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You Never Know

Written: 08/30/2010

You Never Know: That Opening Band Might Someday Be Your Favorite

It was October 5, 2002 and my friend Mike Meredith and I went to the Tower Theater in Upper Darby, PA to see one of our favorite singer-songwriters Ryan Adams. I was a big fan of his for a long time and some would argue his influence could be heard in some of my songs.

But this is not a blog about Ryan. This is a blog about what can happen when you go see a performer you like. It is about something all musicians know and have experienced: being the opener. I have been lucky to open for and share a stage with many great musicians.

I’ve been to many concerts since 1994 and I can tell you from experience---and many of you who read this will know from the same experience---that many concertgoers pay little to no attention to the opening act. Some don’t even arrive in time to see them. Some chat, go grab drinks and some people are overtly rude to the opening acts.

But I would encourage these people not to ever do those things again and this is the reason: that opening band might someday be a favorite.

That evening at the Tower the opening act was Tegan and Sara. Two twin sisters, two acoustic guitars and two voices. I had never heard of the duo but sat in my seat and listened anyway. Their songs were good---good enough for me to want to buy their CD. But what I really remember from their set was their banter---Tegan making fun of Sara, Sara retorting at Tegan and the Quin Twins telling stories about their cats at home. They were endearing and it was that night that I decided I would be a fan of theirs.

The album the twins were promoting at the time was If It Was You (2002), their third. Eventually I heard the first two---Under Feet Like Ours (1999) and This Business of Art (2000) and while there are good songs on both, If It Was You is my personal favorite. The common thread in these albums was most songs were based on acoustic guitar. So Jealous (2004) showed maturity in production and lyrics and was considered their commercial breakthrough.

When The Con (2007) was released, I was really impressed. Chris Walla (Death Cab For Cutie) produced the record and both Tegan and Sara wrote emotional, powerful and catchy songs for the record. The Con is where Tegan and Sara’s individual identities as writers shine through---Tegan’s songs are more straight-ahead indie rock songs while Sara’s feature more intricate and lush parts. Sara penned the big ’pop’ song ’Back in Your Head’ while Tegan penned the rocker ’The Con.’ Another reason why I really liked this record was the limited edition version is a CD/DVD featuring the album and a documentary on the making of The Con. It reminds of what is said around the industry: fans want to see a band offstage and feel like they known them as people and not just their songs. Tegan and Sara have done this effectively throughout their career.

The Con is when I became a die hard Tegan and Sara fan and when they became my favorite band. Although I did not get to see them on the tour of the album.

Sainthood (2009) was a different feel of an album than The Con---it was mostly recorded live in a room, with Tegan and Sara performing with band mate Ted Gowans as well as Chris Walla (who also coproduced the album with Howard Redekapp) and Jason McKerr. Sainthood features sophisticated indie rock songs as well as dashes of pop and alternative---all the songs have great hooks. This album is a bit more immediate and accessible than The Con as a whole. Ironically it took me more listens to get into Sainthood than The Con.

In February 2010 I was in the front row at a special Tegan and Sara show at the Music Hall of Williamsburg in Brooklyn, NY, which was great fun. I also saw them that month at the Tower Theater and again at Festival Pier at Penn’s Landing in August 2010 when the band played The Honda Civic Tour.


Tegan and Sara are two of my favorite singers and songwriters----some of the best singers and songwriters of our generation---and I respect them for not only their musical skills but also for the causes they fight for and their constant effort they have to reach out to their fan base. Most of their fans are the die hard kind and I hope soon to have the same kind of fan base.

So the next time you buy tickets to a show, come early and see the opening act or acts. Pay attention to them. Clap. Be respectful. Because you never know: that opening band might someday be your favorite.

- John