It's kind of an interesting thing, being an opening act, because it puts you in the position of being the last barrier between a crowd of people and the thing they just paid more money than they wanted to to see. In most cases, they've never heard of the opening act, and have no interest in seeing them- you're just making them wait even longer to do the thing they actually wanted to do.
Given the setup, audiences are frequently surprisingly gracious about the whole situation, because they did, however inadvertently or mistakenly, pay to see you, too, and sometimes there's a bit of that rooting-for-the-underdog thing, which can help some. After all, they don't splurge like this every night, and a lot of them are with someone they'd like to impress, so they don't want things to go badly (I know I usually seem to try harder to enjoy something I've paid handsomely for than something I haven't. On the other hand, when folks are liquored up and it's the late show on Saturday night at a big movie theater in the big city and they smell blood, things can definitely get interesting.
My partner, Steve Shook, and I opened for all kinds of folks back in the seventies, and then the new band we finally got around to starting, the Incredible Casuals, opened for another whole mess of them in the eighties, and now I still open with some regularity; that's how good I job I've done over the years at being popular. The list, however loosely kept, is rather stupefying.* But the guy we opened for the most (and were the luckiest to be involved with) was our friend George Carlin, who was the best patron we ever had, and always a delightful hang.
George was such a peach that for years he did something rather extraordinary: he introduced us. It was his feeling that we'd have a better shot with skeptical newcomers if they knew that we had his seal of approval, so the night would start with his entrance, a few jokes, and him bringing us on. And of course he was right, not that his intro would necessarily prevent us from getting in trouble anyway- admittedly, ours was truly one of the chance-iest, least foolproof entertainment presentations available. But for some reason (I admit, drugs were involved), he dug us, and I can't tell you how sweet and encouraging it was that he would go to that length, every night for years, to try to help us spread the virus.
And of course he was hilarious, so I felt we had to include an example, and this album starts with a particularly interesting one, from the Musicarnival, a round outdoor theater in Warrensville Heights, a suburb of Cleveland, OH. We played a lot of round theaters with George, most of which had revolving stages, which made it so a performer didn't have to worry much about taking care of everyone, as the revolving meant you'd get at least a few minutes with everyone eventually. But the Musicarnival stage didn't revolve, which meant the performers had to re-situate themselves and all their equipment with some regularity, to make sure everyone got some face time. (Interestingly, there's a video of the Beatles experiencing the same situation early in their careers at a venue in the Washington DC area, where every few songs the Beatles themselves would move their drums, etc., themselves so as not to have folks staring at their backs for too long.
Anyway, I love the Musicarnival guy who introduces George here, who seems a little taken aback by how little interest George's audience evinced for his coming attractions announcements for Paul Anka and Mitzi Gaynor, and a little dubious about what brand folks might be smoking outside (but not inside, please) the venue. And apparently there was a piano handy, so you get to hear George play a little boogie woogie, which he didn't do often -this was pretty much his whole repertoire - but he did it well. On a few of the early gigs, he also played a little trumpet, on which extremely rare occasions we would introduce him as “Miles Carlin.” (George was a huge music fan, and gave as good as he got at record parties, which was a large part of why we became such good friends.)
THE CHANDLER TRAVIS PHILHARMONIC is a 9-piece technicolor extravaganza from Boston that includes a horn section, string
bass, mandocello, guitar, keys, drums, accordion, and valet. George Carlin and NRBQ are among their longtime supporters; others include Bonnie Raitt, Elvis Costello, Bruce Springsteen, Of Montreal, Ween, and yer mother....more