“What time does Neurosis come on???”
That was the irritating start to an amazing night back on August 4th of last year. I was in Brooklyn at the Warsaw to check out my at-the-moment favorite band, Converge, who just so happened to be opening up for Neurosis. At the very second I walked through security and into the venue, your stereotypical hipster metalhead checked in at the counter to see what time Neurosis was coming before promptly leaving the venue (I’m sure to go enjoy a cruelty-free organic free range bison burger and a microbrew the consistency of pudding).
I get it that everyone has different tastes, and it shouldn’t be surprising that some people were there only to see the band that was ACTUALLY headlining the show. But Converge is a legendary act in their own right (and for what it’s worth, were immensely better than Neurosis that night), and to skip their set for whatever small social gains that guy got out of leaving when he did was nowhere near worth it. Especially when you factor in who opened the show that night.
I knew heading to the show that a third band was playing, but I hadn’t had a chance to look into their work before heading out that day. When the lights went down at Warsaw for the first time that night, I settled into the middle of the sparsely-populated floor and witnessed what was one of the most breathtaking performances I’ve ever seen live. Every last breath of air was sucked out of the room as Amenra mesmerized the entire crowd with the single-most devastatingly heavy show I’ve ever seen. You could feel the walls closing in with each successive note, and each maddening shriek from vocalist Colin van Eeckhout chipped away at my brain, leaving me on the brink of what was either a panic attack or Nirvana by the end of their set (all while facing the back of the stage the ENTIRE SET, Jim Morrison style).
I’ve since gone on to listen to every album in Amenra’s catalogue many times over, bought a hoodie from a shady-ass German merch site, and done a fair amount of digging into the surprisingly awesome Belgian metal scene. And it’s all because I showed up for an opening band I’ve never heard of. And to think, more than half the people that were packed into the venue by the time Neurosis took the stage missed out on this transcendent experience. And why? Even metal shows cost a non-insignificant amount of money, and it’s a lot easier to swallow (giggity) when you’re seeing three or four bands for the cost instead of one.
Amenra are far from the only band that I’ve discovered by showing up on time to shows, however, My metal fandom is littered with bands that I discovered simply because they were opening for another band that I enjoyed. Would I eventually have run into some of them eventually as their national popularity grew? Sure! But some of them undoubtedly would have flow under my radar, and my life would be sadder, more depressing, and less fulfilling because of it (not to overstate it too much). After doing a quick mental inventory, here are just a few:
Gojira (opened for Mastodon)
Car Bomb (opened for Gojira)
All Shall Perish (opened for In Flames)
Russian Circles (opened for Mastodon)
The Contortionist (opened for Between the Buried and Me)
The Black Dahlia Murder (opened for Dethklok)
The Body (opened for Alcest)
Gatecreeper (opened for Nails)
Lorna Shore (opened for Carnifex/Fallujah)
Red Fang (Opened for In Flames)
Cult Leader (opened for Dillinger Escape Plan)
Decapitated (opened for Lamb of God)
That is a god damn murderer’s row of metal bands right there, and I learned about every single one of them because I went to see a band that they were opening for one night. In many cases, those openers are now bigger and better than the previous headliners.
One final story to illustrate my point. My buddy Steve and I were given tickets to go check out Iron Maiden back in Colorado about 10 years back. We had a good hour-long drive to make, and since I’ve always been a big proponent of opening bands, I made sure we left with plenty of time to spare. But multiple accidents and roadwork unlike any I’ve ever seen in the Rocky Mountain area later, Steve and I wandered into Fiddler’s Green right as the opening band was finishing their final song. That song? “Pull Me Under”, by what I soon learned to be were metal legends Dream Theater. Possibly the one and only time in my life that I’ve been late to a show and I missed one of the most epic metal bands ever (and back when they still had Mike Portnoy, to boot).
Looking forward to my concert itinerary for 2018, the list of openers that I’m scheduled to see includes bands like Pallbearer, Toothgrinder, Astronoid, Fleshgod Apocalype, Bell Witch, Omnium Gatherum, and Moonspell, just to name a few. Even more exciting than that: some of the openers I’ve never heard of will undoubtedly be great.
So there you have it everybody. Don’t be that Brooklyn Hipster who missed Converge and Amenra because he was so fucking busy that he couldn’t spare an hour and half to see two of the best metal bands ever. Go see the openers!!!