Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Open Your Heart

Anyone who goes to concerts with some frequency knows the feeling. Your drink is nearing empty but the lights are going down, so you forfeit your refill in favor of keeping your spot near the stage. There's clapping, there's hooting, there's the crush (of varying intensity depending upon the hardcoreitude of the performer) of people pushing toward the still empty spotlight.

Two guys, better classified as "dudes," take the stage.

"Wait a minute," you think, "wait just a goddamn minute." You check for your ticket stub in your pocket. "There's not supposed to be an opener. THERE'S NOT SUPPOSED TO BE AN OPENER."

And your drink seems ever emptier as the dudes plow through ballad after ballad as comfortably as a school bus driving through a brick wall. "I'm always on the outside looking in," they sing, or something similarly cribbed from eight year old Dawson's Creek transcripts. "You make me broken."

"But I am strong."

Now you're crunching your ice and trying to see over the head of the dude in front of you to the setlist, which is taped to the floor and completely unreadable. They've played five songs. How many more songs can they possibly play? How many more permutations of suspended D minor chords can there even be? Mathematically, it has to end soon.

Still, though, another song. Then another, with two minutes of "whoa-oh-ooohhs" at the end.

I know that many good bands start off as opening acts, but there is a whole caste of musical acts who will never, ever be anything besides an opener. When I think back on the eight thousand shows I've seen in my life I can only recall a handful of opening bands who were ever heard from again--Queens of the Stone Age, for example, who I still don't like, and didn't like when I saw them in 1997 at Trampp's. The Moving Units, who opened for Blur a few years ago, are doing pretty well. The rest disappeared beyond the event horizon of notoriety where, thankfully, no light nor sound may escape. Jack Drag, dropped from their label a month after I sat through two sets of theirs at a Hole concert when Courtney was drunk and belligerently refused to come out and play. O-Town: anyone even remember their song?

The Pat McGee band Pat McBlew.

It's just a strange phenomenon. Even as a highly talented and popular blogger who brings in, Christ, like sixty hits a day, I can't imagine being asked to read eight or nine pieces before Philip Roth's next reading, you know? If you go to the ballet, you'd never have to watch forty minutes of (unannounced!) amateur softshoe before Swan Lake.

It's not that I don't feel for opening bands. I'm not the kind of person who boos, or even talks loudly during their sets. I try to conceal my laughter behind my companion's shoulder when an opening acoustic balladier spits all over the place in emphatic longing. It's not that I don't understand the strong desire to pursue a career. I totally get how on the verge they must feel taking the stage before someone who's made it, who ascended like a stuffed octopus in that great claw machine of fame.

But I can't stand through another nine song crap-a-long fronted by someone who hasn't yet mastered not smashing their teeth into the microphone or getting his foot stuck in a bunch of cords.

It's trying for my ears, and it's kind of tragic for my heart. It's a diet commercial before and after, only with music instead of gut flab.


Anonymous Mike said...

So I just got an e-mail from House of Blues Cleveland about upcoming events, one of them including the Pat McGee Band.

Ummm, how can I put this? Were you at a Hanson show?

10:46 AM  
Blogger What'sHerFace said...

Dude, if I had seen Hanson I would never, ever stop talking about it. Think of all the bloggable possibilities: brothers! blonde! married at a young age! vaguely religious!

Actually, PMcGB (as I like to call them, you know, never before right now) is a local Cleveland band. I saw them open for Tori Amos, I think.

10:54 AM  

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