The Opening Act


The eclectic and violently energetic Man Man chose to tour with a much more toned down and rhythmic Murder By Death. The Black Cat packed to capacity and not a person had more than an inch of air between them and the next fan. While gradually accepting every time I inhaled I would suck in a sour mixture of foreign breath and various cindery smogs. The bands did no share too many features. Man Man distorts the sound of a 1950’s dance hall into a bizarre cavalcade of toxic talk and jilted gibberish. Murder By Death cleanly constructs cinematic climaxes, weaving a western folk tune in with a web of modern stories. A soft rock and a punk rock band were not playing together, but they were different enough that everyone there either seemed eager for Man Man or Murder By Death, not both. It got me wondering what made them tour together, and how much it means to tour with another band.

A live show can tell you a lot about a band’s health, lifespan, direction, influences, and so on, but one show provides just one isolated incident. To get an honest idea of what “live” means in the context of one band requires devotion, time, and money. But it takes a few clicks and a search to find out who tours with whom, and in many ways that simple fact provides more answers than how the band behaves on stage.

It turns out you cannot underestimate how much it means when bands build a bond. Man Man toured with Modest Mouse (a similarly strange band inflated with violent volta centered vocals) back in 2007 and now members of each band formed Mister Heavenly. Two bands can tour then rapidly forget about it. Kiss and Rush toured back when Neil Peart just joined Rush, and neither band become integral to the other, but when two bands strike a chord on tour it can jumpstart careers and change genres. My Morning Jacket brought Dr. Dog into a new world of popularity and success by selecting the burgeoning band as their opener. The Mars Volta got their start setting the stage for The Red Hot Chili Peppers, despite The Mars Volta sounding quite unlike any other band out there, let alone The Red Hot Chili Peppers. The Mars Volta’s guitarist Omar Rodriguez-Lopez occasionally played guitar for The Chili Peppers, perhaps leading the two bands to tour together.

Every instance above gives a glance into a part of a musical artist perhaps completely invisible otherwise. Omar’s involvement with The Red Hot Chili peppers and The Mars Volta demonstrates his prolific and splayed nature as a musician. Perhaps Man Man’s tour with Murder by Death demonstrates the conviction to tone both bands share. When a band like My Morning Jacket brings a band out of obscurity, perhaps it foreshadows forays into publishing and labels. And when Coheed and Cambria chose to tour with Between the Buried and Me and Russian Circles it might have gone a long way towards defining progressive metal as a genre, by amalgamating acts too weird for metal and too harsh for progressive rock. The next time your favorite band plays, be sure to get there early. The opener might mean more than the show.


~Austin R Ryan