Slightly OT Opening bands that are louder than the headliner


Silver Member
I have seen some shows where the opening bands have been about the same volume,but I have seen where the opening band has been far and away louder than
the the headliner.

Once when I saw Puddle of Mud,Nickleback and 3 doors down,nicklenack was louder.

I have somehow managed to see Ted Nugent open for three different acts,Aerosmith,Black Sabbath and ZZ Topp,and he was the loudest each time.

I would have thought that the headliner's management and or sound crew would never allow that.

Any one remember experiencing this or have any thoughts on why or how this happens?


Senior Member
I once saw Alice In chains open up for Stone Temple Pilots, and I think in that case AIC was louder. But then again, it was probably cus STP's singer was wasted. Seriously, that dude needs help. I don't think that's what you mean though

Matt Bo Eder

Not so much the volume issue, but I did see openers perform much better than the headliner. We saw the Aristocrats open for Stick Men and the Aristocrats show was much better, I thought. In fact, the headliner was so loud it was distorting in some spots. None of those guys were high.


Gold Member
The volume thing is completely out of control. A few years ago I went to see Extreme at a large venue and the volume was so crazy that if I hadn't known their songs by heart I would not have been able to distinguish a single note or vocal line. It was painfully loud. I went to the restroom, wetted down some tissue paper and inserted it in my ears and that cleaned up the mess enough that i could enjoy the show.

The best experience I remember at a show happened in a cavernous local coliseum with horrible acoustics. The main act was the Guess Who (ageing myself again!), and the volume was at a level roughly equal to what I would use on my home stereo. It was wonderful. I could hear everything the band was doing, along with Burton Cummings' delicious vocal inflections.

I like loud music, but I also love being able to hear without pain and muddy sound. Some sound engineers need to grow up and learn how to really mix a show.



Gold Member
Better bands know how to cool it down and do damage control, if the band before was too hot and people are looking for the exit, at least in some circles(in others it may indeed be loud louder loudest).


Silver Member
Loud does not mean good. Too many young guys think volume is the key to success when it's actually a cover for not being good musically. Who'd want to see the Eagles if they were playing at 130 decibels?


Platinum Member
I have somehow managed to see Ted Nugent open for three different acts,Aerosmith,Black Sabbath and ZZ Topp,and he was the loudest each time.

I would have thought that the headliner's management and or sound crew would never allow that.

Any one remember experiencing this or have any thoughts on why or how this happens?
Ted was notorious for over amplifying the venue he was in and even bragged about it.

I remember him playing the Civic Arena in Pittsburgh back in the day and could not be in the seating part of the arena because it was too painful.

Easily over 125 db.


Gold Member
Much of this depends on the band and genre. The Eagles at high volume makes no sense. They are a band based on harmonies and acoustic or cleaner guitar tones. Motorhead is based on playing as hard and heavy as possible while Lemmy yells over the top. Obviously Neil Diamond fans expect to hear nuance and great, clear vocals. Red Fang fans want volume and power. To compare the volume of the two is idiotic. I personally like live shows to be loud. If I want it quiet I will listen to the music at home. I want to feel the music.


Gold Member
I don't think shows progress in terms of volume; maybe the opening band's material is louder than the headliner...

I think the real logic behind headliners vs openers is more commercial; who's bringing the most people, how can we get the largest percentage of people to stay the longest? This is why the most popular band ends up last.


Platinum Member
What I have seen many, many times is that the opening act's sound is harsher than the headliner's.

What I think happens is that the opening act's sound has more treble, which makes it seem louder, but the headliner has a more rounded set up with more bass. I'm no sound engineer, but my suspicion is that a mix with more bass uses more power, and moves more air without seeming as loud.


Senior Member
Maybe one of our forum-folk who've been on a big tour can clarify, but I was under the impression that headlining bands often have a "dB cap" for the openers. Seems like it's not even completely an ego thing, more just so the crowd doesnt get burned out an hour into the night.

I've heard exceptions, such as when I saw the Locust open for Fantomas. But the Locusts music is also mostly mid and high frequencies anyways so it might have just been perceived loudness.


Senior Member
Perhaps the opening band appears to be louder due to your perception, but may not be so due to ear fatigue.
If the opening band sounds louder, I'd consider them as being louder. Simple as that. There's a lot more that goes into making things sound "loud" but if it sounds a certain way, it usually is that way.

I generally just go to local club shows, so most of the bands are roughly the same volume. But when I'm running sound, I find I'll usually be slowly increasing the overall volume of the show throughout the night; the end of the show might be 5dB louder than the beginning, which isn't a big difference over the course of a couple hours, but at that point it's more of a feel thing than a sound thing, like how certain songs will bump up the choruses 1 or 2dB to give that section more push. If I'm running the sound throughout the whole night, the show gets just a touch louder as the show goes on but it's not a huge difference - I find this helps to give the show a little bit of momentum.

As for how it happens, there could be any number of reasons - the bands in the tour could have different Front-Of-House guys who like their mixes to be louder than the opener's FOH guy. In a club setting, it usually comes down to the band being louder onstage, something my band has been guilty of. Sometimes the instruments' tones simply cut better than the other band's instruments. Paistes will cut more than Istanbuls and Marshalls will cut more than Fender amps, but it's the FOH guy's job to reign all these sounds into a reasonable blend.

I don't necessarily have a problem with openers being louder, though, as long as their not loud and bad.


Platinum Member
I've only experienced this once. I saw Kiss in 1998 or so, and Stabbing Westward was the opener. They were NOTICEABLY louder than Kiss. Which was OK with me. I could hear Kiss just fine, and the sound was very clear.