When Screamer Magazine recently spoke to guitarist Harrison Marcello, of the band Tempt, they were riding a wave of positive vibes. Def Leppard had noticed Tempt’s cover of the Leppard song Women and had given Harrison and his bandmates a nice shout-out on Def Leppard’s social media platforms. In addition, drummer, Ric Allen, gave the band kudos on his personal Twitter account. That combined publicity spike naturally led to a huge increase in awareness for Tempt.
If the above was a wave, what happened next might well be described as a musical tsunami. Tempt was given the opportunity to open for Bon Jovi, which in itself would have been the dream of a lifetime for a young band. To top that, the venue was the legendary Madison Square Garden. For everyone who heard the news either before the concert, heard the band for the first time as they performed, or found out about it after the show, the primary question in everyone’s mind must have been, “How in the world did they manage to score that gig?”
Marcello explains what went on behind the scenes. “Bon Jovi were doing a thing where they were looking for bands in every town or city they were playing and trying to find a local band that they would be able to put in an opening slot and give them some exposure. Economically for Bon Jovi, it’s a free opener, but they really don’t need an opener. So, it was kind of a cool way where they’re extending a helping hand and paying it forward to younger artists and allowing them to come up and play their local arena. And luckily for us, our local arena happens to be MSG. So, it’s not just playing any big venue which would be great in itself—it’s that you’re playing… I think their slogan even is ‘The World’s Most Famous Arena.’”
“We found this competition kind of randomly through a Long Island radio station, WBAB. And we just submitted some videos for it, following the requirements. And next thing you know, ten days before the show is supposed to happen, we got a call, or we actually listened to it live on the radio that we had won that competition! So from there on, it was just insane rehearsing and stage prep and that type of thing just to make sure we were as well rehearsed as possible so we could just have the most fun and put on the best show that we possibly could.”
The adrenaline rush for the four members of Tempt (guitarist Marcello, lead vocalist Zach Allen, drummer Nick Burrows and bassist Chris Gooden) must have been intense and those ten days must have rushed by at breakneck speed.
“We just immediately hit the drawing board and went in the studio and started rehearsing and figuring out what songs we thought would be best for the set, how we wanted to do it, and timing our sets because we had a 20-minute opening spot. And when you’re opening for a band like Bon Jovi, which is one of the best run arena shows, you want to make sure that you’re respectful to the time they give you and you’re not going over, not causing problems. We wanted to make sure our set was super tight; all the patter and the transitions were down so that we could just play as much as we could.”
“And yeah, we did a bunch of rehearsals, pretty much rehearsed every day until that show. We actually had to go to an interview at WBAB which hosted the competition which was really fun. Once we got to MSG is really when the adrenaline and excitement kicked in because we were so busy up until that day. Waiting around in the area for sound check and stuff was kind of when everything started to really settle in that this was actually going to happen.”
Everyone who is a music fan has undoubtedly had a fantasy about going to the backstage entrance to a major concert and being waved inside by security. For most of us, that is just a dream—the reality is that unless you have the proper, hard-to-get credentials, you aren’t getting anywhere near. However, the boys in Tempt were about to live out every commoner’s fantasy. “Yeah, it was very…the whole thing was very surreal because we were basically given a lot of free reign and access–even to Bon Jovi’s backstage. And we had some amazing, amazing people helping us. One of Bon Jovi’s tour managers, Iowa, she really helped us so much. Another thing is that Madison Square Garden is a union venue, too. So, we got all of our gear moved in without us having to lay a finger on it, which for a lot of bands at our level is a very, very strange thing. To not actually have to move any of your own gear around, you don’t have to put it on the stage or take it off again, was really cool.”
After that awe-inspiring initial impression of Madison Square Garden, the attitude of Bon Jovi’s crew was equally welcoming. “What was really interesting and really reflects Bon Jovi’s attitude is that we went and set up all our stuff and sound checked beforehand.” The normal routine for major concerts is that the headliner sets up and sound checks first, and then the opening band sets their equipment in front of the headliner; in other words, in the reverse order of how the band will play later on. “And I was thinking, Okay, so we do our sound check before Bon Jovi. He probably wants to come in later.” I asked the guy after we sound checked, “Should we take our stuff off?” And he says “No, Bon Jovi and the band will just work around your stuff when they sound check.”
“So when they sound check, they were doing so with all our pedalboard and gear on stage, and to them it was no big deal. They have their show down. They’re not going to be mean to us about it or demand that we move our stuff around after we’re set up. And I think that…I was just like, ‘Wow, really? Bon Jovi is going to sound check around our equipment?’ Because it’s pretty insane.”
“Then we actually met him right after he did his sound check and he was an amazing guy. I wasn’t sure. They told us that we would get to do a meet and greet with Jon as kind of part of the whole experience. But I wasn’t sure…is this just going to be some quick thing where they shuffle you in a room with him, you take a photo, shake his hand and then just leave? And a lot of times that is the case, unfortunately. It’s not really the artist’s fault, but they have of things on their agenda. But Jon actually came out and talked to us for a bit. When the conversation came to its natural conclusion he said, ‘Any of you guys want a photo?’ So, we did take a photo of him. Then he told us a really funny story about why we only got 20 minutes for an opening slot. He said when he was our age and he was opening for ZZ Top at MSG, they were given 30 minutes or something, but they were all so nervous that they finished their set in 20, so that’s why we got 20 minutes.”
Then it’s time for Tempt, after ten days of anticipation, to finally hit the stage and play. Marcello explains the experience was almost indescribable.
“It’s one of those weird situations where while it’s happening on a small-time scale it feels really long and you can just relish in it. But then it’s kind of like a macro-time scale and the whole day is over quickly. There’s so much excitement and adrenaline and it’s so new that your whole sense of time gets really warped where while you’re actually in the moment on stage, you’re really focused and tuned into every little thing that’s happening, every look out at the crowd, every chord you’re playing. I can hear Zach singing, every drum hit that I’m responding to. But then on kind of a larger time scale, everything just seems to happen really fast. The next thing you know you’re walking off the stage. So, trust me, I wish we could’ve been there for an hour, but we’re just really thankful for getting to play. And I keep saying the first time we play MSG will not be our last. I can’t wait to get back there at some point.”
After that all-too-brief 20 minutes, the real-life rock star fantasy camp experience wasn’t over quite yet. “They set up a meet and greet with the fans for us right outside where our backstage area was in a section that they told us beforehand. I think the last thing Zach said from the stage as we did our thank you’s and stuff was that we’re going to do a little meet and greet in section 117 or whatever section it was. And if you guys want to come by and say hi and get an autograph, take a picture or talk, we can do that. “
“We had no kind of expectation about how many people would show up to this because people don’t want to leave their seats. They’re in the arena. They want to see Bon Jovi. We could hear the crowd’s response to us, and we were getting…you know, by the time our set was done, there were at least probably 10 to 15K people in the arena responding to us. Still, we didn’t have any expectations of how many people would show up. But we had an insane amount of people! We had a line down the hallway for our meet and greet and we got to meet a bunch of people who took pictures with us. And it was just very encouraging to have that much of an impact and make that kind of connection with that audience to the point where you know those people are going to actually leave their seats and travel to another section of the arena just to say hi to you because they enjoyed what you did so much. That was really great to see. Then once that wrapped up, yeah, we went in and we watched a lot of the Bon Jovi show and it was pretty amazing. It was great to see them and they put out a great show. And it was just kind of cool to watch them on the same stage that we just played on. It was very surreal.”
An opportunity of a lifetime? Undoubtedly. But for Marcello, not just a once-in-a-lifetime moment, but a beginning. “I keep saying that the first time we play MSG will not be our last. I can’t wait to get back there at some point.”