With the Counting Crows headlining the Rail Event Center Saturday night, concertgoers might be tempted to show up a few hours late, hoping to skip the opening acts. They shouldn’t.
The two opening acts at the Rail concert are appearing, not on a record-label assembled lineup, but because Adam Duritz and his comrades loved the music of alt-country rockers Kasey Anderson and the Honkies and folkies Field Report.
The Crows are so smitten with Anderson and his band that they covered his song "Like Teenage Gravity" on their 2012 album, "Underwater Sunshine (Or What We Did On Our Summer Vacation)" — and then chose it as the lead single.
In the liner notes, Duritz recounted his affection for Anderson: "I bought all the records and I really dug them. … His big lonely rock songs are addictive, but he crushed at [Austin’s] Smoke & Sand with an acoustic set. Maybe that’s why I chose ‘Like Teenage Gravity’ to cover. … It has a sparse almost hymnlike simplicity."
In a phone interview, the versatile Seattle-based singer-songwriter Anderson said he handles shipping himself when people buy albums from his band’s website. He noticed that someone in New York named Adam Duritz was ordering all of his albums. "There aren’t too many Adam Duritzes, hopefully, in New York," he said. But he didn’t meet the Counting Crows leader until the band invited him to stop by its Los Angeles studio the same day it recorded "Like Teenage Gravity."
Another cover song the Crows recorded — Big Star’s "The Ballad of El Goodo" — was written by one of Anderson’s heroes, Alex Chilton, to whom Anderson dedicated a show right after Chilton’s death in 2010. Chilton was the leader of 1970s Memphis rock band Big Star. "Big Star is one of those bands that are extremely underrated," Anderson said. "Musicians love them, but the general public doesn’t really know them."
Anderson has a Utah connection: His father spent the first two decades of his life in Utah, and his grandparents still live in Murray, along with two aunts. "They’re proud of me, but I wouldn’t say they listen to rock ’n’ roll music," he said of his family. "They’re glad I have a job."
Another act Duritz chose to open is Field Report, which hadn’t even performed in public until 2012’s South by Southwest festival in March. The band’s debut album will be released in September.
But after playing 10 shows in three days at SXSW, Field Report earned the esteem of Duritz and others — and not just because of band leader Christopher Porterfield’s pedigree. (Field Report is an anagram of "Porterfield.")
Porterfield was a member of the now-legendary Wisconsin band DeYarmond Edison, known as the former band of Justin Vernon of Bon Iver and three members of Megafaun. While Bon Iver has gone on to Grammy-winning success and acclaim, and Megafaun is quickly building a solid fan base, people have been waiting for Porterfield to resurface. After five years crafting songs for his debut, he is back.
"It wasn’t five years making the record," Porterfield said. "It was five years writing songs and killing songs."
The band, which assembled in December, played one of its first non-SXSW concerts at Salt Lake City’s Kilby Court, opening for Megafaun. Porterfield admitted the band’s contemplative folk-rock isn’t "the best pump-up-the-crowd music. … We have a saying in the pregame huddle: We’re here to play small ball. We’re trying to hit a single, rather than swing for the fences. We trust in the quiet moments."
After DeYarmond Edison dissolved in 2007, Porterfield settled down. "I got married, bought a house, got a dog," he said. He had a day job working in student affairs at a college in Milwaukee, but at night, he kept working to craft songs and debuting them at open-mic nights.
Porterfield didn’t quit his job until last month, despite commuting while opening for Megafaun and then playing a string of dates opening for Emmylou Harris. "In this economy, [resigning] is one of the dumbest things you can do," he said. "[But] it’s time to be bold and a little reckless. I’m trusting that this is the right time. Right now everything feels right."
The Outlaw Roadshow
Counting Crows with Field Report, Kasey Anderson and the Honkies
When • Saturday at 7 p.m.
Where • The Rail Event Center, 235 N. 500 West, Salt Lake City
Tickets • $38 in advance, $40 day of, at SmithsTix
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