September 23

Opening Acts

With two kids at home,  it isn’t all that common that I find my way to a concert these days.  I did manage to catch a show this past week and it was one of those rare occurrences where I left the show feeling more excited about the opening act than for the band I actually paid to see.  It’s no fault of the headliner.  They were fine.  The venue was a little small for their sound.  I couldn’t stop getting that little crackle you get when a band is pushing beyond the limits of the sound system.  So, the band itself was fine but I didn’t leave the show saying “Wow, that was the greatest thing I’ve ever heard”.  But, both my wife and I left the show with this feeling like we’d just accidentally come across something great.

When we purchased the tickets, we were thrilled to discover that we would be getting to check out the infamous TBD for an opening act.  We love TBD. I can’t even begin to count how many times we’ve seen TBD in concert. Sure, people who are just getting into them still call them “To Be Determined” but they will always be TBD for those of us who were into them before they got all mainstream.  Anyway, as we got closer to the show, TBD were replaced by a band called Magic Man.

I didn’t really care who was opening. So, I didn’t bother to give Magic Man a listen before the show.  I mean, come on, they’re the opening act for a tiny venue in South Burlington, Vermont.  For months they had just been TBD.  Seriously? I was going to spend what little precious time I have right now (I’m currently writing for two blogs, working on revisions with my agent, toying around with a co-authoring project, doing beta reads for my CPs, lesson planning for my classroom, raising children, paying attention to my wife, getting sick, sleeping) to listen to….an opening act.

So, the lights flashed while we all milled around the club.  They faded and five people clambered up onto the stage.  Other than the lead singer, they looked as if they had all just gone shopping together at J. Crew.  I got ready to ignore them until the real show started.  And then the lead singer opened his mouth and I was blown away.  The guy was like this conglomeration of Iggy Pop and Robert Smith and Morrissey with a dash of Simon LeBon all blended together. And his voice.  Wow. My wife, I think, was considering making arrangements so that she could hook up with him.  You know, like trade in some future dalliance with anyone of my choice so that she could live out a little rock-star fantasy.  It didn’t hurt that the band were touching on New Wave and 80s Brit-Pop and hitting all of those notes that remind me of late nights watching 120 Minutes back in high school. And their sound was polished and tight and…well, we bought their EP.

I started thinking about opening acts this morning and that feeling of discovery when a new band steps up and does something amazing.  I wondered if there were an actual equivalent with books?  The end result of my pondering was that the two didn’t really line up.  Sure, we’ve all discovered a new talent, a new series, a new book that surprised us and got us excited about reading.  But, they aren’t opening acts.  When you pick a new book, it’s by choice.  Or by recommendation.  You grab the book off the shelf.  You have the book handed to you by a friend.  It isn’t like before you read Harry Potter, you have to first read a novella by a promising new author.  Your friends don’t withhold their copy of The Hunger Games until you read this book you’ve never heard of before first.

Although the two ideas don’t quite line up, there is something in me that hopes for that same amazing result that I had with Magic Man.  I’m really, really close to having a book on a shelf.  I’ll be an opening act.  There won’t be but a handful of people who even know that I exist.  I need to do what Magic Man did.  I need to grab a new audience out from under the feet of the headliners that are already filling the shelves.

While I wait for that moment, I might as well share a little of Magic Man with you all: