I have seen some pretty bad opening acts in my day. Robert Earle Keen in Raleigh opening for the Dave Matthews Band was pretty painful, playing what was probably only a 45 minute set that seemed like a 2 hour one. “Farm Fresh Onion” (his big “hit”) has been a joke with me and Erin ever since. There was also Muse, opening for U2 (again, in Raleigh), who played a set just over an hour long that seemed like 1 really long, terrible song. U2 gave the band a 360* stage and they used 90* of it. Paramore, acting as opening act with the Sounds for No Doubt in Charlotte, had a set that was equal parts annoying, boring and way, way too long. And while I’ve given him another chance, allowing him to grow on me, be it very little, Asher Roth was pretty annoying when playing in front of a bunch of college kids while opening for Flogging Molly at Volapalooza in Knoxville.

And while I’ve seen some pretty ratty and terrible bands, 2010 has been the best year for opening acts, by far. It may be because I’ve gone to more concerts this year than previous years, giving me more opening bands to check out and appreciate, but some of the acts that I’ve come across this year have been phenomenal! Our first concert this year was that dreadful Volapalooza, so we didn’t get off to a very good start, but about a month later we saw Rob Zombie at the Colosseum in Knoxville, who completely made up for the slump in opening acts by giving us Alice Cooper, a man my grandfather’s age ripping through a 20-something song set with little to no breaks between. A new addition to my ska arsenal came this year when we saw Reel Big Fish at the Exit / In in Nashville, playing with Atlanta’s own Taj Motel Trio, who were the best live ska act (aside from RBF, of course) since I’ve seen Streetlight Manifesto. A couple of months later, we saw Those Darlins opening up for OK Go at the Mercy Lounge in Nashville, a group that were a toxic cocktail of punk, country and pure sex appeal. Which brings us to last night…

Yesterday I won tickets to see the Reverend Horton Heat at the Valarium in Knoxville last night. Being able to hit a concert last minute and still get home before it was too late (1am-ish) is one of my favorite things about living in Knoxville, and we took advantage of it. The Rev put on a killer show, performing at around the 1 1/2 hour – 2 hour mark, all blistering guitar riffs, gut-thumping bass and a magnificent performance on the drums. While RHH was amazing and a ton of fun, ending his set with a stretched out and totally original cover of Johnny Cash’s “Folsom Prison Blues,” most of my props go to the two opening acts.

The night started out with Kansas natives, Split Lip Rayfield, a three piece bluegrass-core (is that even a genre?) group who rocked acoustic guitars, banjos, the absolute fastest mandolin picking I’ve ever encountered, an upright bass made from an old gas tank and a friggin’ kazoo. What a blast these guys were, ripping through originals and partial covers of classic bluegrass tunes with the intensity expected from a Slayer concert. They finished their 45 minute set with a tremendous cover of one of my favorite bluegrass songs “How Many Biscuits Can You Eat” that rocked the house harder than I’ve ever seen Robby Spencer or anyone at the Carter Family Fold do.

Next up was Nashville natives, The Legendary Shack Shakers. While their music was very good, showcasing a tremendous array of talent from each member of the band, their lead singer portrayed what I would imagine would happen if you locked Hank Williams into a concrete room with nothing but a record player and a stack of Aerosmith and Dead Kennedys records. His scrawny build and elasticity made him entertaining and equally hilarious, dancing like a fool half of the time, reaching into his pants at one point and a little later, knocking some audience members over the head with the microphone. Definitely one of the most energetic front-men I’ve seen in a while.

As of right now it’s looking like the next concert won’t be until next summer when we see U2 in Nashville at Vanderbilt Stadium, but with the likelihood of another show popping up and the ease of hitting one in town being present, I’m sure we’ll get to one or two before then, maybe even by the end of the year :-)

Enjoy today’s haiku:

Ya know, it figures
When someone retweets my tweet
There’s a big typo


  1. I thought “Samuel” was freaking amazing as an opening act for OK Go! I was crazy about him and the band. His music was catchy and well done.

    Anything beats Farm Fresh Onion though.


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