When fans arrive at the Convention Center Oct. 14 for Neil Young and Crazy Horse, they know they're in for a good show by one of the icons of the rock genre. Most will even arrive prepared for a set by the special guest on this tour, Los Lobos. What may take the audience by surprise, however, is the opening band, Infantree, and its level-headed, take no prisoners approach to music.
When I was able to catch up with Infantree's Alex Vojdani last week, the band had just played its first show on the tour with Neil Young and was still in high spirits, describing the opening night "insane."
Of course, not many people are aware of the band, so I had to ask just how the group landed the opening spot on the current tour. "I don't know -- black magic?" Vojdani said with a laugh. Then, on a more serious note, he said, "It's been a long time coming, with a lot of dreaming and hope. We had a manager a couple of tours ago that's at the label (Vapor Records) office, which Neil owns. He saw something special and believed in us and pushed really hard to get us on this tour.
Even though the band is signed to Young's label, the current string of shows opening for Young and Crazy Horse is still beyond their wildest dreams. The run of seven shows stretches over the course of almost three weeks and culminates with a show at the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles, making for a grand homecoming for the California band.
"We actually found out about this tour two or three months ago," Vojdani said.
The news definitely lifted the spirits of the band, which was wrapping up its own tour of what Vojdani said were "small clubs -- and some places that weren't even clubs. So this tour with Neil Young has been kind of a culture shock, bit the first night went really well."
If anything, Infantree's story can be considered one of hard work finally paying off. The band's story certainly isn't a new one. According to Vodjani, he and Matt Kronish have started playing together in High School and finally formed Infantree as a band nearly four and a half years ago.
The band recorded its first album in Matt Kronish's basement, which attracted enough attention to get signed to Vapor, which then produced the band's label debut, Would Work. A follow-up EP, Food For Thought, came from those same sessions. After touring continuously, the group continued on with Hero's Dose, which was released in August.
"We like to think of our band as building a pretty grass roots following," Vojdani said. "We started out busking and willing to play wherever. We don't busk anymore, because we made a point to start taking ourselves pretty seriously, so we started booking ourselves."
That's an approach that the band continues to take as it struggles to keep moving forward. The tour with Young is a big break, exposing the group to new audiences as it swings across the Midwest and Southwest, including an appearance at the Austin City Limits Festival before wrapping up in California.
Once it comes to a close, however, the band is back to its old ways, building its tours the old fashioned way: picking up gigs to get it to and from bigger shows.
"We'll get one big offer for a festival or some other big event, then we'll book a few other shows to get us out and back. A lot of times, that's how we'll tour," Vojdani explained.
That's the same approach Infantree will use as it routs itself across the southwest to get to the VooDoo Festival in New Orleans over Halloween weekend, then back home. Like I said, this is a band that's still doing things the old fashioned way, with a lot of hard work backing up its talent.
Although it's not a new story, it proves to be an inspiring one, proving that with a lot of hard work and a couple good breaks, there is still room for independent bands to make their mark on the music scene.
Take their latest album, Hero's Blood, as an example. Although Infantree is signed to Young's label, Vapor Records, the band has been able to retain its own signature sound, blending haunting indie rock with Americana influences. It's an album that will appeal to the indie rock crowd that embraces groups like Colour Revolt, Band of Horses and even Jonathan Tyler & the Northern Lights, yet still make sense to fans of classic rock artists like Neil Young, Dylan and The Band.
Live, the band bristles with even more energy, making the songs come alive and take on a different dynamic. That's what makes this current tour with Neil young and Crazy Horse so intriguing. Although they may initially seem out of place, once you give it a listen, it makes perfect sense as an opener. Although some Neil Young and Los Lobos may write the band off as just some unknown opener, others will likely be captivated by the band's live show and open up to a new generation of music, opening doors between genres and demographics.
If you plan on attending the Neil Young and Crazy Horse show at The Convention Center Oct. 14, make sure and arrive early. Neil Young is undeniably the main draw here, especially since no one knows when the rock legend may tour with Crazy Horse again, but the bill is even more interesting with the inclusion of Los Lobos and Infantree, which will open the show at 7:30pm, providing a cross section of classic and modern rock that spans three generations.
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