When local band Best Dog Award took the stage of a sold-out Rialto Theatre on Oct. 1 as a substitute opening act, the band had no idea it would be going on a 48-hour impromptu tour with Vampire Weekend.
Aside from a benefit concert in Phoenix last spring, the three-piece band had never played outside of Tucson before. However, it was selected to fill in for Vampire Weekend’s opener after the original opening act fell through at the last minute.
Band members found out through Facebook in a short message from Dan Hernandez, head booking agent for Stateside Presents Tucson. After a fumble by the original opening act, Sky Ferreira, management arranged lists of bands and began to look for a replacement to take over. Best Dog Award was one of the chosen bands.
“I looked at my phone and I saw a message asking if we wanted to open for Vampire Weekend that night,” said Andrew Ling, drummer of Best Dog Award. “And it was around 3:30, and I had my friend read it and I was like, ‘That’s a joke, right?’”
Lead singer and guitarist Joel Crocco, and multi-instrumentalist Nicholas Mazza said they had the same reaction as Ling. But as reality set in, the band said nerves never really came.
“We didn’t really have time to be that nervous,” Crocco said. “We scrambled, we got a 20-minute practice in and put a set together and just kind of went for it. We thought, ‘It is what it is; there’s nothing we could really do at that point to make it better or make it worse.’”
The band arrived at the Rialto to set up, an action they routinely do themselves.
“The weirdest thing was that we showed up to the Rialto, I pulled up in my car, and all of a sudden guys start coming out and unloading my equipment for me,” Ling said. “They just start carrying it on stage and setting it up. That’s just part of being in a band; you set all your stuff up. You work on all of this by yourself. So it was pretty surreal to show up and have all these people helping you do your thing.”
The band played its set, feeding off the energy from the crowd.
“While I was on stage, I felt really comfortable,” Mazza said. “I expected to be a lot more nervous, but I felt like everyone in Tucson is very nice and was very welcoming to us.”
Almost as soon as the band arrived at the Rialto, they were on the road to Albuquerque, N.M. for an additional opening set, as requested by Vampire Weekend’s management.
“I felt like our roles really became a little bit more comfortable in the band,” Crocco said. “I feel like we became a little bit more confident in each other and kind of knowing that in this kind of spontaneous situation, we’re still able to have fun and obviously have a good time as friends.”
Opening for an act like Vampire Weekend in a spur-of-the-moment set brought much success, seen in the form of Facebook “likes,” sold out merchandise and an increase in following. For the members of Best Dog Award, this created even stronger bonds for the dad-punk trio, Ling said.
“There’s something so special as an artist, as a performer, as a musician, that when something like that validates what you do, that gives you a shot of confidence,” Ling said. “I think it’s a total milestone and it’s a big growth opportunity. After those shows, I now know I don’t want to play with anyone else. I want to play with Nick and Joel, and I knew that before, but that just affirmed it.”
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