Benzedrine prose and power writing in order to meet the deadline of the end of the weekend and maybe even interact with some fellow hoo-mans. Life is a weird thing ad I am wonderfully afraid to die. The point being – even as the Phillies continue to slide I need to crank these things out for you, so today we are going to be talking about what you need to be doing as an opening band. This is NOT an article about how to get opening slots. That would be a separate, but very important topic that has already been covered at length on this blog. What I am trying to discuss here is what you need to do when you are a local opener so that the headliners like you and they want to play with you again. This is a tricky one and it’s going to be important to spend some time differentiating between sucking up and being someone who the bands genuinely want to hang out with. So let’s get ready to drive into some rough truths shall we?
First off – if you aren’t direct support and moreover directly responsible for at least 50 people being at this show then the opening band doesn’t owe you shit. I’ve seen a lot of bands who act like they are hot shit to be playing on the same stage as a mid level band, but that’s just not the case. You got here because you were friends with the promoter and nothing more. That’s fine, that’s how it’s supposed to be, but don’t be a dick to the headlining band and expect them to immediately want to be your friends. They are probably on tour and tired and stressed and just dealing with so much shit you don’t even know about that making their lives any harder than they have to be is just shitty. So respect that and use that as a jumping off point for how you are going to interact with the headliners in order to create a meaningful relationship. The goal here is for them to request you to open every time they come through your town.
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So how do you start to win them over? Well see what you can offer that is meaningful and not just puffery. The big one is to offer to let the band crash at your house, don’t make them ask, be that guy be up front. This is going to win you a ton of favors over the years. When I had a living situation that permitted that it got me super far. You’d be surprised how big bands will gladly take a free place to stay, especially if your spot is nice with couches and a spare room or even laundry. Speaking of laundry – offering free merch can be a huge help to a lot of bands. I’ve certainly been gnarly on your and been extremely grateful when somebody offered me a clean shirt when I had none of my own. Now I think of that band every time I put the shirt on – it’s a huge blessing and I know that next time I have a band going through their town I am going to reach out to them on Facebook to see what I can do to get them on the show.
Beyond this just be generally cool. Remember that the guys in the headlining band have been cramped in a car together for days. Some of them are going to want to chat and shoot the shit. Others are going to want to isolate. Figure out who wants to shoot the shit though and then connect with them. Buy them drinks, be a buddy, bring value, make your town be somewhere they look forward to coming. Maybe point them in the direction of good food too, that’s always a great way to establish yourself as a local, people remember the good spots that they go to eat on tour. If you show up and you’re super prepared to cater to the headlining band and be their buddies, not their slaves you are going to find that they will be really stoked on you. They deal with so many dumb apathetic bands that someone who wants to be cool is going to be remembered and if they are remembered you’re guaranteed another sick show with your new boys.
Of course we can’t forget the most important part – having a killer show and bringing people. This is part of why it’s so key to be sure you can bring people to a show – so that the big boys want to bring you out again. On top of that, try and make a point of dedicating a song to the headliners, again, if they are on tour they probably are going to see a hundred bands and they aren’t really going to care about any of them. However if you try and differentiate by giving them a shoutout, having a hell of a show and generally doing your best to create a memorable stage experience then you are rapidly going to gain their respect. Once you hit that point things will start to evolve and a beautiful reality is going to unfold before you. After you get off stage go and buy their fucking merch, this too will be remembered, if you’ve been nailing it thus far they might even give you merch for free.
As you master the art of being an opening band you are going to get a bit of a reputation. Getting plugged into the hard touring community is of course a great boon for any band. You want to be the band promoters love to book and who headliners love to play with. You can become ‘those motherfuckers’ and once you are ‘those motherfuckers’ some of the headliners will want to have you on a few dates. They will want you coming out and partying with them. When you find yourself plugged in you start to find the walls disappearing and suddenly your band is going to be elevated to new heights with great new potential for advancement and excitement. I know it’s hard and pricey, but this is how you wind up a success.