Finding a gem in a mixed bag of openers

I’m a big believer in getting to a concert early and catching the opening acts.

If it’s a GA show, it gives you a better vantage point for the act you paid to see — no one likes the jerk that shows up late and tries to push themselves to the front — and you may discover a new favorite.

Of course, there’s also the possibility of a new least favorite — or both with multiple openers.

Tuesday my younger daughter and I ventured to the Roxian Theatre to see one of our favorites — Frank Turner & the Sleeping Souls.

The set was great, plenty of old favorites (“Recovery,” “Four Simple Words,” “Photosynthesis,” “I Still Believe”) and 11 songs from his last two albums, 2022’s “FTHC” and “Undefeated,” released at the beginning of the month.

“Girl From the Record Shop,” a less-than-2-minute jolt of pure pop punk bliss, is my favorite on “Undefeated,” even though there’s another song that I feel could have been written for me — “Nevermind the Back Problems.”

That’s another advantage to getting to a show early. I was able to grab a spot maybe 15 feet from center stage that also had a fence / railing that my 62-year-old back (as of today, happy birthday to me) could use for support. It’s what made standing the same place for five hours bearable.

Since it’s my job, I usually do a little research before a concert, familiarizing myself with who’s on the bill, sampling their music. But I wasn’t on the clock Tuesday, and it’s been a tumultuous month. It wasn’t until I was standing in my spot on the floor that I realized, I have no idea who else is playing tonight.

Up first was Micah Schnabel and Vanessa Jean Speckman.

It wasn’t the politics — no one is wearing a MAGA hat to a Frank Turner concert, unless they’re trying to be ironic. But it was just so one note.

Schnabel did a song about how Christian rock is a poison, ripping off better songs and giving them worse lyrics. I don’t disagree. But the message might resonate better if his first song didn’t sound like someone fed a set of woke buzzword refrigerator magnets into an AI generator and asked it to spew something like “Subterranean Homesick Blues”-era Bob Dylan.

Speckman felt like someone doing cosplay of Maureen, the performance artist character in “Rent.” I half-expected a cover of “Over the Moon.”

Turner had great things to say about them during his set and clearly is a fan. At least it was a short set, and maybe on a different day it would have hit differently.

Turner also raved about Bridge City Sinners, which followed. Despite the name, the band is from Portland, Oregon, not Pittsburgh.

BCS has an interesting look and sound, sort of like the Grand Ole Opry following a violent coup by the cast of a Rob Zombie-directed horror movie.

Its songs grew on me, lead singer Libby Lux has a great voice, and there are some talented players in the band. But I agreed with what my daughter said the next morning — “There’s a lot going on, and it detracts from the things they do well.”

Amigo the Devil was direct support, and that act was a revelation.

There were some similarities with BCS — primarily acoustic instrumentation and lyrics that lean toward the defiant and the macabre.

Danny Kiranos, who performs as Amigo the Devil, has such an endearing, engaging presence on stage that he and his band can make all of these conflicting elements gel.

He opened with “Small Stone” and delivered a vocal worthy of favorable comparisons to Roy Orbison. He did a song he said he was performing for the first time (“My Body Is Your Dive Bar” I’m guessing is the title?) that was equal parts raunchy and romantic.

Some songs were just silly — he did a snippet of a tune called “Crying at the Orgy” — while others used humor without diluting the seriousness of the subject matter (addiction, mental health issues).

Before the show, I was surprised how many people I saw wearing Amigo’s merch. Today I’m searching to see what’s available on vinyl.

I discovered a new … Amigo.

Andy Gray is the entertainment editor of Ticket. Write to him at agray@tribtoday.com.


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