Say what you want about Eric Church’s music, and though he’s sporting one of the most loyal fan bases in popular music these days, he’s also revealed himself as one of the most polarizing figures in country music in the last few years. But you can’t fault the man for thinking outside the box, and scouring the hungry, unwashed faces of independent music when looking for openers on his arena tours. On Monday (1-12), in what turned out to be the busiest news day Saving Country Music has seen in the last half decade as the music industry finally blew off the pent up steam from the holiday break, Eric Church announced an extension of his “The Outsiders” World Tour. And though we can go back and forth about if Eric Church is truly an “outsider” or not, many of his openers clearly fall under this distinction.
Getting crowds warmed up on various legs of Eric Church’s upcoming tour include long-time Southern-rocking songwriting geniuses The Drive-By Truckers, throwback old-school rock and roller JD McPherson, heartfelt up-and-coming indie roots act The Lone Bellow, burgeoning country music duo Brothers Osborne, and The Cadillac Three—a completely unintuitive stable of talent from a sector of the industry that regularly uses opening slots as bargaining chips with other labels, or showcases for their prepackaged upcoming stars.
This is the second time Eric Church has shocked onlookers by his selection of openers. In April of 2014 when Church announced the initial dates of “The Outsiders” tour, he tapped upstart songwriter and performer Brandy Clark, the legendary Dwight Yoakam, and once again Brothers Osborne to fill the slots. But at least that time Brandy Clark was already very much a part of the Nashville industry and was on the brink of signing to a major label, and Dwight clearly had his days in the mainstream spotlight. To sport acts like JD McPherson and The Lone Bellow on tour seems especially mindful of looking for talent where others aren’t.
However the effectiveness of these opening slots turning on fans to these worthy artists is in the eye of the beholder. The theory of music osmosis doesn’t always hold true. Some who went to Eric Church’s shows more to see Dwight or Brandy complained that the sound was too low, and many people weren’t paying attention. As it usually is with openers, they are required to be quieter, play shorter sets, and play many times when folks are still filing in to venues. In fact this was what got Eric Church in trouble when he was once opening for Rascal Flatts (which resulted in Taylor Swift getting the gig, and the rest is history). But even if it’s 20% of Eric Church’s sold out crowds that walk away remembering the openers, the boost for these bands is undeniable.
Yes, fans of these opening bands would rather see their favorite acts play where they don’t have to squint to see them on stage. But there will be plenty of time for that from these acts in the future, with hopefully a few more folks in the audience after the Eric Church boost.
Tour Dates & Openers:
(*) Brothers Osborne
(**) Drive-By Truckers
(***) The Cadillac Three
(****) JD McPherson
3/4/15 Austin, TX | Frank Erwin Center **
3/10/15 Washington, DC | Verizon Center **
3/18/15 Ft. Wayne, IN | Allen County War Memorial Coliseum **
3/28/15 Tampa, FL | Amalie Arena***
4/7/15 Grand Forks, ND | Ralph Engelstad Arena *
4/8/15 Winnipeg, MB | MTS Centre *
4/10/15 Saskatoon, SK | SaskTel Centre *
4/11/15 Calgary, AB | Scotiabank Saddledome *
4/12/15 Edmonton, AB | Rexall Place *
4/14/15 Vancouver, BC | Pepsi Live at Rogers Arena *
4/15/15 Seattle, WA | KeyArena at Seattle Center *
4/24/15 Hampton, VA | Hampton Coliseum ****
Additional dates, where the openers have not been announced yet:
3/12/15 Albany, NY | Times Union Center
3/13/15 Wilkes-Barre, PA | Mohegan Sun Arena
3/17/15 Bloomington, IL | U.S. Cellular Coliseum
3/20/15 Rosemont, IL | Allstate Arena
3/21/15 Cincinnati, OH | U.S. Bank Arena
3/27/15 Jacksonville, FL | Veterans Memorial Arena
3/26/15 Tallahassee, FL | Donald L. Tucker Civic Center
4/23/15 Raleigh, NC | PNC Arena
4/30/15 Boston, MA | TD Garden Arena
5/1/15 Buffalo, NY | First Niagara Center
5/2/15 Newark, NJ | Prudential Center
5/7/15 Lexington, KY | Rupp Arena
5/8/15 Columbia, MO | Mizzou Arena
6/12/15 Orange Beach, AL | Amphitheater at the Wharf
8/27/15 Syracuse, NY | New York State Fair