Openers – Part 1

by Ross Scarano

Headlining acts are only part of the equation: everyone knows without a great opener to warm the crowd, a show can easily go off the rails. With this post, the first in a two part series, we’ll introduce you to the great opening acts you’ll find at this year’s Three Rivers Arts Festival.

Nathaniel Rateliff
Opening for Dirty Dozen Brass Band
Sunday, June 6
Dollar Bank Stage at Point State Park

A rising star with credibility established in not one but two bands, Nathaniel Rateliff deserves more recognition. Rateliff’s voice alone, a distinctive, full-bodied thing, capable of Johnny Cash-like lows and desperately high-pitched howls, commands the listener’s attention in ways that few of today’s vocalists can even approach. Working with producer Brian Deck (Modest Mouse, Iron & Wine, Califone), Rateliff just cut his first solo album, In Memory of Loss. Before the album had even been released, Denver Westword, similar to Pittsburgh’s City Paper, hailed Rateliff as singer/songwriter of the year for 2010. Find out why when this indie folk-rocker floors the crowd with one of the most rugged, weary voices in recent music history.

Tift Merritt
Opening for Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit
Tuesday, June 8
Dollar Bank Stage at Point State Park

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p84xx34Cw3Y&w=470

With four 4 albums, one Grammy nomination, and a spot on Lost Highway Records, the esteemed label for much of the alt-country crowd, Tift Merritt could easily be a headlining act. Her blend of country and soul brings to mind Dusty Springfield and, more recently, Cat Power. Merritt’s throaty vocals radiate confidence, except when the material demands vulnerability. Then Merritt can sound as delicate as fine glass. That’s called range, folks, and it’s a quality that cannot go unremarked upon. Critics have noticed it – each of Merritt’s albums, including her most recent release, See You on the Moon, come with generous acclaim. Now it’s time you started paying attention.

Matt Morris
Opening for Ingrid Michaelson
Thursday, June 10
Dollar Bank Stage at Point State Park

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V5Tdf6M_Ce4&w=470

For most of us, Matt Morris first poured into our ears during the Hope For Haiti Now telethon back in January where he dueted with fellow Mickey Mouse Club alum Justin Timberlake. Their rousing cover of Leonard Cohen’s classic “Hallelujah” was a highlight of the show, generating interest in Morris. Unsurprisingly, we’ve heard work from Morris before, though we probably didn’t know it. He cut his teeth writing songs for Timberlake, Christina Aguilera, and Kelly Clarkson. This year saw the release of When Everything Breaks Open, a moving collection of songs, both political and personal, all done up in Morris’ soulful tenor. He’s garnered comparison’s to Stevie Wonder’s groundbreaking work in the 1970s, and rightfully so. Incorporating R&B, folk, even a bit of reggae, Morris possesses a transcendent sound everyone needs to hear.