I propose that, from now on, we all make the harrowing decision not only to go to more shows featuring local music, but to show up early enough to watch the opening bands. I know, I know, utter madness. In Detroit, and I’m sure most other places in the world where logic takes a backseat to the absurd, showing up to a dingy backroom bar or shitty art space for a midweek “8 p.m.” show on time will have you staring at the walls for hours waiting for the action to begin and crawling out quite drunk past two if you attempt to stay for the whole program. “Punk time,” they call it. “Lazy fuckwits who have no consideration for the bedtimes of working people,” others have thought. While often the phenomenon of a local show starting late and dragging on can be chalked up to a lack of professionalism among the bands or a bar trying to get as much coin as possible out of the clientele, it is often a more sad and romantic notion: If we wait, the audience will come. And the whiff of a chance to stand around for hours in their charnel houses of sound. Sure, the stoned asshole who takes your $10 at the door down at the local bar is odious, but do you really think he’s worse than getting the service-fee screw job in order to experience some national act phone it in at a hockey arena? You’re a snob about eating locally and shit, why not extend that to standing next to the bass player’s mom to watch the third-best nü-speed ska band in town?
My second reason for begging you to throw your life away and go see some local openers might sound like “You may find your new favorite band,” but it’s not. I always hated that phrase. Besides, you’re reading my column and by doing so you are now financially liable to consider my band Protomartyr your favorite band in perpetuity. No, the second reason is that you get to witness guileless creativity in its purest form—bands that are unmoored from the financial burdens of “making it,” willing to express themselves without promise of reward, and perhaps weird-sounding and mutated enough to catch you off guard. You’ll see true talent in the embryonic stage, all for the price of a bag of fancy gourmet chips. But most important, the local support is your city made flesh. They live down the street and need to borrow your car to transport their amps. They usually have a day job to get to the next morning just like you. Sure, they, if lucky, might’ve snagged a few drink tickets and talked to the really cool headliners side stage, but you too can do that! These places don’t have backstage toilets, just bug the lead singer of the headlining band while he’s trying to take a preshow shit! Bring your own drink tickets! Most of these bars use drink tickets you can buy in rolls at a Staples, and I’m sure the opening band will show you what they look like. Because they are you! They might even give you one, because their mom is there and they, you know, don’t wanna party too hard in front of her.
The local opening band is your city made flesh
Having come up with this soul-edifying yet modest plan to support the opening bands of Detroit wherever they might be, I decided to put my advocacy to the test. So, this past December, I headed down to the Outer Limits Lounge to catch the truly great Deadbeat Beat. I’m sure I’ll write about the Outer Limits one day, it has a musical history and a crew of characters working there that make it one of the best places to see a show. Deadbeat Beat have been around for years, always kill it, and will also be written about whenever I’m tasked with a “best band in Detroit” article. I had no idea who this local opener, Decliner, was. This will be perfect.