Who cares about opening acts at concerts? What is their purpose anyway? Is it to set the stage for the headliner? Make sure the audience buys sufficient drinks so the bar can make some dough or allow enough time for the alcohol and drugs kick in for the main act? Make sure the sound system works? Delay the headliner because they have to soundcheck all over again after the opener? That kind of stuff makes you want to dispose of opening acts.
The world can be a lot better without opening acts sometimes. The show tends to start a bit earlier and end a bit earlier–important for a weeknight show. And you miss some potentially forgettable or even worse, horrifying or hearing hurting music. This year for example, Television, Kraftwerk and New Order dispensed with opening acts and I was pretty happy about not having to stand through a band trying to set the table for these legends–who could compete.
Opening acts give the opportunity for a booking agent or club booker to attach an up and coming, lesser known or local band to a hotter property to give the band experience and exposure. And, once in a while the opening act blows the headliner off the stage. Just think about seeing Bruce Springsteen open for Helen Reddy–kind of scary isn’t it.
Yet, at the same time, every year I am lucky enough to see a few really great opening acts that, whether or not they defeat the headliner, become an important band for me for a short or long term. And that one time can give you sufficient reason to call the Governor to pardon opening bands.
In April, I was privileged to see Fear of Men, a group from Brighton, England fronted by Jessica Weiss. The music is dreamy pop. On stage Jessica rocks back and forth in circular fashion along with the rhythm of her and her cohort Daniel Falvey’s guitar riffs–she almost made me seasick, ut hypnotized me as well. Her voice is delicate and ethereal in a lilting Cranberries, Natalie Merchant or Sundays mode, yet as each song progresses she seems to build in firmness and confidence or the strength of her anger. As if she is testing the waters of her beliefs, convincing herself of their validity and then ultimately presenting them as fact. Her principles seem to be mantras of relationships broken, lost or headed that way, both uniquely dark (“I will never leave you, as long as I inter you with my bones”) or reflections (“if you never leave me I’ll never understand you because I’ll never know what I could have been without you”).
Overall, Fear of Men’s music will haunt you and make you think of your own relationships, past, present and future and the hopelessness of wishing for something else. As far as my future relationship with Fear of Men, I am sure to see them as a headline act soon.