Their names are often scribbled at the bottom of the show posters in marker or in italics on the venue website. Sometimes they’re a complete surprise.
Known or not, opening acts are an integral part of the concert-going experience, occasionally outperforming the top billed act in hopes of becoming your new favorite band.
Here are my favorite six opening acts of 2011, in no particular order.
Sara Swenson – A singer-songwriter hailing from Kansas City, Sara is blessed with a talent for writing songs from the soul and playing them without losing anything in the translation. Her set at the Old Rock House this year was one of those occasions where there was nothing but pure and sincere emotion in the room, and one of the few that I still remember as vividly as when I experienced it.
Dead Kenny Gs – A maniacal free-jazz fusion trio consisting of saxophonist Skerik, percussionist Mike Dillon and bassist Brad Houser, the DKGs opened for Primus at the Pageant in May. Tearing through a set of intricate free-jazz romps with an overly strong punk rock influence, they sounded like a blend of “Roxy and Elsewhere” era Frank Zappa and the Dead Kennedys. I’m convinced that the reason Primus sounded so lackluster that night was because they had to follow this spectacle of musical prowess.
Murder City Players – There really isn’t anything I can say about St. Louis’ own reggae superstars that hasn’t been said before. Top-notch playing, catchy tunes and good times are in abundance anywhere they play. When you see Murder City Players on a bill, you know you’ll be moving and grooving from the second they hit the stage until the last note leaves the speakers.
Pernikoff Brothers – Another native St. Louis band, these guys filled in the opening spot for G. Love and Special Sauce when Belle Brigade had to cancel due to transportation issues. Their pop/rock tunes are well crafted, full of lush harmonies and bombastic rock star power. The sound and energy coming off the stage from this power trio rivaled bands twice their size and goes to show what good musicians can do when they’re living their dream.
Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band – When I first heard Reverend Peyton start playing last April I had to do a double take. The finger-style slide guitar that the Rev was playing was phenomenal. The stage antics of his wife Breezy on the washboard and cousin Aaron on the drums and five-gallon bucket were hilarious, most notably the Jimi Hendrix-esque flaming washboard stunt near the end of the set. I spent most of the time they were playing with my jaw on the table, not fully believing that those three were the only ones playing the sounds that were coming off the stage.
Robb Steele – The last thing I expected to see at the MU330 reunion show in June was an old-school rap group. Local boys Robb Steele hit the stage with beats provided by an MP3 player and put on one of the most fun and entertaining sets I’ve seen. That set was memorable enough that when I ask my friend who was with me that night how a band that I missed seeing was, she usually replies with “They were good, but they’re no Robb Steele.”
Many venue owners/managers have been eagerly awaiting the end of baseball. For their sakes, here’s hoping their belief that it was suppressing attendance holds true.
Things are (mostly) twangy before the weekend:
Tuesday, November 1
Jonny Corndawg / Royal Smokestacks
Off Broadway 3509 Lemp 9-12 Free (21+ only) Smoke-free
This is another in a series of free shows courtesy of New Belgium beer. Nashville’s JC likes his country in the ’70s vein, with an emphasis on the outlaw style. RS is a high-energy, folk-esque ensemble fronted by Pat Eagan (the Monads).
In the “And now for something completely different vein” … masters of metal madness GWAR bring their theatrical take on the genre to Pop’s in Sauget, along with Every Time I Die and Ghoul, both of which I’ll guess are of complimentary styles. Starts sometime after 7 with a $22 cover. Smoke-free.
Wednesday, November 2
No Stag Nite this week.
Jason Boland & The Stragglers / American Aquarium
Off Broadway 3509 Lemp 8-11 $12 advance/14 door (+3 under 21) Smoke-free
More outlaw country sounds – this time from Texans JB&TS. Boots will be scooted. Raleigh, NC’s AA blend folk and country elements into a rock-centric base.
Joe Buck Yourself / Jesse Irwin
Cicero’s 6691 Delmar 8:30-11 $10 (+3 18-20) Smoke-free
JBY is the one-man band persona of Nashville’s Jim Finkley (aka JB), who is also known for his work in Th’ Legendary Shack Shakers and various Hank Williams III-fronted projects. Expect anything from ballads to country-punk mayhem. Acoustic country originals with hilarious themes and lyrics from JI.
Your humble servant,
Here are a ton of treats to stuff your ear candy bag with – no tricks required:
Friday, October 28
Tonight offers hell-raising rock sounds of the South from Macon, Ga.’s Drive-By Truckers and Murfreesboro, Tenn.’s Those Darlins at the Pageant (6161 Delmar), starting at 8. This is $22 in advance, 25 at the door (with 2 more for 20-under). Smoke-free. Welcomed by KDHX.
Read Scott Allen’s interview with Patterson Hood and KDHX DJ Allen Dahm’s top 10 list of DBTs songs.
If you’re attending, you should still hustle on down to Cherokee to catch what you can of this:
David Vandervelde / Magic City
El Leñador 3124 Cherokee 10-1 $5 Smoke-free
Nashville’s DV is a very talented musician (and producer) who blends rock, country and pop elements into music that fans of the ’60s-’70s SoCal scene (especially early Crazy Horse) should especially dig. I’ve been eagerly awaiting a return for quite some time. In contrast, the awesome MC plays rock with a somber vibe that ranges from dirge-like to frenzied. Add the tasty food available to the tasty tunes getting played, and you’ve got a night that’ll make Your Humble Servant a happy boy!
Being a big fan of the films of Ed Wood, it’s unfortunate that tonight is also when his ridiculous Orgy of the Dead will be recreated as part of the monthly Conspiracy cabaret show at the Crack Fox (1114 Olive), starting around 9. There are many components to this, including music from shock-a-billy band Paul Bearer & the Coffin Kings. Get the full details here.
We are in a dark room in a nondescript building in St. Louis. As the lights fade in, we see 5 men sitting on a stage. They are HONUS HONUS, POW POW, CHANG WANG, TURKEY MOTH, and JEFFERSON. They all sit in silence, but this is broken when HONUS HONUS begins to tap his foot repetitively on the ground in a way so it is clear he is anxious about something. A pair of gold sequined slippers rest atop an amplifier; POW walks over to them, peers inside, and seeing nothing, retreats to his drum kit.
Still tapping to an unknown rhythm
Last night… something occurred to me. Something important.
POW stands, sits again.
Important? I better sit down for this.
POW positions himself, facing HONUS, prepared and ready for something.
It wasn’t a dream. It was a revelation, although it felt like a dream as soon as I woke up and I realized it was different than a dream, more like a glimpse into the…into…
Inside a fall.
That is important. We need to paint our faces. Doesn’t everyone need to paint their face?
In light of this news. Yes, I believe we need to. In fact, it may be a matter of life –
and death…don’t forget death. It gets a bad rap. And nothing. “Nothing is everything.”
The semi-annual KDHX pledge drive is underway. Times are tight, which means the station needs your help more than ever.
The oft-listed Off Broadway received a nice accolade – they were named to a list of America’s Top 25 Live Music Venues in a poll of 40 artists. Considering that many of the others were legendary venues — like the Troubador, the Fillmore, the Bowery Ballroom — and/or in much bigger cities, that’s an impressive accomplishment.
Another fall weekend bursting at the seams:
Friday, October 7
Tonight is the start of Soulard Oktoberfest in Lyon Park (S. Broadway between Arsenal and Utah). As has become tradition, Denton, TX polka-rock heroes Brave Combo will appear, along with popular festival groups from Germany and other domestic acts (Polka Floyd has me intrigued). Note: This event will be gas on the fire regarding the tight parking situation already caused by the Lemp Brewery haunted house for Off Broadway shows this weekend. Please arrive early.
Off Broadway 3509 Lemp 8-10 $22 advance/25 door (+3 under 21) Smoke-free
El Paso’s (by way of everywhere) TR is a songwriter’s songwriter as evidenced by the very impressive list of folks who’ve recorded his tunes and/or collaborated over the almost 40 years he’s been performing. This will be a seated, solo show.
Foam Coffee & Beer 3539 S. Jefferson 7:30-8:30 $5 (all ages, I believe) Smoke-free
A few blocks away, another singer/songwriter in the early stages of her career performs an album release show. MN is also a singer/bassist for Bruiser Queen (and was for the wonderful ’75s). I’ve not heard her perform in this mode yet, but Christian Schaeffer has heard the album, and he reviews it as this week’s Homespun selection in the RFT.
The Lettuce Heads
Stone Spiral Coffee & Curios 2500 Sutton 8-10 Donation (all ages) Smoke-free
TLH offer quirky, pop-ish rock, with something to please folks ranging from toe-tappers to music nerds.
Lionize / Larry and His Flask
Firebird 2706 Olive 8-11 $10 (+2 under 21) Smoke-free
L hail from Silver Springs, MD and offer reggae sounds mixed with a hard-rock sensibility. Redmond, OR’s LaHF blend rock, folk and bluegrass with a punk ethos that produces a hellacious stage show — excellent showmanship.
They Might Be Giants know a thing or two about staying power. With a fun and arty sound the band continues to pull out surprises and memorable pop songs.
Originally a duo of John Flansburgh and John Linnell, They Might Be Giants has remained a pillar in indie rock over the last three decades. The band has maintained a hefty cult following since the mid-’80s with their nerdy personas and smart songwriting. Eccentricity also largely contributed to the band’s popularity. When the duo first started writing together, they used their original songs on a Dial-a-Song phone line’s answering machine in an attempt to share their music. Odd and memorable videos accompanied the group’s popular songs such as “Don’t Lets Start” and “Ana Ng.”
The band flirted briefly with the mainstream with their early ’90s albums and adopted a full live band. Many devoted fans felt estranged and betrayed that their band appeared on MTV and changed up their less conventional sound. But They Might Be Giants were always a little too quirky to do what’s expected of an alternative band; and that was quite clear when the band began releasing children’s albums such as “Here Comes the 123′s,” “Here Comes the ABC’s” and “Here Comes Science” throughout the last decade.
After creating original music for animated movies and collaborating on children’s books They Might Be Giants return to the adult-oriented rock with 2011′s “Join Us.”
KDHX welcomes They Might Be Giants to the Pageant on Saturday, September 24.
They Might Be Giants: Live at KDHX 10/9/09
Weeknights are jam-packed/packed with jams this week:
Monday, September 12
Black Moth Super Rainbow / Dosh / The Marshmallow Ghosts
Off Broadway 3509 Lemp 8-12 $15(+3 under 21) Smoke-free
Pittsburgh’s BMSR make the psyched-out soundtrack for the acid trip I never took, I suppose; a little too fond of lo-fi for my full-blown approval, but very imaginative. Here’s a take on them from Diana Benanti and the RFT.
Minneapolis native D (Martin Dosh, to be exact) is a multi-instrumentalist — I didn’t get to preview. TMG are an annual/seasonal Halloween-themed act that offers experimental/ambient/noise-pop. I believe they’re made up of members from several bands, including BMSR — a spookergroup, if you will.
I’m confused — are you saying Boo!? Or Boooooo!?
Shows at the Gargoyle, the Washington University campus venue, have resumed, with the first show tonight featuring Tokyo Police Club, with local support from Union Tree Review. Unlike the shows at SLU’s Billiken Club, there’s an admission charge here, and tix for non-students are limited to 100.
I forgot to mention last week that Rats & People Motion Picture Orchestra are doing the September Monday residency at El Leñador (3124 Cherokee). I assume they’re working on new some scores to classic silent films. Starts around 9. Free (I believe the kitchen is closed). Smoke-free.
Tuesday, September 13
A bill of punk, thrash and stripped-down rock from Oakland’s Hunx and His Punx and Nashville’s Natural Child — along with Little Big Bangs and Bruiser Queen - takes place at Firebird (2706 Olive), starting at 8:30. Cover is $10 (+2 under 21). Smoke-free.
In a sunshine day kind of mood? Have that sucked right out of you with an evening of gothi-cana courtesy of NYC’s O’Death, NO’s Why Are We Building Such a Big Ship? and Strawfoot at Off Broadway, starting at 9. $10 advance; 12 at the door (3 more for under 21).
Plenty of good choices before the weekend:
Tuesday, September 6
The monthly Listen Up! local music showcase at the Focal Point (2720 Sutton) includes the quiet folk and wonderful vocals of the Blind Nils, along with the roots sounds of Steve Chosich and two acts I’m not familiar with: Dave Werner and One Take. Music starts at 7, with a $3 cover (all-ages).
One of the few ‘90s swing revival acts to still be at it, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, plays at the Old Rock House (1200 S. 7th). This starts at 8. Cover is $32.50 in advance; $35 at the door (all ages).
Wednesday, September 7
Kid Congo and the Pink Monkey Birds / Alley Ghost
Off Broadway 3509 Lemp 9-11:30 $8 (+3 under 21) Smoke-free
Psyched-out, garaged-up rock from DC’s KCatPMB, fronted by Kid Congo Powers, former axeman for The Cramps, Gun Club and more. Their appearance here in February was a blast. AG offers the songs of Bob Reuter with a passionate, rough-at-the-edges mix of rock, blues and folk.
Johnny Vega$ was still trying to put tonight’s Stag Nite at El Leñador (3124 Cherokee) together, as of Sunday. You’ll have to follow him on Facebook for updates — or just take a chance and show up.
Thursday, September 8
Fishtank Ensemble / The Reventones
Off Broadway 3509 Lemp 8-11 $10 (+3 under 21) Smoke-free
SF’s FE play a high-energy blend of folk and jazz, with an emphasis on Gypsy and other Eastern European influeneces. TR play flamenco-oriented sounds.
Three Bad Jacks / Johnny Saint and the Princes of Hell / Butcher Holler
Firebird 2706 Olive 9-12:30 $10 (+3 18-20) Smoke-free
Rockabilly/psychobilly sounds from LA’s TBJ. Similar sounds from JSatPoH. BH offer country, rock and rockabilly.
The always-free Chippewa Chapel open-mic is at El Leñador, starting at 9.
Your humble servant,