Tell me about some ill-conceived opening acts for concerts!
August 26, 2019 1:28 PM   Subscribe

A friend and I were discussing "Ill-conceived" concert opening acts and wondering if there are more examples out there. Specifically these are opening acts that were just not a good fit for fans of the main act. Doesn't mean they're bad, in fact they could be legendary bands and that's even more interesting. There's a (maybe apocryphal) story of Jimi Hendrix being booed off the stage when he opened for the Monkees. Neil Young fans in the 90s did not appreciate Sonic Youth. Any other good examples?
posted by mattholomew to Media & Arts (92 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
The Replacements notoriously went over like a lead balloon opening for Tom Petty in the late 1980s.
posted by COBRA! at 1:32 PM on August 26 [6 favorites]

The Mars Volta opening for Red Hot Chili Peppers makes sense on paper due to the Frusciante / Flea connection but RHCP fans were not overly thrilled with the choice.
posted by Diskeater at 1:34 PM on August 26

I saw Robert Anton Wilson opening for Cypress Hill who opened for Pearl Jam. It was an odd show.
posted by jessamyn at 1:34 PM on August 26 [18 favorites]

"They were very bad boys—they said 'fuck' all the time on the stage. The audience always booed them and they always told everyone to fuck off. I just loved them for that. I couldn't understand why everyone hated them—I thought they were so adorable."

—Madonna reminiscing her experience with the Beastie Boys on the Virgin tour.
posted by whisk(e)y neat at 1:35 PM on August 26 [25 favorites]

The Jim Rose Circus opened for bands in the 1990s and often vastly overshadowed the big band, as in being more outrageous than various outrageous bands.
posted by The_Vegetables at 1:37 PM on August 26 [7 favorites]

Neil Young fans in the '90s weren't real into Social Distortion, either.

In 1997, Wu-Tang Clan dropped out of their slot between Atari Teenage Riot and Rage Against the Machine partway through the tour.
posted by box at 1:39 PM on August 26 [2 favorites]

Prince (!) was booed off the stage when he opened for the Rolling Stones in 1981.
posted by mhum at 1:39 PM on August 26 [9 favorites]

Radiohead opened for Alanis Morissette back in 1996. Her fans didn't know what to make of them.
posted by Diskeater at 1:42 PM on August 26

Oh, I gotta tell ya. I saw Monkey Trick, a Jesus Lizard cover band fronted by an affirmed David Yow stalker, open for Girl Talk (what?) in Portland in 2011 or so. It was... incredible.

Not only was the crowd not having any of it at all, the lead singer went for a flailing stage dive into the crowd, failed to be caught, hit the floor, lost his mic (!), stumbled back onstage, and then yelled the lyrics impotently at the crowd without a microphone for several minutes until he was finally reunited with a replacement. It was perhaps the greatest live concert moment I've ever witnessed.
posted by eschatfische at 1:44 PM on August 26 [7 favorites]

Bobcat Goldthwait does a standup bit about his experience opening for Nirvana on the In Utero tour - long story short, the audience hated it, and the band kept him on because it amused Kurt to see Bobcat utterly bomb every night.

The Clash had cool bands of different genres open for them in their final iteration in the early 80s. Los Lobos, Kurtis Blow, etc. They did not go over well and Joe Strummer had to come out and yell at the crowd. There's some good bits in We are the Clash.
posted by look busy at 1:47 PM on August 26 [6 favorites]

I saw Ivy open for They Might Be Giants on the John Henry tour back in the '90s. The audience sat patiently and gave a polite round of applause after each song.
posted by Faint of Butt at 1:49 PM on August 26 [5 favorites]

I saw the Pogues open for U2 once; they were not well-received.
posted by suelac at 1:50 PM on August 26 [3 favorites]

I saw Primus open for U2 back in the early 90s and I think there were maybe three people at Foxboro stadium who were into them. I am proud to say I was one of them, though they're not really a band you want to see in a giant football stadium.

Kind of obscure but Paul and Storm, a very white-and-nerdy musical comedy duo, used to be half of acapella group da Vinci's Notebook and they once opened for Tracy Morgan. Things did not go very well.
As State College-born Scott Bruce started in with his emcee duties, his tired act was met with quite a few stray boos. Nothing, however, could've prepared Da Vinci's Notebook for the reception it was about to receive.

Coming off not unlike a doo-wop Barenaked Ladies (that's not a compliment), whoever it was who thought the incredibly lame DaVinci's Notebook was a good match for Tracy Morgan must be a MADtv fan (also not a compliment). The group unsuccessfully lampooned such topics as Internet porn, folk singers, sea shanties and Klingons, as the crowd grew more and more restless.

At a few points, it seemed like at least half the audience was yelling for them to stop, and the only reason the other half wasn't joining in had something to do with being polite. After a conga line and an incredibly obvious boy-band parody, they finally left the stage. People seemed happy to see them go. I know I was.
For the record, I always enjoyed DVN, though that's probably not the right audience.
posted by bondcliff at 1:50 PM on August 26 [1 favorite]

A more recent example: Jazz duo Tuck and Patti opening for one of the hot indie / electronic stars of the moment, St. Vincent at the Palladium in Los Angeles. An odd opening choice... but apparently they're family.
posted by acridrabbit at 1:51 PM on August 26 [2 favorites]

Personally, The Cows was tour-partners for some band moderately famous in the late 1990s, and we were the opener before them. My local band playing our first live gig got way more cheers. I've never seen a punk rock audience so disinterested/antagonistic to a punk/noise rock band.

The drummer was wearing a Devo shirt - after every song the same guy in the audience would yell "Play some Devo", which was easy to hear because there was no clapping.
posted by The_Vegetables at 2:00 PM on August 26 [1 favorite]

In the early 80's, my friends and I actually went to see Asia live at what was the Summit at the time (now Lakewood Church) in Houston. I forget who the opening act was supposed to be, but I assume something bad and sudden happened to them...

Because we were treated to a juggler, completely covered in black and thus rendered mostly "invisible", juggling florescent lighted balls, to instrumental rock music. For 20 minutes. Lamest opening rock show act ever. If you can beat that, you have my sincere sympathies.
posted by cross_impact at 2:01 PM on August 26 [3 favorites]

On Friday I saw the Violent Femmes open for Pink Martini and they were very well received because Los Angeles loves the Violent Femmes. Apparently, though, it was the thirty-eight year anniversary of their first stage show; they had been discovered busking by the Pretenders and invited to open for the more established band.

It turns out that Pretenders fans in Milwaukee in 1981 were not at all interested in the Violent Femmes sound and they made their displeasure known in rather impolite terms.
posted by Parasite Unseen at 2:02 PM on August 26

My first concert was the Thompson Twins and the Weather Girls, opening for Howard Jones.

I felt so bad for the Weather Girls. They had the one hit song at the time, but nobody cared and just wanted them to be done so Howard Jones would come on.
posted by Lexica at 2:02 PM on August 26 [1 favorite]

Thinking Fellers Union Local 282 opening for the band +LĪVE+
posted by porn in the woods at 2:03 PM on August 26 [5 favorites]

I came in here to say Prince/Rolling Stones, as noted above. I literally remember fellow students coming back to school the day after the concert saying "The opening act sucked."
posted by BlahLaLa at 2:03 PM on August 26 [1 favorite]

Not a big name (hardly even locally) but more than a decade ago Friendly Rich was all set to compère one of his freewheeling cabaret shows in Toronto when a guy (naked but for a gorilla mask) runs on the stage, pours lighter fluid on his own crotch, lights it and runs off screaming in agony. The rest of the show didn't quite have the élan we'd typically expect of a Rich show.

(seems the guy had been warned not to come near the stage, but he had promised not to do the setting-himself-on-fire bit as a condition of not getting kicked out. He sneaked round the side of the stage and did it anyway.)
posted by scruss at 2:03 PM on August 26 [3 favorites]

>Prince (!) was booed off the stage when he opened for the Rolling Stones in 1981.

Prince was rumored to have incorporated a recording of this in his track Pop Life but it's not actually the case.
posted by porn in the woods at 2:04 PM on August 26 [1 favorite]

I saw Tenacious D open for Pearl Jam at the Great Western Forum in July 1998. At the time HBO had only aired one episode of the Tenacious D show and I would guess that maaaaaaaybe one in one hundred of the people in the audience had any idea who they were or why they were doing an acoustic cover of the theme from Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends. About a third of the crowd was angry, another third was confused, and the remainder was split between people who felt angry that they were confused and people who were confused about why they felt angry.

It was a pretty good performance.
posted by Parasite Unseen at 2:13 PM on August 26 [19 favorites]

At a large festival once, I was in a marching band that opened for Tina Turner. I'm not sure anyone much cared to see the marching band!
posted by limeonaire at 2:13 PM on August 26 [4 favorites]

Neil Hamburger opening for Tenacious D was poorly-received.
posted by porn in the woods at 2:14 PM on August 26 [1 favorite]

I saw Big Freedia open for the Postal Service once. Many people were...not ready for all that booty.
posted by exceptinsects at 2:15 PM on August 26 [21 favorites]

In 1983, REM opened for The English Beat in Boston. Stipe performed fully 97% of the set with his back to the audience. and most of the crowd (me included) were fully "wtf? We want to bouncedance up and down. This shy mumbler will never catch on." People openly wandered out.
posted by Ink-stained wretch at 2:15 PM on August 26 [3 favorites]

Suicide warming up for The Cars - the crowd hated them and after one gig, they found a knife sticking out of one of their amps that was thrown at them.

Stefan Jaworzyn's free rock outfit Descension opening for Sonic Youth in the 90s nearly caused a riot.
posted by porn in the woods at 2:21 PM on August 26 [1 favorite]

I wouldn't call it ill-conceived, but the opener for U2 on the first arena tour for Achtung Baby! was The Fatima Mansions, and while I was fine with Cathal Coughlan barking out 'Only Losers Take The Bus', I'm not sure most of the crowd were. Also: "every article about the singer is by law required to reference Fatima Mansions’ 1992 U2 support gig in Milan, at which he did rude things with a plastic Virgin Mary." (And by "rude things" they mean "pretend to bugger himself with it.")
posted by holgate at 2:27 PM on August 26 [1 favorite]

The Clash had cool bands of different genres open for them in their final iteration in the early 80s. Los Lobos, Kurtis Blow, etc. They did not go over well and Joe Strummer had to come out and yell at the crowd. There's some good bits in We are the Clash.

On the flip side of that, friends of mine saw the Clash open for The Who in '82 in Philly and said that they got booed by the Who fans. A quick google finds this account:
The Clash was treated abominably. The crowd started booing immediately after they were introduced. All manner of debris was thrown at the stage. I remember Joe Strummer was hit right between the eyes with an apple. Mick Jones was hit by a soda bottle while in mid-leap. He picked it up and drank from it.
posted by octothorpe at 2:29 PM on August 26 [2 favorites]

At some point in the mid-90's The Melvins were touring support for Nine Inch Nails and the crowds were not happy. I believe there is a track on the AmRep singles collection that is just them baiting the crowd while Dale Crover hits a giant gong over and over.

Public Enemy and Big Audio Dynamite were the opening acts for U2 in Birmingham, AL at a stadium show in 1992 and I've at least heard they were not well received.
posted by ndfine at 2:41 PM on August 26 [3 favorites]

I saw Courtney Barnett open for The National earlier this summer. We and the four other fans of both acts had a good time.
posted by hollyholly at 2:47 PM on August 26 [6 favorites]

100% of the Neil Young fans that I know think that Ragged Glory tour's stop in Portland, OR on April 9, 1991 is one of the best shows they've ever seen. All two of us.

Neil was at the height of his Godfather of Grunge days, and I was about to graduate high school. College rock had become alternative, and indie was years away. I swore by the Replacements and Neil Young.

Drivin' and Cryin' opened and they played Honeysuckle Blue but not Straight to Hell.

Sonic Youth played for about an hour, it seems like. Mostly feedback drones, but they did play Dirty Boots and Kool Thang. They left their guitars and amps on stage and feeding back for like 15 minutes after the set.

Maybe the older crowd was getting restless, but I didn't really notice. If so, they couldn't really complaint because Neil seemed 100% committed to making more noise then Thurston did. Extended feedback even before the band opened with Hey Hey My My

Looking back on reminds me that the show really picked up momentum with Fucking Up about half way through. Then Cortez, Powderfinger, Love and Only Love, and Rockin' in the Free World. All drawn out and deafening.

Finished with Like A Hurricane. That one went to 11.
posted by lumpy at 3:00 PM on August 26 [3 favorites]

Allegedly Gentle Giant opened for a Black Sabbath tour in the 70s and it did not go over well.
posted by saladin at 3:07 PM on August 26 [2 favorites]

Iron & Wine opened for Flight of the Conchords at Red Rocks a few years ago. Sam Beam (Mr. Iron & Wine) kept joking about how his act just didn't fit with the vibe of Flight of the Conchords. "HEY RED ROCKS!! ARE YOU READY TO GET.... mellow?"

The Beastie Boys opened for Madonna on The Virgin Tour, and I don't think they were particularly well-received.
posted by GoldenEel at 3:08 PM on August 26

SINEAD OCONNOR AT BOB DYLAN TRIBUTE Sinead had the temerity to protest child abuse within the Catholic Church by tearing up a picture of the prelate on Saturday Night Live and it was her Beatles nosedive moment as a performer. Here's her reception at a Bob Dylan tribute in NYC.

STEVIE RAY VAUGHAN, MONTREAUX JASS FESTIVAL Stevie and Double Trouble play bravely through the catcalls. My favorite clip is "Give Me Back My Wig". Fortunately, David Bowie was in the audience and immediately signed him up for his "Let's Dance" package.
posted by effluvia at 3:09 PM on August 26 [1 favorite]

I was very sad that I missed Big Freedia and The Postal Service. Not only because they're both amazing and it was the 10th anniversary of Give Up, but because I really wanted to see all the hipsters weirded out by Queen Diva.
posted by radioamy at 3:09 PM on August 26 [2 favorites]

It was amazing! I had never heard of Big Freedia before and I was like, WHAT...IS HAPPENING? I THINK....I LOVE IT?
posted by exceptinsects at 3:19 PM on August 26 [2 favorites]

I saw goth cello trio Rasputina open for Belle and Sebastian around 2005. I thought it was an ingenious bill but I have never seen such a negative response from such a nerdy crowd!
posted by cakelite at 3:24 PM on August 26 [3 favorites]

I saw the Proclaimers at Triple Rock in Minneapolis with a local punk band as the opener. I don't know that it was badly received as such, as there were people who'd come to see them, but it seemed clear everyone was thinking "Who did this booking?"
posted by hoyland at 3:25 PM on August 26

I don't have a link handy for this, so details may be somewhat inaccurate, but:

I recall hearing that Led Zeppelin opened for Jethro Tull (this was, obviously, the early days of Zeppelin), and there was a quote from the lead singer of JT saying something like "It felt less like Led Zeppelin was opening for Jethro Tull and more like Jethro Tull was closing for Led Zeppelin."
posted by number9dream at 3:49 PM on August 26 [2 favorites]

Widespread Panic bass player Dave Schools' reunited high school band opened for Bruce Hornsby at a charity event. Hornsby, who was in the mood to play solo piano pieces and not any Grateful Dead covers, ended up walking off stage and out the door amid all the shouted requests.. So that's an example of a pairing that should've worked, but didn't.
posted by emelenjr at 3:55 PM on August 26

I saw Hole open for Marilyn Manson in Portland in 1999 or so. I remember thinking that was an odd combination. And at the show, if I remember correctly, Courtney Love staggered out on stage and shouted about we should be greeting her as a hometown crowd and when the reaction was lukewarm at best, she walked out and didn’t come back. The rest of the band followed five or ten minutes later. And then Marilyn Manson came out on schedule and put on their usual amazing show.
posted by liet at 4:00 PM on August 26

I saw Rage Against the Machine at Coachella 2007, their first performance in many years. When one of the openers, Crowded House, took the stage, they ended the set early after the lead singer was hit in the face with a water bottle.
posted by sevensnowflakes at 4:02 PM on August 26

BTW, Jimi Hendrix did open for the Monkees. There are various stories about which Monkee heard him play and wanted him on the tour - but they were impressed with his music. He wasn’t exactly booed off the stage, but faced with a bunch of young girls screaming, “We want Davy,” he quit the tour after seven shows. There’s an unverified rumor that he flipped off the audience at the last show.
posted by FencingGal at 4:16 PM on August 26 [3 favorites]

I saw Ivy open for They Might Be Giants on the John Henry tour back in the '90s.

I was at one of those shows! I think they were touring together because Ivy and TMBG were labelmates in the early 90s -- TMBG was with Elektra by then and Ivy's label might have been part of the Atlantic Records family too.

When I was in college I went to see Van Halen at the NY State Fair -- unfortunately this was the short lived, Gary Cherone fronted Van Halen of the late 90s. The opening act was the Kenny Wayne Shepherd Band. Now I sorta get how that sounds on paper, connecting guitar prodigies of two generations, but in practice there was not a lot of overlap between fans of KWS' bluesy roots-rock and VH's "are we officially a nostalgia act?" greatest hits package.
posted by The Pluto Gangsta at 4:17 PM on August 26

I once saw Hank Williams III, and he basically opens for himself because he has two musical acts. The first is essentially country party anthems. Then he takes a break, and comes out with a different wardrobe, a conspiracy-movie about aliens plays on the screen behind him, and he plays a kind of metal punk with dark themes. Picture a mass exodus of college kids wearing cowboy hats in the concert venue.

And not a concert as such, but Ed Sullivan's variety show on February 9th, 1964, opened with a musical act and followed that by magician Fred Kaps, impressionist Frank Gorshin, acrobats Wells & the Four Fays, the comedy team of McCall & Brill, Broadway star Georgia Brown joined by the cast of “Oliver!” The musical act was the North American debut of The Beatles, and you've probably seen the mass hysteria of shrieking teenagers that carried on in their act. The audience was entirely there to see John, Paul, George, and Ringo, and did not give two shits about any of the rest of the acts.
posted by Sunburnt at 4:25 PM on August 26 [4 favorites]

I saw the Sugarcubes and Public Enemy open for U2 on the Achtung Baby tour.

The Sugarcubes didn’t really translate to daylight in an arena, to put it extremely mildly.

Public was before most rock people really discovered rap, but also it was Arizona in 1992, so they didn’t really do an actual set, they just did a bit of political theater that had to do with the recent at the time issues in Arizona regarding the MLK day holiday and then bolted. It was intense, and incredibly poorly received by everyone who wasn’t me and the three people I was with, who were all huge rap fans and delighted by the move.

I also saw the Replacements open for Tom Petty on that aforementioned tour and hoo boy, CAN CONFIRM.
posted by padraigin at 4:26 PM on August 26 [6 favorites]

I saw Jenny Lewis in June, and the opener was this white rapper called Serengeti. It was absolutely the strangest, most incongruous opening act I've ever encountered. It was also not very good. There were a few people who seemed like they were into it but a lot of them left when he was done, sooo I think they'd come specifically to see him. Somehow.
posted by goodbyewaffles at 4:34 PM on August 26

I saw Eric Burden and the Animals bomb spectacularly opening for the Police in the late 80's or early 90's. The performance wasn't bad, but the audience was throwing trash, soda cups, etc. onto the stage and booing the entire time. I wasn't a fan of the Animals but I felt bad for the band.
posted by Greg_Ace at 4:42 PM on August 26

Late Night with Conan O'Brien once did a totally stupid bit where, before a musical performance by Slipknot, they brought out Slipnutz!, a group of three men in sweater vests whose entire shtick was that they slipped on nuts while singing about slipping on nuts.

All well and good. But then, they decided to take the bit farther and have Slipnutz! actually open for Slipknot at an actual Slipknot show. It was... poorly received.
posted by showbiz_liz at 5:18 PM on August 26 [3 favorites]

because I really wanted to see all the hipsters weirded out by Queen Diva

This was the exact opposite of what happened, FWIW, at least at the Greek in Berkeley. She was a huge hit with the crowd.

Speaking of the Greek, Perfume Genius opening for Belle and Sebastian there didn't exactly bomb, but the crowd was sparse and it was a bright, hot day. So not exactly the right venue.

Guns N' Roses went over badly opening for the Stones on the Steel Wheels tour at the LA Coliseum. Living Colour got less abuse but again, not many people in the stadium for their set.
posted by asterix at 5:25 PM on August 26

At this show one of the members of Linoleum, a guitarsy alt rock band, specifically said "I know we're the nightmare before techno, but c'mon people" but, yeah, people were super duper not into them. They were all there for Sneaker Pimps and/or Aphex Twin. (or I guess Wagonchrist but I don't actually remember him being there. I guess technically speaking I don't remember Aphex Twin being there either - the only things on stage during his set were some dancers dressed up as big teddy bears)
posted by aubilenon at 5:27 PM on August 26

Einstürzende Neubauten opening for U2 has to be pretty high on this list. They were booked as support for the Zoo Tour in 1993 and lasted exactly one show before the crowd mutinied.
posted by Jairus at 5:33 PM on August 26 [3 favorites]

I wish I could remember the name of the artist, but in 2005 Rufus Wainwright was touring and played the Atlanta Botanical Gardens and the opening act was a lesbian country singer (I guess she was supposed to be like the Indigo Girls?) whose songs, in my memory, were all about bad online dates ending up at shitty motels. The crowd basically ignored her entire set.
posted by Medieval Maven at 5:39 PM on August 26

18 Apr 1987 at the New Haven Coliseum

* Public Enemy-Brought their initial audience before they'd crossed over to white kids from the colleges.
* Murphy's Law-Brought the NYHC fans and skinheads.
* Beastie Boys-This was Licensed to Ill so they brought all the frat boys and jocks from the suburbs.

It was a mess. Mixing up those audiences in an open hockey arena was a recipe for violent altercations. (It was a pretty awesome show though.)
posted by Gotanda at 5:54 PM on August 26 [3 favorites]

I saw the Hold Steady open for Drive-By Truckers a few years ago, resulting in a very unusual blend of people. Half the crowd looked like cartoon sex offenders from a Coen Brothers movie, and the other half looked like they arrived in a convoy of 18-wheelers straight from the Deep South. The former group disappeared almost instantly when DBT went on.

There was also a St. Patrick's Day outdoor concert many years ago, Spirit of the West headlining and featuring about nine very Irish bands ... and Fishbone. As luck would have it, a massive storm arrived and SotW refused to go on, so everyone crowded under one big tent while Fishbone played for an hour. They made a much better headliner, in the end.
posted by BetaRayBiff at 6:31 PM on August 26 [3 favorites]

We saw Hollywood Undead and Cypress Hill this spring, and it was a great show and not a bad pairing, but very few people stayed for both acts and we watched the crowd visibly swap between the two, which we’ve never really seen before.
posted by joycehealy at 7:06 PM on August 26

Nine Inch Nails opened for Bowie's outside tour and a third of the audience left when he came on. I saw them in denver and wasn't aware that the arena had seating in reverse order; I thought I had a fabulous seat when the ticket came.

the pixies opened for u2 in Worcester 92 and iirc were well received.
posted by brujita at 7:20 PM on August 26 [1 favorite]

On three nights of their Joshua Tree Tour in 1987 U2 opened for themselves.
posted by bondcliff at 7:38 PM on August 26 [1 favorite]

I saw the Ramones open for White Zombie.
The order confused me.
posted by k8t at 7:38 PM on August 26 [5 favorites]

The NiN / David Bowie tour wasn't really an opening/main act thing. It was a joint tour, or at least billed as such.

It was magical. But I wanted a full show from each.
posted by k8t at 7:42 PM on August 26

April 27, 1990, SAGA dining commons, Hampshire College. The bill was: Gobblehoof, Nirvana, plus local bands 3 Merry Windows, BGOCK!, Cordelia's Dad, Mr. Softee, now-notable indie act New Radiant Storm King (this may have been their first show!) & Sweet Lickin' Honey Babes.

This one is less about musical fit and more about egos.

Gobblehoof and Nirvana got into an argument about who would headline. Local favorites Cordelia's Dad got fed up, took their equipment and played their set in the quad. Nearly the entire audience followed them, and maybe four people saw Nirvana.
posted by rednikki at 7:51 PM on August 26 [2 favorites]

The drummer was wearing a Devo shirt - after every song the same guy in the audience would yell "Play some Devo", which was easy to hear because there was no clapping.

Well, DEVO’s alter-ego group, DOVE, the Band of Love, actually opened for them occasionally. As I understand it, it took a little while for the fans to get it.
posted by Thorzdad at 8:10 PM on August 26

I saw the Rolling Stones many years back and the Strokes were the opener. They were....... not super well received by the aging baby boomer set that made up most of the crowd.

I also saw David Bowie during the Reality tour, and he had The Polyphonic Spree open for him - which I think is a perfectly Bowie-esque choice, but again, most of the older crowd just seemed confused by the dozen young people dressed in matching white robes playing french horn and trombone, exhorting the audience to reach upwards and rejoice in music. Personally, I loved it.
posted by carlypennylane at 8:36 PM on August 26 [1 favorite]

A few years ago I saw Afrobeat legend Tony Allen at Chicago's Millennium Park. The opening band was the generally pleasant Canadian folk-rock group Great Lake Swimmers. I knew that people doing programming for the city's Department of Cultural Affairs had come from the Old Town School of Folk Music, so it sort of made sense if you were familiar with their wide-ranging definition of 'folk'. Most of the crowd weren't familiar, though, and there was no way Great Lake Swimmers could have won over that crowd as they waited patiently for the killer grooves to begin.
posted by hydrophonic at 9:39 PM on August 26 [1 favorite]

Dwight Yoakam opened for Husker Du. I wasn't there.
posted by mzurer at 9:55 PM on August 26 [2 favorites]

Apparently the Ramones didn't get a warm reception when they opened for Johnny Winter. Or for Black Sabbath for that matter.

Shows I've actually seen: Counting Crows (playing under the pseudonym of "The Shatners") opening up for Big Star on the latter's reunion tour at the Fillmore in 1994 (talking about time dragging...). There was also Beachwood Sparks opening up for My Bloody Valentine at the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium in 2013. (Maybe it sounded good in theory but it turned out that West Coast-influenced pop and Noise Pop didn't quite mix.) Also have vague memories of the Softies and Karp doing a show together at Gilman back in the '90s. Can't remember who opened up for who (I want to say Softies opened up for Karp) but needless to say people (I'm guessing folks unfamiliar with the Softies) wouldn't stop fucking talking during the Softies' comparatively quiet set.
posted by gtrwolf at 10:02 PM on August 26

The Police tour for Ghost in the Machine had the Go Go's open for them, which wasn't really a bad match, but as it happened to coincide with a burst of Go Go mania at the gig I went to, a large portion of the audience was there for the Go Go's and wanted them to play longer rather than see The Police. This didn't seem to escape the notice of The Police who appeared to be a bit put off by the reaction and didn't play as long as expected. I suspect this wasn't something that happened at all the gigs though.
posted by gusottertrout at 11:33 PM on August 26

Less ill-conceived and more deliberate satire: When Spinal Tap toured in 2001, their opening act was The Folksmen, a folk trio, playing things like their bluegrassy cover of "Start Me Up." Originating on SNL in '84, they later got some fame following the movie "A Mighty Wind." The gag, of course, is that they are Christopher Guest, Michael McKean, and Harry Shearer, the same as the members of heavy metal parody band Spinal Tap, but that wasn't always apparent to some members of the audience who, whether or not they were in on the fakeness of Spinal Tap, were in any case there for some loud rock music.

Harry Shearer said, of this, "You can think you're in control of the amusing notion of the wrong act opening for a rock band—but when you actually find yourself being the wrong act, it doesn't feel any better."
posted by Sunburnt at 1:37 AM on August 27 [5 favorites]

Not so much an official discrepancy between opener and headliner, but back in the nineties, James played Lollapalooza-directly before Korn. Nu-metal fans were not known for embracing jangly Britpop and did their best most shows to scream them off the stage, usually w homophobic slurs and other insults. Halfway through the tour, James decided to play off this and wore sequined dinner jackets on stage and played a set comprised of their quietest songs while cheerfully insulting the crowd back. At the Hartford show “ why yes, Korn will be on directly after us at 300; that’s when the big hand is on the twelve, and the little hand is on the three. We still have two more songs, so fuck you.”
posted by jacy at 3:23 AM on August 27 [5 favorites]

I saw the Beastie Boys open for Madonna on the Like A Virgin Tour, at the Spectrum, in Philly. They did indeed get booed off stage. The audience was overwhelmingly teenage girls.
posted by conifer at 3:56 AM on August 27 [1 favorite]

Thievery Corporation opened for Paul McCartney at FedEx Field in 2009. It was not the full band, just a “DJ set,” AKA a dude with his head down in a laptop. It was totally inadequate to the place and the time, and the crowd pretty much shrugged. The main show was excellent.
posted by musicinmybrain at 5:06 AM on August 27

My friends had to remind me, many years later, that I had in fact seen Alice In Chains live, because I had totally forgotten the band that we drunkenly screamed "WE WANT EDDIE" at while they opened for Van Halen (Hagar Edition) in the early 90s.
posted by joelhunt at 6:29 AM on August 27

The band retained to support ad man Bill Fries’, whose country singer character CW McCall sang the rowdy mid-70s novelty hit “Convoy,” had another identity. Convoy was the logical extension of radio commercials Fries did for a baking company, in which the trucker character couldn’t wait to get home in part because he missed their tasty bread. Convoy, which was about renegade truckers crossing the country in protest of speed limits, tolls, and other regulations, contributed to CB radio’s burst in popularity and became a huge country and pop hit.

Anyway, the band toured on the condition that they could play the second act as themselves. This worked well because CW McCall didn’t have enough repertoire to fill out a complete show. So during the break, the band would put away their country attire and return as their real selves: Mannheim Steamroller.

It didn’t go well. Eventually the whole CW McCall thing collapsed, some time after Convoy had inspired a Kris Kristofferson movie. Bill Fries’ wanted to go back to advertising and Mannheim Steamroller was taking off and wanted to nurture that identity.
posted by carmicha at 6:49 AM on August 27 [3 favorites]

In 1992 or so I saw the Rollercoaster tour with My Bloody Valentine, Dinosaur Jr, The Jesus and Mary Chain and ... Blur. This was pre-Britpop when they were being post-baggy. Blur’s second album wasn’t a terrible match for the rest of that bill, but most of the audience hadn’t heard that so they were not greeted kindly
posted by finisterre at 7:19 AM on August 27 [1 favorite]

MTV's 1992 120 Minutes tour featured (in order) Blind Melon, Live, Public Image Ltd., and Big Audio Dynamite II. Contemporary reports said the shows 'lacked chemistry' and, less kindly, 'corporate rock reached a new low.'

(A deep dive into the history of MTV package tours would reveal some more odd pairings--e.g. 1989's Club MTV tour, which gave us, among other things, Tone Loc opening for Information Society and the Milli Vanilli lip-sync incident.)
posted by box at 7:40 AM on August 27 [2 favorites]

I saw a concert at the Greek Theater in Berkeley, in the early 2000s, in which Guster preceded John Mayer. I was much more interested in the former than the latter. At the time I noted Mayer's concert patter, which included:

"Let's hear it for homeostasis!"

"You ever think of something that really bums you out, and then you're just walking around bummed out, and then you can't remember the thing that originally bummed you out?...That's what this song is about."

He also rambled for a minute about how cool we were, since we were the sort of people who stayed on the back patio during parties. He developed a deck-based taxonomy of party coolness, which I found much more interesting than the song that followed. Mayer also covered a few songs by The Police, and a friend of mine noted, "he sounds like Dave Matthews covering the Police."
posted by brainwane at 9:36 AM on August 27 [1 favorite]

I really wanted to see They Might Be Giants again, but they were playing as the opening act for Hootie and the Blowfish, who I couldn't stand. As it turns out, I was distinctly in the minority at that show.
posted by Ipsifendus at 10:32 AM on August 27

There are details about the Hendrix/Monkees dates in the autobiographies written by Micky Dolenz and Michael Nesmith (it's only mentioned in passing in the one by Davy Jones; Peter Tork didn't write one). Dolenz is the one who asked him to join the tour; Nesmith had also heard him recently when John Lennon had played a tape of a performance for him. Both Dolenz and Nesmith admired him intensely. When Nesmith's solo career wasn't going well in 1970, Hendrix and Ringo Starr came out to one of his press conferences to draw attendance. It was two days before Hendrix's untimely death. Here's a snap of Nez last winter with a portrait of Hendrix.
posted by jocelmeow at 11:05 AM on August 27

The Tragically Hip were huge in Canada for decades especially among the college/jock crowds, who weren't interested in seeing anything else. Canadian bands came up with the expression "To get Hipped", which is to play your opening set to a crowd of people shouting "Hip! Hip! Hip!" overtop of the music, throwing water bottles, etc., until you gave up and let The Hip play.

On that tour and others, opening bands—usually well outside the mainstream, and personally invited by the Tragically Hip—would be drowned out by chants of “Hip! Hip! Hip!” (Musicians call this “getting Hipped.”) This happened even to the likes of Blue Rodeo and Daniel Lanois, who was pelted with bottles in Barrie, Ont., at a Canada Day show in 1994, prompting Downie to dedicate the first song of his set that day to “assholes who throw s–t at musicians.”
posted by Gortuk at 12:37 PM on August 27

The apocryphal story behind this tour was that GWAR brought along the Goo Goo Dolls entirely for the purpose of trying to get the Dolls booed off stage. Of course this is also shortly after the Goo Goo Dolls had changed their name from the earlier, much catchier and GWAR-appropriate moniker of "The Sex Maggots", so perhaps the Doll-mockery was a bit of a retcon in reasoning years later.
posted by FatherDagon at 1:04 PM on August 27

The first time I saw P.J. Harvey was in 1993 at Stockholm Olympic Stadium when she opened for U2 on their Zooropa tour. She was pretty much ignored by 98% of the audience, the rest were there for her. It was great.

Even better, she came back in '95 and played a club with Tricky as the opening act, which worked surprisingly well - the crowd loved both of them.
posted by Petersondub at 1:19 PM on August 27

I know you said Opening Acts, but I just have to add the ill-conceived Black Flag performance at the family summer concert series, 1979 at Polliwog Park, Manhattan Beach, CA!
The story is that Black Flag billed themselves as a 'light jazz band' that played Fleetwood Mac covers.
My family was there and my four year old brother was front and center when the sandwiches, beer cans, and watermelon slices started flying. I still remember being confused at how fast my mom and dad grabbed all four of us and got the heck out of there.
It wasn't until my 20's that I even knew who Black Flag was and even later that we realized that we had seen them play--our family is now proud to have seen them in the early days. And here is the set list.
posted by calgirl at 2:13 PM on August 27 [4 favorites]

I don't think it was "ill-conceived" so much as two totally different concerts, but I saw Run the Jewels open for Lorde last spring, and it was AWESOME.

Highlight for me was the late-50ish dad? grandpa? in the seats in front of me, rapping along to most of the RtJ songs, then sitting quietly while the adorable tween next to him bopped along to Lorde's set.
posted by ivan ivanych samovar at 3:38 PM on August 27 [1 favorite]

I'm not sure if the crowd thought it was bad, but one time the Holy Modal Rounders opened for The Byrds. Some members of the Rounders thought it would be hilarious to have chickens on stage for their set (possibly chickens→Byrds: when you're as high as the Rounders always seemed to be, everything's funny). Back in the green room, one of the chickens apparently thought that Roger McGuinn's brand-new velvet lined guitar case would make just the perfect nest in which to lay an egg. McGuinn did not concur.
posted by scruss at 6:02 AM on August 28

I saw Aztec Camera open for Edie Brickell & New Bohemians in 1990. Aztec Camera did a great, high energy set that was super entertaining. Edie Brickell was boring and low key by comparison.

Related AV Club: Skipping Spin Doctors: Have you ever gone to a concert just for the opener?
posted by kirkaracha at 10:08 AM on August 28

I saw Aztec Camera open for Edie Brickell & New Bohemians in 1990.

Me too! Orpheum Theater in Boston. For the encore they all came out together and jammed. It was pretty good. I always loved Aztec Camera's cover of Van Halen's Jump.

Skipping Spin Doctors: Have you ever gone to a concert just for the opener?

I went to see Billy Idol only because Faith No More was opening for him. We did stay for Billy Idol just because we paid money for the show but a lot of people left after FnM. That's when they were in their peak after releasing The Real Thing.
posted by bondcliff at 11:52 AM on August 28

Come to think of it... I saw the Indigo Girls open for the Grateful Dead which seemed sort of weird. It was really more like "Come on in and find your seats" music with this crowd even though I like the IG.

I also saw the opening act for a David Bowie show be... a bunch of Looney Tunes cartoons. I still don't totally understand that one.
posted by jessamyn at 3:14 PM on August 28

Kings of Leon opened for U2 for part of the Vertigo tour in 2005. U2 fans were not receptive. I mean, there wasn't a lot of booing, but there wasn't a lot of cheering and attention-paying. Meh.
posted by Occula at 5:49 PM on August 28

I also saw the opening act for a David Bowie show be... a bunch of Looney Tunes cartoons. I still don't totally understand that one.

Kind of like that time South Park opened for Rush. With a cover of "Tom Sawyer" no less.
posted by kirkaracha at 9:27 PM on August 28

I remember a lot of Dead Heads complaining about Tom Petty's stint opening for the Grateful Dead. It wasn't that they didn't like the music but that Petty played the exact same set every night and Dead Heads often saw many shows in a row.
posted by octothorpe at 4:19 AM on August 29 [1 favorite]

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