Typically, rock concerts feature at least two bands on a single bill. There is usually a headliner (the band that plays last), and one or more opening bands (I call them "openers") to get the crowd in that rock and roll state of mind before the headliner puts on the big show. More often than not, the headliner is the most popular band at the show, and hopefully the highlight of the evening. But every now and then, the openers can really show up the main act. This happened to me last year when Eluvium blew my mind before another band closed the night out. These are wonderful surprises, these opening acts with more pizazz than the band they’re opening for. It doesn’t happen often, but when it does, you never forget the show (not the opener anyway).
And it happened again this weekend. A band from Portland called The Builders and the Butchers opened up Schubas on Saturday night with some wildly creative folk rock, followed up by another great opening set from that band I keep telling the ReleBlog about (the Acorn). I won’t say who the headliner was, because I don’t ever want to be negative on this blog, but I was very underwhelmed after enjoying these two openers.
The Builders and the Butchers had the do-it-yourself ethic of Anathallo, the weirdness of Danielson, and the energy of Calibretto (just showed my age there… sorry.). Whether they were singing out of a 4 ft. long megaphone, tossing out percussion instruments to the crowd, or twirling giant noisemaker tubes above their heads, this band caught your attention and didn’t let go. They’re a band that must be experienced live. I’d even recommend that other bands study the Builders and the Butchers’ live performance to see how to properly put on a rock show for a crowd of people who’ve never heard of you.
And The Acorn took advantage of the live setting as well. On record, this band can be soft and pretty. At their show, they’re loud and intense. They’re one of the great examples of a band who can create beautiful music for an album, and then take those same songs onto a stage and blow them up into a sound that can only be experienced in the live setting. This is another strength that a lot of bands should study. An album should only be an image of what is really meant to be experienced through the band. The live show is the treasure, music should never be limited to a recording.
Does anybody else have any examples of times when the opener was better than the headliner? If so, please share. Because these are the bands that need to be shared anyway (the headliners are already well-spoken of).