesome in its way. I overheard a couple of guys later talking about Westerberg and company - they'll never get anywhere with that kind of attitude. Sadly, they were right.

Julianna Hatfield opening for The Lemonheads - Wednesday August 12, 1992 at the Exit/In.

I think Julianna was ticked off about Lisa Loeb's success. When the audience wouldn't prostrate themselves at her feet after a few songs she started to talk about how lame we were. It's a Wednesday night in Nashville - you're lucky if you can get a crowd enthusiastic on a Saturday night here. We were politely applauding her very sedate and polite music. She wasn't horrible, but Liz Phair she isn't. So we weren't completely stunned when she said, "You're the worst audience ever" and then stomped off the stage in a tizzy. I'm proud that I was part of her worst audience ever.

Feel free to share your own opening act experiences at concerts in the comment section.


Anonymous said...

I agree with the Nerve and Autograph. I don't remember the Dead Milkmen show. I do remember Living Color as putting on a good show that evening.

Mo said...

Most surprising opening act: Jellyfish opening for the Black Crowes.
Opening act that made the main attraction look worst: Soul Asylum opening for the Spin Doctors. (Not surprising I know)
Worst opening act. . . ever: Teagan and Sara opening from Ryan Adams

Anonymous said...

First time I ever saw the Melvins, they were getting booed opening for L7. I’ve been a die-hard ever since.
Pavement got double showed-up by opening bands Calexico and Dirty Three.
Fugazi, god bless ‘em, would let local bands open and that resulted in some horrible waits. Some Denton riot grrl band that I can’t remember the name of. I think it was their first gig opening for Fugazi! Also in Nashville, was it Clockhammer? I hated ‘em. I think Wally may like them.

You reminded me of some:
Urge Overkill opened for Mudhoney (also on the Supersonic Storybook tour) and whupped ‘em.
I had forgotten that I had seen Living Color play, but I remember that Dead Milkmen show and now I remember Living Color too. Huh… maybe I’m one of the punk chumps you referenced. Ha!

Mo reminded me of Teagan and Sara. The Ditty Bops opened for them and were head and shoulders better (even though that was Kara’s show, they were really good).

I’ve seen so many shows, I may have to come back to this thread as I think of others.
You should do a thread of top to bottom killer concerts next.

Wally Bangs said...

Tegan & Sara were damn obnoxious and they almost made my list. It seemed like Clockhammer opened every show I went to for awhile and they were plenty bad in my book. Shrub, I seriously doubt you were running around dropping bigoted remarks - that got me madder than the slamdancing which I just thought was dumb to do to the Milkmen. Their music always struck me as better suited for the pogo.

stolen pony said...

The oddest, yet strangely entertaining opening act I ever experienced has to be the Jesus Lizard. David Yow was so completely wasted on stage that he could barely stand up. They opened for Bush.

The worst is probably the girl from some band I can't remember the name of who was masturbating on stage while singing a really bad song. Can't remember who they opened for and I don't care to know.


J'ason D'luv said...

The first time I ever even heard of The Killers was when I saw them open for Morrissey at The Wiltern in Los Angeles in April of 2004. Their album hadn't come out yet, and I would almost say they upstaged the Moz... almost... had Moz himself not had so much excitement surrounding him about his own comeback.

Needless to say, I got a promo of Morrissey's new CD and it s-u-c-k-s.

Anonymous said...

Best Opening Slot Shows:
1) Mnic Street Preachers at Wembley opening for Stone Roses (Late December of 95). This was their comeback after Ritchie went missing and I will always remember those versions of "Design For Life" and "Australia" as amazing. The Stone Roses were great, but I was there for the Manics and they didn't let me down.
2) Jon Spenser Blues Explosion opening for SCOTS and Jesus Lizard in Fall of '93 at the Library in Knoxville. I went next door for fries at Wendy's and came back in just in time for the JSBX. From the opening chord my jaw was on the floor. AT the time I told myself that it was the closest I was going to come to experiencing the Who in about 64. It was mod and it was ferocious.
3) Lone Justice opening for Tom Petty summer of 85(? Help Me WAlly). Man, I had a major crush on Maria McKee. She sounded great that night except for the sound man's error during "Don't Toss Us Away" for which I will always remember that vicious glare she gave him.
4) Superdrag opening for some metal-ish band at the Mercury Theatre in Knoxville in Spring of 94. The first show of many amazing shows by a great band.
5) The Alarm opening for Pat Benatar in Williamsburg, VA circa Spring of 86. She wasn't bad, but "68 Guns" was much much better and less cheesy than that "Sex as a Weapon" song.

Worst opening acts:
1) Bark Market for the Pixies
2) Juliana Hatfield - She was worse than Wally lets on. Yeah, it was that bad.
3) CAt Power down on the bill at some punk matinee in Knoxville in the late 90's. I have never understood her appeal. I gave her a try for about 3 songs and then I had to go outside and sit around with most everyone else.

I am sure that there have been other bad opening bands like Little Ceasar opening for Jane's Addiction, but usually I just don't let it worry me and hope that the headliner is worth the wait.


Jon said...

I was at the Savatage/Megadeth/Dio show and I pretty much agree. I might be more chartiable towards Dio but still the openers were the show.

My addition to the list of great openers would be Nine Inch Nails opening for The Jesus and Mary Chain (1989-ish?)

Ryan said...

Vandenberg opening for Ozzy (1983?)

Duke Jupiter opening for REO Speedwagon (I recognize now that it was kind of a "lose-lose" situation, but at the time I was simply Ridin' the Storm Out. Duke Jupiter practically begged the audience to bring them back out for an encore. The result was utter silence.

Anonymous said...

I liked it when I opened for Yngwie. I'm better than him.
Guy Man Dude

Wally Bangs said...

Guy Mann Dude - I hadn't thought about that dude in years! He deserves a post of his own; he's almost as cool as Chuck Norris.

Thanks to Ryan I've now got Vandenberg's "Burning Heart" stuck in my head...I still have that album on tape. Adrian Vandenberg was supposed to be the next Eddie Van Halen or the latest Yngwie depending on which guitar mag's hype you believed. Instead he just ended up as a sideman in Whitesnake during the Tawny Kitaen video age.

I've got a great Duke Jupiter story from 1984's One For The Sun show that I'll have to post one of these days. It ends with me throwing up all over Gonz's carpet.

Anonymous said...

We couldn't get the damn stain out - we had to have the carpet changed. Of course with that 70's style carpet, you couldn't tell if someone threw up on it anyways.

Anonymous said...

What about Metallica opening for Ozzy. Was that 85 or 86? James Hetfield had a broken arm and he sang and headbanged while a roadie played his guitar parts off stage. I went to this show with Gonz and Ma Taylor. The most awesome thing was Johnny Cash was in the audience! I think Gonz got his autograph.

Black Belt

Keith G said...

I was at the Tom Petty show in Nashville when the Replacements opened. (also at the National Guard Armory show). I am surpised u didnt mention what they wore when opening for Tom Petty ....dresses! It was bad but it was awesome...

Wally Bangs said...

I should have mentioned it! It wasn't that big a deal to me, but I guess it was to all of the Petty fans. One memorable night and I believe the show is available on bootleg.