This is part of my 2011 wrap-up series, A Few of My Favorite Things, in which I discuss what I enjoyed this year, regardless of when it was released.
#13 Larry And His Flask
Self-described “hillbilly band”
I remember reading an article somewhere — maybe it was in the thought-provoking Ripped — that the role of opening acts has greatly diminished in the past forty years.
During the adolescence of rock, people were often just as curious to see the opening act as they were excited to see the headliners — according to the writer. The opening acts of major bands served as a sort of farm system, allowing bands to build buzz as they improved their craft on the road.
Nowadays, the article generalized, people just show up about an hour after the start time listed on the ticket in order to arrive when main act goes up on stage. Opening acts are a largely unnecessary relic of the past. As technology improves and barriers to discovering new bands fall, the necessity of building buzz on the road diminishes.
But the most unexpected, joyful musical discovery of the year for me was the opening act for a concert of one of my all time favorite bands, Streetlight Manifesto.
The show had two opening acts. The first was forgettable. The second one, however, immediately caught my attention when it went up on stage wielding a rather unusual instrumentation: banjo, mandolin, string bass, standing drum kit.
Then they started playing, something like this:
The following progression approximates my reaction.
The Streetlight show afterwards was great, but after the show I went to the Larry and His Flask booth. I bought a T-shirt, met the bass player, and genuinely thanked them for rocking my world that night. When I went home, I downloaded their free EP and found YouTube clips of their shows. I looked up their future show dates and learned more about them.
In short, I lived the “opening act” experience as it was originally conceived.
Larry and His Flask will never rank as a historic favorite of mine, but the band is a gem. They have the trappings of both a bluegrass band (instrumentation, attitude) and a Jersey ska/punk band (composition, scene). It’s a blend that, frankly, seems like such an obvious recipe for success that I’m surprised I didn’t think of it before I heard them. You can buy the first album (since their reinvention; they started life as a straight-ahead punk band) on iTunes, among other platforms. It’s also on Spotify and Grooveshark.
Larry and His Flask earn their spot on this list for filling an inventive musical niche with expert craft and a killer show, but also for reminding me of the joy of the unexpected discovery. I so often find music based off of raving reviews or other positive recommendations. Sometimes it’s more fun to have low expectations surpassed than high expectations matched.
Previously: #14 Portal 2
Up next: Simmons starts a silly site