There appears to be a lot of confusion around new bands when it comes to tackling the task of being a support band. Is it a case of always the bridesmaid and never the bride? Or is it about the bridesmaid outshining the main one on her special day?
I’m going to share what I think makes for a great opening act and how you can utilise the experience for maximum exposure AND get asked back!
In my fourteen years in the music industry, I have been a serial supporting artist. With my band Liberty Lies, I have notched up support slots with the likes of Shinedown, Halestorm, Alien Ant Farm, Rival Sons, SOiL, Magnum, Skillet and many more.
But it wasn’t until our recent headline tour that I realised how problematic local openers can be. So I thought I’d share some of my thoughts in the hope that it may help some of you be better openers.
One of the most important points to remember is to know your role. Whether you’re first on a 4 band bill or main support, you all play a part in the gig experience for those in attendance. Shows are now more expensive than ever and audiences want bang for their buck.
Opening bands are exactly that. You’re there to warm up the crowd before the main event, the one that the majority of people have come to see. You’re on their stage, playing around equipment that has been precisely placed for the headliners to have THE perfect show. If you do anything to ruin that show, you can guarantee you won’t be asked back!
One of the main things that will ruin a show is it not running on time. You will have been given an allotted time, not just for your set but for sound check, load in, load out etc… Stick to it! If you over run your set by even 5 minutes, the whole show gets pushed back and venues have strict curfew rules they must adhere too.
Changeovers. Changeovers. Changeovers
They can be the bane of your life when you’re on tour, no matter where you sit on the bill. These are normally in 15 minute windows. You have to remove everything you have on stage and allow the next band to get theirs on. Now… unless you’re playing an arena, you have a pretty limited space. If there are two bands, a sound engineer, a couple of roadies and someone’s dad on stage, all of your room has now gone.
Give the band packing away some time to get their stuff away, offer to help to speed up the process. You’ll then have a clear stage to get your stuff done quicker. In Liberty Lies, we pride ourselves on our quick changeovers, but if someone jumps in our space while we’re mid flow, it can be infuriating.
ALWAYS have the right gear for the gig. Before the show, there will be someone for you to speak to regarding this. It might be the promoter, the headline bands manager or one of the members. Sometimes you can use the main bands drum shells and guitar cabs, sometimes you have to bring your own. Do not assume that you can use what you like, as some bands will flat out refuse.
I’m quite happy to let people use my stuff, and more often than not I’ll offer it out for them to use it. However, if someone hasn’t brought anything with them and assumes they can use all of your expensive breakables, you won’t be asking them back in the future.
Return the Courtesy
Because my band had been mistreated by headline bands in the past, we made a point on our last tour to give all of the opening bands our time. We’d speak to them as much as we could, get to know them, offer to help out as much as possible. We made it a rule that we’d all go out and watch the opening bands perform. Headliners have to set an amount of time aside to prepare for their show, but as much as we could, we’d check out the bands. So when you see the supports packing up their gear and heading for the exit right after their set, you do feel that your time could have been better spent when they couldn’t offer you the same courtesy.
High Quality // Low Maintenance
The motto we always swear by is being high in quality and low in maintenance. Turn up on time, be mindful of stressed out people, play to the best of your ability and be polite and you’ll be well away. You might feel like the singer of the headline band is a dick, but you never know how his day has gone, his dog might have died and they’ve been sat in traffic all day and night. Remember to treat people well on the way up, as your paths may well cross on the way down!