The unappreciated life of an opening band

Oct 23 • By • 921 Views • No Comments on The unappreciated life of an opening band BS, EDITORS´ PICKS, Features, Issue 33 // Oct 2014

So you’re band is playing for free infront of 10 people. AGAIN.

Everyone arrives at 10.55 (as you’re packing up) to catch the headliner; no one even looks at your merch. How can an opening band catch a break?

First off, the Oslo audience is notoriously terrible at showing up to watch opening bands. It’s down right insulting and embarrassing. Often a touring band has a supporting act with them, or has picked out a local band or two they like to support them to create a good atmosphere in the bar; yet few people in Oslo would bother to show up and watch them.

Why am I bringing this up? I was just in Sweden and watched 4 bands last Saturday. I stayed at the club from 9pm until 4am, as most people did. There were maybe a few more people present for the local opening acts, since the headliner from the USA didn’t go on until 1-ish; but still it was an enthusiastic crowd that made me feel the towns sense of community and support for the local acts as well as the headliner. Why don’t people in Oslo show up early to shows?

The mindset I think some people might have is that most Norwegian opening bands suck. How do you know if you haven’t bothered to even check them out online before the gig? Yes, the quality of young bands might not be the best in the world, but there are a lot of them and there is bound to be some good ones lurking around. The reason I often hear is complaints about the high beer prices. There is no tradition to come early and stay late in this town, because it’s fucking expensive. I’m hard pressed to believe that the cost of beer is the only reason for people not turning up; people instead slam 10 beers in the short 1-2 hours they are at the club and go home. Why not spread out those beers on 3-4 hours and enjoy the opening acts and meet some people etc. You might actually enjoy the opening band, imagine that? You know who you are: you complain about the lateness of shows or the high ticket prices, but you show up late and try to get in for free cuz “you’re broke” and still spend a ton on beer. What gives?

These opening acts are the ones that dragged all their equipment down to the venue (often the equipment is used for free by the headliner); they get a few beers and often not even a paid taxi home or as much as a thank you in return. I realise every bar/booker can’t afford to pay every band, and you have to start somewhere; but where is the motivation when NO ONE bothers to see you play?

A solution to the problem (at least in my dreams) is to lock the fucking doors. You cannot enter the venue after 10 pm. You are “forced” to support the opening act, if you like it or not.
Another option is to switch the order of the bands. Announce the show as “starting at 10PM sharp” and put the headliner on first or second. A lot of people will be pissed, but maybe they will show up an hour earlier next time. Or how about double price at the door after 10pm? Venue’s will never dare to do this of course, but I wish someone would try something over an extended period of time. If it works, others will follow suit.

At gigs in Oslo, generally there’s only one opening act. Shows in other countries often feature a headliner and the supporting act they travel with, plus one or two local bands. One that draws the locals, and one new band that gets the experience of playing in front of an audience other than just their five best friends. Wouldn’t several openers create a better and more diverse scene? Wouldn’t it help small local bands develop and give them the experience they need?

Next time you’re going to a show; show up early and give the opening bands a few minutes of your attention. If you hate it you can always go out for a smoke. At least if everyone hates the opening act, the band gets feedback from the audience and can work more on their material; but when there is NOBODY there, how can a band improve?

For the record; no, I don’t play in an bitter/desperate band that never gets gigs; the concern is for the music scene, and right now, it’s not as vibrant as it could be.

Think about going to a concert as supporting the health of the town and it’s scene. You are not just supporting the headliner, you’re also supporting the local up and coming acts that might be your favorite band in five years time. You can boast to all your friends you were there at their first gig, and that you “knew them before they became popular sellouts”.

I realize things aren’t always perfect in other major cities as well, but come on Oslo audience, get your shit together.

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