Make Them Suffer from dwellingondaydreams.com
We’ve all been to concerts. We all know how it works. There’s a headliner, maybe two, and a few less popular bands opening for them, both as support and to gain exposure. The headliner takes precedence, because the headliner is the main draw card. They’re at the top of the billing because they have a larger fan base and they cause more people to justify spending their money on a ticket. That’s the way it’s always been and shall always be. Amen.
“All Power to the Engines!”
Except it’s not. That idea seems to be getting stepped on and it’s really giving me the plops (sorry, I’m trying to cut down on the swearing. I’m using Adventure Time slang. Hope you don’t mind). I’ve been to two shows in the last month that have demonstrated this issue, and the fact that it’s happened more than once suggests it’s becoming a trend.
I saw Make Them Suffer headline over six (6) support acts last December. Right there, that’s a problem. It’s nice to showcase as much local talent as possible, but it’s not practical and it can lead to problems. On that night, for instance, the first three bands had 25-minute long sets. They all took 40 minutes to set up. Each. Make Them Suffer, who wrote Neverbloom, one of the best albums of the last five years, and had come all the way from Perth, 4,000 kilometres away, were forced to cut their hour in half due to venue curfew and noise restrictions.
As I write this, I stand on a train platform having just walked out of one of the most ridiculous concerts I’ve ever been to. The bill featured A Ghost Orchestra, a math core band from Adelaide, Arteries, one of the most exciting djent bands in the world (and that’s against some stiff competition) and Safe Hands, my favourite discovery of 2013. I arrived over an hour after doors opened, hoping to have skipped the first two bands and enjoy the last three. Imagine my face when I discover that the band playing was in fact the opener, only three songs into their seven-song set. What the lump happened?? 20 minutes later, they wrapped up, and 20 minutes after that, the second band came on. 20 minutes after THAT, they were still lumping around with their wireless bass guitar connection and I was getting cranky. Why were we already two hours behind?
They insisted on playing their full half-hour set and talking to their friends in the audience. When they finally wrapped up, both those bands and their friends went upstairs to the pub above us and had a drink and a smoke while A Ghost Orchestra treated a gutted attendance to a sublime 15-minute set of, um, ‘punk-infused math-thrash’. I dunno, that description sounds good. Let’s go with that.
Don’t give me that look.
Arteries then came on, with a very quick set change, but then one of their guitarists had some technical difficulties as well. Their frontman had the decency to apologise for the delay, and they absolutely killed it (as usual). However, the damage was done. As such, Safe Hands, the headlining act, all the way from Newcastle and the most engaging live act I’ve seen since The Chariot, played for 19 minutes (I kept a meticulous record). It was a brilliant set that actually gave me goosebumps, but WHAT THE ACTUAL FU – I mean, PLOP?!?!?!
Here’s the thing, and I need all small-time bands to read what I’m about to write and understand it (SPOILER: it’s probably going to tick you off, but I don’t care):
You don’t matter. You are a supporting band. You are there to fill in the numbers. Yes, you should use the opportunity to get some exposure but make no mistake, if you go over on your set time, all anyone’s gonna remember is that you’re that plopping band who made their favourite band cut their set in half and they missed that favourite song of theirs. You bastards.
This has happened occasionally before, of course. I’ll never forget seeing some crappy local play for an hour while Every Time I Die just sat there staring at them before cutting their sound, walking on and physically pushing them off stage. It was not the done thing, and the suggestion that a headlining act would sacrifice any of their time for some random hardcore band from a housing commission in Penrith would be met with stunned silence, followed by raucous, mocking laughter.
“And then they asked for free passes for their families! Classic!”
Safe Hands, for the record, were brilliant in their almost-20 minutes on stage. They had a dedicated following who screamed along with every word. Their band members were never stationary at any point and their bearded frontman spent half the show being embraced and embracing the attendees. I haven’t felt such unity at a concert since The Chariot, and I don’t say that lightly. But let’s just think how much better their set would have been if they’d played for their intended 45 minutes instead of the 19 they got.
All the openers who do this are being selfish and just freaking rude. The show you are playing (I can’t stress this next bit enough) WOULDN’T EVEN EXIST IF THE HEADLINER HADN’T ASKED YOU TO PLAY. They owe you NOTHING, you owe them EVERYTHING, and if that means packing up without playing a note if you go over on your time slot during sound check, then you should have spent a bit more money on some more reliable equipment. As hard as it is to hear this, in the grand scheme of things, You. Don’t. Matter.
I don’t care if you really are the next big thing; you treat the headliner and the audience with some lumping respect. If The Wonder Years opened for Blink-182 and went over so much that Blink had to cut their set in half, how many fans would have said ‘Oh goody?’ Maybe two or three. The rest would have said ‘Excuse me, I paid for Tom DeLonge’s fart jokes. Why are you still on stage?’ And how many more tours do you think they’ll get asked to play? If you’ll stiff Blink, no one’s gonna want to work with you. Even if it’s not Blink, the sheer arrogance of playing so long that the headliner is forced to play for less time is going to turn people off and make them look elsewhere. It doesn’t achieve anything except losing you both fans and work.
So, in conclusion, stick to your dang set times. You can go off on a free form jazz exploration when you’re headlining rooms. ‘Til then, stick with what’s on your SoundCloud page.