With the beat pulsating through your body and the lyrics circling through your mind, a live show is designed to be an immersive experience. The artist wants you to forget the problems that are bringing you down and to live in the moment and feel whatever the music makes you feel. Whether that's dancing the night away and feeling empowered at a Charli XCX concert or crying your feelings out at an Ed Sheeran show, it all depends on the artistic direction.
This is also represented by the curated support act who sets the whole mood and tone for the evening. The headliner and touring party selects someone they feel perfectly suits the tone of the material and someone they think their fans will appreciate and enjoy. You wouldn’t have a Disturbed show with Jason Mraz as the support act, but the pairing of Anne-Marie and GLADES that happened earlier this year in Australia made total sense.
Over the years we have seen major artists breakthrough into the industry from being a support act. In Australia alone we have seen Lady Gaga open for Pussycat Dolls in 2009 (WTF?!), Julia Michaels open for Shawn Mendes in 2017 (super cool!) and in 2010 Ed Sheeran opened for Passenger before the roles reversed in 2015 for Sheeran's massive stadium tour (a full circle moment!)
Then if you look at the local market, Vera Blue opened for Broods in 2016, Amy Shark opened for Cub Sport in 2016 and Ocean Alley opened up for Tash Sultana, The Cat Empire and Xavier Rudd in 2017. Everyone has to get their start somewhere and if you were in those venues for any of those shows then you'll never forget seeing those artists so intimately and before their careers skyrocketed.
So that begins to beg the question: why do Australian audiences not turn up to watch support acts? After all, they’ve bought a ticket to attend the show and they should want to be a part of the whole experience, yet venues remain sparse during a headline act's opener.
If we look at overseas shows, American crowds turn up as soon as doors open and are actively watching supports no matter if it’s in a small venue or an arena. They're respectful and not talking loudly to their friend who is next to them or yelling at the bartender when ordering a drink, which is something Australian crowds often forget. We need to remember to respect all of the artists who are on the stage even if we don't specifically listen to them, because they deserve that acknowledgment and respect. After all, Queen Aretha Franklin taught us R-E-S-P-E-C-T. We should use that mantra and start turning up to watch support acts.
In an effort to encourage people to arrive early and watch the supports, Brisbane venue The Triffid and the new Fortitude Music Hall have both put a ban on sharing set times on event pages, led by co-founder John Collins (JC) from Powderfinger wanting people to support the support and support the local music scene. Watching a support act is a way to discover new music and who knows, it might be the start of a fruitful decade of being a fan, buying their album, streaming their music or buying a ticket to their headlining show in the future. Touring and playing shows is the main way artists and bands make money now, so by watching all of the acts on the bill you are actually helping them in an integral way by helping them build a fanbase.
There are many valid arguments as to why set times should be posted, including the fact that people with disabilities need to organise specific arrangements and people needing to catch public transport require advance notice of gig end times. But to aid these criticisms, both The Triffid and Fortitude Music Hall have disability support that can be contacted before the event and show duration times are also posted on the website and event page. For example;
Event finish: 11pm
This gives attendees the important and standard information they need to assist their travel requirements. There is no specific need to get the running times other than if you don’t plan/want to watch the support, so how about we just cut that out and encourage everyone to watch all the acts on the bill?
Vans Warped Tour did this successfully every year in the US where they would never post their set times online. With a rotating timetable for every show on their festival run, fans would have to turn up once gates opened to find out when their favourite acts were on, which was displayed on a massive board in the middle of the festival grounds. Sometimes the “headliners” could’ve playing at 1pm, and it was an innovative concept that worked. It encouraged punters to come out and experience the whole day and discover new acts at the same time. Imagine all of the cool new music you could discover?!
For Allday’s upcoming national tour he has enlisted some huge familiar names as supports such as Mallrat, E^ST and an exciting newcomer JXN. It is tours like this where the supports are just as important as the headliner, because Allday's throwing his support behind three exciting acts that his indie-pop influenced hip-hop crowd might enjoy.
Now, wouldn't that tour be even more interesting if every night the three supports rotated set times and fans just had to turn up to see who graced the stage first?