*originally published in Sound Waves Magazine May 2018
As an unknown Indie band, opening for a national act can gain you tons of potential new fans, super bragging rights, and you can write “Shared the Stage With….” on your web site so people think you’re even more awesome than even you think you are.
When you’re on a “bill” at a venue, the first name on the list is the “headliner”, and all the names below it are the “openers.” We were asked to be on the bill at a prestigious venue in New Haven, Connecticut and we jumped at the chance. We got to the place, loaded our stuff in, and got a sound check, which is a rare event for an opener. When we first arrived we were last on the bill, but after impressing the electronic poster people with our awesome sound check, we were magically moved up on the list. The closer you are to the headliner in line, the better you are, I guess. We even had a dressing room, which smelled like Mick Jagger. This place had hosted all kinds of national acts, but had never been cleaned.
Another important factor for determining how far you move up the bill is how well you bark. How well you bark also determines how much money you get in an envelope after your set. Barking is the time-honored and highly-skilled activity, made famous in New York City and Las Vegas, of handing out pieces of paper to people walking by. You hand out pieces of paper to people around the venue in the hopes that they will read your piece of paper, digest what you yelled, i.e., “barked,” into their face, and show up to the venue with the piece of paper.
Our pieces of paper were pink so the more people who showed up with pink pieces of paper, the more money we got and the later we played. We spied most of our pink pieces of paper in garbage bins up and down the street, but we never let it sway us. This is just the way of the world people!
After we had had enough barking, we went back to the venue and hoped for the best. We had to wait in line for our turn on the left side of the stage, with our amps and drum set and guitars, so that when it was our turn, we could get our butts up there real quick like. We got up there, plugged in, tuned, and stopped hyperventilating. The band before us thought it was real cute to climb on top of the house speakers and spew beer from their heavy metal mouths. A lot of beer. So we were sticking to the floor, and I don’t even want to know what kind of gunk got on my purse, and we attempted to put on an energizing and unforgettable show. It was very hard to jump around with all the stickiness, so we just sort of stood there.
We did our thing to a packed crowd, and exited stage right. A couple more bands played and then the main attraction took the stage. These dudes didn’t have to load a thing up there, because their stuff was already magically there. We had been playing in front of “their” Marshall stacks, mic stands, and drum set. They took the stage and we humbly sat with expectation to see who had been bestowed this great honor. To our horror, the main event, the headliner, the big kahuna, was a Van Halen cover band! We had waited twelve hours, and so had the rest of the crowd, for a Van Halen cover band! And since Van Halen did a lot of covers in their day, we were actually opening for a cover band covering a cover band?
Disillusioned, and rather pissed off, we just shook our heads and said, “Well, that’s Connecticut for ya. The Land of the Cover Bands.”
We got some good video footage, a tic on our resume, and zero dollars. Not enough pink pieces of paper they said.
Back when I was still in a cover band, we did ‘50s/’60s music and were “popular.” Some college in Massachusetts thought it was a good idea for us to open for that fictional band from “Animal House” – Otis Day and the Knights.
Because we were such professionals, on our tech rider (that’s the contract where you write things like green M&Ms), we requested water bottles and cut-up fruit. This was living the dream man! The organizers actually delivered, and we were just ecstatic. We got through sound check and the crowd started arriving.
Yes, people wrapped in sheets.
Apparently, we were in for some kind of a fabricated “Animal House” reunion. With trepidation, we did our thing, and the crowd loved it. Well, they were already quite drunk and actually couldn’t care less who we were or what we played. With the guys in the band trying to focus on the songs, instead of watching all the sheets fall off all the girls, we ended to thunderous applause.
Otis and his band hit the stage, and well, all hell broke loose. By this time, we were really wishing we brought togas, because we looked completely out of place. Otis and company took a break and the crowd started chanting, “Fan-ta-sy, Fan-ta-sy,” (the name of our band) just like “toga, toga, toga, toga….”
I think we got up there and did some more songs to placate the situation, and we were soon told to get the hell off the stage so the “real” band could get back up there. It was all good fun. We got paid, but never saw those people, or that band, or that college, again.
I haven’t figured out how to best word these experiences on the web site yet…