By Kevin Rolfe
Being the opening band in a concert can be a pretty different experience. Being the opening act at Red Butte Garden can be a really different experience. Red Butte Garden is a beautiful venue. But it’s different. Many of the tickets for their concerts are sold in a season ticket package. So a lot of the audience just goes to everything on the schedule whether they like the artist or not. These are generally the people who talk the entire evening then leave the show halfway through the headliners set. You’re also allowed to bring food and drinks with you so many people will pack a cooler and wine and dine while the opener is on stage. And as enjoyable as that is, I always feel for the band on stage who is performing and trying to get their music out there while most likely feeling ignored.
I’ve learned something though. While concert etiquette may be to not talk and pay attention when a band is performing, just because people aren’t exactly doing that doesn’t mean they’re not listening. It’s strange because as All Hail the Silence performed I initially got a little defensive for them. People had their backs to the stage and they were talking and eating and most definitely drinking. I was getting a little frustrated for the boys. I kept thinking “Don’t people realize who this is?” It’s BT! He’s been nominated for a Grammy! And Christian Burns has sold millions of records! These guys have had extensive and amazing careers on their own and in other projects, and now they’ve joined forces in All Hail the Silence. And they’re here! In Salt Lake City! Opening for Howard Jones! Everyone should be stoked! But before I jumped on stage and grabbed Christian’s microphone to rebuke the audience I looked around the amphitheater. And I could see people whose backs were to the band turning around to take a look. When I looked deeper into the crowd I could see people who were clearly fans of the guys whether it be from Christian’s career in BBMAK or BT’s pioneering electronics or just straight up All Hail the Silence fans. They were standing up and dancing and clapping along to the music. So things aren’t always as they appear. People were paying attention in their own way and I could tell that All Hail the Silence was making an impact on the crowd.
As I told Christian Burns when we chatted a few weeks ago my favorite two songs on the album were “Temptation” and “The Alarm”. I was really happy that they performed both of those songs in their brief set. While All Hail the Silence is a new band relative to Howard Jones and the other support band Men Without Hats, their music fit right in with the style of the show. Especially with the music of Howard Jones. I think that’s why the audience began to embrace them. BT’s beats and synth melodies hit home with the crowd looking for a little nostalgia. But there they were listening to a fresh band while getting that synth fix they had hoped for. And Christians vocals could not fit synth pop any better. His broad vocal range settles right into the preciseness of electronic music. And I was really impressed with how he sounded live. The majority of electronic music is programmed. So it’s exact both in tempo and in tone. So to sing along with synthesizers you have to stay on key and in time. There’s not a band behind you that can follow you. I thought he sounded really good!
Following the set, I went to the merch tent to say hi to the fellas. Another indicator that they had fans at the show and possibly gained some new fans was how long the line was to meet them. While I waited in line I started a conversation with the guy in front of me, then behind me, then in front of me. He was so excited to talk to BT that he wanted me to go first so he could chat a while. When I told him I had interviewed Christian and just wanted to say a brief hello, but he said “Oh yeah, I should go before you then. You’ll be talking a while.” After hearing how excited he was and about all the topics he was hoping to bring up I thought I should go first. I really just wanted to say hello and introduce myself as the guy Christian talked on the phone with. Once we got our position in line settled this guy went on to tell me how that set made his whole week. Possibly his whole summer. Getting to see BT in person had been this guys dream. We discussed the audience and how they didn’t realize who they were watching.
When I got to the front of the line I just took a brief moment to introduce myself and both Christian and BT were so nice! They complimented my interview and Christian told me that he enjoyed speaking with me. Now they might and probably do say that to everyone, but I can’t deny how kind it was of them to say. We talked about the show a little and I just mentioned that they absolutely need to come back to Salt Lake City to headline their own show. I could see them doing a great show at the Metro Music Hall, The Grand Room of The Complex or perhaps The Depot. They told me that they are hopeful to get back here and to a full 90-minute set. I hope that’s soon. And clearly, the guy behind me was really into that idea!
I had another cool experience during Howard Jones’ set. Now that the crowd was on their feet and into the show I couldn’t help but think, “I wish headliners would invite the openers on stage with them during their sets so the audience who missed the opening act can get a proper look at these artists.” Well, mere minutes later Howard Jones told the audience that he had been co-writing some songs with All Hail the Silence on his new album. He then invited them on stage to sing one of them with him. The audience roared their approval. I was so happy for the guys to get a moment on stage when the sun was down and the crowd was up. They performed “The One That You Love” and the crowd seemed to really like it.
There is a cemented spot at Red Butte Garden at house left of the stage (Most of the amphitheater is grass.). That was where I stood for Howard Jones’ set. A man started talking to me about how much he loved EDM and how I should go to the DAS Energy Festival at The Great Saltair. I asked him what he thought of All Hail the Silence. He told me it was amazing that “There were just two guys up there but they made all that sound. It’s remarkable!” He told me that he thought they were pretty good and he’d be downloading their music later. Then the time came where Howard Jones invited AHTS on stage. Howard Jones called them by name “Please welcome Christian Burns and BT back to the stage!”. The man looked at me and said “Wait. That’s BT?! BT is in All Hail the Silence?! I’m seeing BT perform live?!” I nodded my head in the affirmative. The man raced to tell his wife. If I had to guess I’d say the guy was 55 years old. But when he realized that BT was part of All Hail the Silence I felt like I was looking into the eyes of a 15-year-old. The youthful giddiness and shock almost seemed more than the guy could handle. After AHTS finished their song with Jones they continued to watch from the side of the stage. As the show went along I found myself right next to BT and Christian with only a barricade railing between us. Since I had already talked to them and didn’t want to bother them again I just gave them a head nod and looked away. But I leaned over to my new friend and EDM lover and said “We’re pretty much hanging out with BT and Christian. Pretty cool, huh?”. He then looked over and saw BT right next to him. He leaned over the railing, extended his arm and shook hands with one of his music idols. I couldn’t hear what was being said, but I could see BT being gracious in reply. Seriously these guys were so cool to every single person who talked to them. My new EDM friend kept it brief with BT. He walked away, looked at me and said, “That was really cool!”. He hugged his wife and they went on their way. I enjoyed watching that moment unfold.
When the entire show was over I lingered to hear what people were saying about the concert. Of course, most of it was about how amazing Howard Jones was, and he really was excellent. But as I walked around I heard a good number of people talking about All Hail the Silence and how great they sounded. Right before I left the venue I looked back at the merch tent one more time. There was Christian and BT chatting and taking pictures with more fans. I think they would do well here in Utah. I really do hope they come back soon.