Nearly every concert headliner has an opening act and that opening act has a tough job. They have to perform in front of a crowd that has likely never heard of them before and are anxiously awaiting the band they really came to see. The energy from the crowd is different and in many cases the audience just isn’t paying attention. Every so often, an opening act is not only up to the challenge of warming up the crowd but rocking in their own right. This spring, fans who went out to see Third Eye Blind on the final round of their Dopamine tour were treated to one such opening act, Bad Bad Hats.
Bad Bad Hats is an indie rock trio hailing from Minneapolis, Minnesota. The band, who met while attending Macalester College in Saint Paul, is comprised of Kerry Alexander on vocals and guitar, Chris Hoge on drums, and Noah Boswell on bass. Signed to the Minneapolis-based label Afternoon Records, the band released the LP It Hurts in 2013 and followed that up with their proper debut LP, Psychic Reader in 2015.
Alexander is the primary songwriter for the trio and her music is influenced by female songwriters of the 90s as well as her own introspective experiences. When her family moved from her childhood home, Alexander began writing music as a way to deal with loneliness and change. These soul-searching roots are reflected in the deeply personal and intimate nature of many of the tracks on Psychic Reader (the named-for-a-convenience-store anthem “Super America” is a particular stand out). Paired up with creative production by Brett Bullion (who has done work for Bon Iver) the songs on the LP flow from style to style, maintaining their intimacy while also being a lot of fun. It’s hard not to have fun with lyrics like “I want a sweet tea and a heart that won’t break”.
It’s that intimacy and fun combo that’s been earning them some attention. Their song, “It Hurts”, appeared in a season three episode of MTV’s Teen Wolf. The Psychic Reader LP also got a largely positive review in Pitchfork and was covered with an exclusive album streaming for Interview before the band was selected by Third Eye Blind to be the opening act for the spring leg of their Dopamine tour.
Opening for Third Eye Blind was a huge step for the band. Alexander often tells on stage that her father purchased the band’s debut album, Third Eye Blind, for her when she was twelve before joking that it is a big deal for her to be opening for them now that she’s thirteen (she’s really not thirteen). In reality though, opening for Third Eye Blind opened up a large audience for the Bad Bad Hats. Many of the shows on tour were sold out crowds of fans already interested in witty lyrics that pack an emotional punch (as that’s what Third Eye Blind specializes in). These fans embraced the Bad Bad Hats and by the time the tour rolled around to later dates in Southern California, the audience was able to sing along with some of the group’s catchiest tunes, “Super America” and “Midway.”
The tour with Third Eye Blind now over, the band hasn’t rested. Instead, the Bad Bad Hats have worked their way back to the Midwest with upcoming dates in Illinois and Minnesota. There is no end in sight for this up and coming band, even if they are just rolling with proverbial punches. As Alexander told Interview in response to what comes after the album, “we don’t have a full plan yet, but we are planning to plan that.”