It is the biggest wild card at nearly every concert you attend.

The opening band.

In a lot of cases it's an artist you've never heard of and frankly don't want to sit through while you're waiting for the headliner to take the stage.

Sometimes that warm-up act is thoroughly forgettable, or even worse, memorable for all the wrong reasons.

But every so often you get a 'diamond in the rough'.

I was reminded of that recently when I went to see Gavin DeGraw at The District in Sioux Falls.

The opening act was a guy named Kevin Garrett, a 33-year-old singer/songwriter from Pittsburgh, now based out of Brooklyn. I have to admit, I had never heard of him or his music, so I decided to do a little digging on Google.

What I found shocked me.

Kevin is a GRAMMY-nominated songwriter for his work with Beyoncé and James Blake on 'Pray You Catch Me' from the Lemonade album in 2016.

Not only that but Kevin is signed to Jay-Z's Roc Nation for publishing

Impressive stuff.

Once Kevin took the stage in Sioux Falls, he was warm and engaging and a real pleasure to listen to.

Watching him got me thinking about some of the most memorable opening acts I've had a chance to see in the last 45 years of concert-going.

  • 2015: GAVIN DeGRAW

The irony of seeing Kevin Garrett open for Gavin DeGraw wasn't lost on me.

That night was nine years to the day that I saw Gavin open first for Billy Joel in Minneapolis and then four months later for Shania Twain's Rock This Country tour stop in Sioux Falls.

I was certainly familiar with his hit songs 'I Don't Want To Be' and 'In Love With A Girl' and 'Not Over You' at that point, but had no idea what a powerhouse he was live.

  • 1979: THIN LIZZY

My first memorable experience with an opener came on Journey's Evolution tour in June of 1979 at the Long Beach Arena in Southern California.

The Irish band Thin Lizzy took the stage first and delivered with hit songs 'The Boys Are Back In Town' and 'Jailbreak'.

It was a great first experience with an opening band.

  • 1980: ROY ORBISON

Nine months later I was in for a real treat.

Future Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Roy Orbison was opening for The Eagles at their Long Run tour stop at The Forum in Inglewood, California.

What made it even more special was my vantage point - seventh-row center on the floor - thanks to the first and only scalper tickets I've ever purchased (for $50).

  • 1980: THE ONLY ONES

Three months later I witnessed one of the worst opening acts ever.

The British band The Only Ones were tabbed as the opener for The Who's 1980 Who Are You tour, billed as a 'power pop' group, but by 1980 they had crossed over into punk and actually had a song called 'Why Don't You Kill Yourself' in their setlist.

Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey couldn't hit the stage soon enough that night at the Los Angeles Sports Arena.

  • 1982: OINGO BOINGO

A year and a half later I was back at The Forum for The Police's Ghost In The Machine tour and the opener was the up-and-coming Los Angeles-based band Oingo Boingo.

The Danny Elfman-led group only had one album to their credit at that point, but I had already been bitten by the New Wave bug and loved their songs 'Only A Lad' and 'Little Girls'.

Oingo Boingo would go on to bigger things, including the title track to 'Weird Science' in 1985, while Elfman would later emerge as a prolific composer for films like Pee-Wee's Big Adventure, Beetlejuice, Batman, Edward Scissorhands, Men in Black, Fifty Shades of Grey, and The Nightmare Before Christmas, as well as theme songs for TV shows like Desperate Housewives and The Simpsons.


Four months after that, Elton John's Jump Up tour played an outdoor date at Irvine Meadows in Irvine, California and the opening act was the Portland, Oregon band Quarterflash.

They were riding high off of the success of their top ten, self-titled debut album, which spawned a pair of Top 20 singles, 'Harden My Heart' and 'Find Another Fool'.

The band sounded great but their days in the Top 40 were fleeting, with only one more song ('Take Me To Heart') hitting the charts a year later.

  • 1991: EXTREME

One of the biggest shocks I ever experienced with an opening band came on ZZ Top's Recycler tour stop at the Sioux Falls Arena in August of 1991.

The Boston-based band Extreme came to the stage first and I thought I knew what to expect.

Boy was I wrong.

Two months before coming to South Dakota, they had topped the Billboard Hot 100 with 'More Than Words' and followed that up with 'Hole Hearted', which cracked the Top Five later that year.

Both songs were very 'radio friendly' and seemed to indicate what to expect from this group.

It wasn't.

Unbeknownst to me and several others in attendance that night was the reality that much of Extreme's catalog rocked, and it rocked HARD.

  • 2003: GOO GOO DOLLS

In the 2000s, Bon Jovi turned to Buffalo, New York’s Goo Goo Dolls to open their 2003 Bounce tour stop at Target Center in Minneapolis.

By that point, the band was well established with six Top 40 hits, including songs like 'Name', 'Iris', and 'Slide'.

They are still one of the best openers I've ever seen.

  • 2013: JOHN WAITE

Ten years later, John Waite provided one of the most memorable experiences for all of the wrong reasons.

John, the lead singer of The Babys and Bad English, as well as a solo act with the number-one single 'Missing You', was opening for Rick Springfield at Awesome Biker Nights in Sioux City, and as sometimes happens at those outdoor festival-type shows, there were some technical issues.

It got so bad at one point that John vented his displeasure with the sound engineer offstage with a massive middle finger salute.

One bonus in all of that chaos? John did lead the crowd in an acapella version of Bad English's chart-topper 'When I See You Smile' while the sound issues were being addressed.

  • 2015: GRACE POTTER

When I was finally able to cross The Rolling Stones off my bucket list in 2015, the experience was enhanced by the performance of Grace Potter at TCF Bank Stadium in Minneapolis on the Stones' Zip Code tour.

Most of her success at that point had come on the Alternative chart with her band The Nocturnals on songs like 'Stars' and 'Paris (Ooh La La)'.

Her set in the Twin Cities was inspired and she was still riding high when she returned to the stage later in the show to duet with  Mick Jagger on the Stones' classic 'Gimme Shelter'.

As luck would have it, Grace headlined JazzFest in Sioux Falls a little more than a month later, and was fantastic.


Hand down, bar none, this was the worst opening act experience ever.

It happened at Madonna's Rebel Heart tour stop at Xcel Center in St. Paul.

Michael, also known as BloodPop, is a Los Angeles-based DJ, producer, and pop artist who got the gig in part because he co-produced the Rebel Heart album.

Picture if you will, 18,000 people watching a DJ spin records for what seemed like an eternity.

I've never felt so old at a concert in my life.

  • 2016: DAVE MASON

You can't go wrong with a Rock and Roll Hall of Famer and Dave didn't disappoint when he opened for Journey and The Doobie Brothers on the San Francisco Fest tour date at the Premier Center in Sioux Falls.

In his set, Dave included 'Feelin' Alright', which he wrote and sang with Traffic in 1968 and later became a hit for Joe Cocker, as well as his biggest solo single, 1977's 'We Just Disagree'.


From one Hall of Fame opening act to another that year when The Pretenders took the stage before Stevie Nicks at the opening of the Park Theater and the then Monte Carlo Hotel (now Park MGM) in Las Vegas.

Not only did Chrissie Hynde lead the band through their amazing catalog but she returned later to duet with Stevie on 'Stop Draggin' My Heart Around'.

  • 2017: THE STRUTS

This was a life-changing experience for me.

Opening for Foo Fighters on the Concrete and Gold tour in Sioux Falls, this relatively unknown British band grabbed the audience from the very first notes of 'Put Your Hands Up' and never let go.

Lead singer Luke Spiller is a hybrid of Freddie Mercury and Mick Jagger and I was so blown away that I had downloaded their entire catalog of songs onto my phone by the time their all-too-brief set was over.

Thanks to that night, I have seen The Struts several times and I now consider them to be one of my favorite bands.


Back to the Hall of Famers when a pair of them hit the stage in Sioux Falls in May of 2019.

It was Cher's latest 'farewell' tour, Here We Go Again, and the band Chic was picked to open the show.

While they are best known for their Disco-era chart toppers 'Le Freak' and 'Good Times', Chic lays claim to one of the top talents in the music industry in their lineup, the legendary Nile Rodgers.

Rodgers, who is also in the Songwriters Hall of Fame, has worked with the likes of David Bowie (co-producing and playing on the album Let's Dance), Diana Ross, and Lady Gaga. He's a six-time Grammy winner and was honored with a Grammy Lifetime Achievement award in 2023.

Sadly, a lot of the Cher crowd that night was blissfully unaware of just what they were witnessing at the time.

  • 2021: EDWIN McCAIN

It was October of 2021 and live music was just starting to come back after COVID.

I certainly recognized Edwin's name on the bill opening for REO Speedwagon at the Washington Pavilion in Sioux Falls. He had two massive hits in the late 90s with 'I'll Be' and 'I Could Not Ask for More'.

What I didn't know was how funny he was.

His stories were equally as entertaining as his music, especially his tales of taking a job as a substitute school teacher to make ends meet during the pandemic.

If the music thing doesn't work out, look for Edwin to head out on the stand-up comedy circuit.

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