Lady Gaga may be the world's biggest pop star right now, but 24-year-old Stefani Germanotta didn't forget her roots when it came time to pick an opening act for her first headlining world tour.
"Gaga's first couple of shows as Lady Gaga was opening for us in New York City," says Justin Tranter, lead singer and face of Semi Precious Weapons, the punky, glam-rock act that opens Gaga's Monster Ball tour Saturday at Time Warner Cable Arena. "She's been a big fan of our band since she was 19 or 20. She was one of the first fans we ever had that wasn't related to me."
The leap to arenas is a huge one for the self-described "filthy party band." The last time it was scheduled to play Charlotte, the four-piece band was booked at the tiny Milestone Club. It never made it to Charlotte, though. Another band's tour manager ran into SPW's parked van and ripped the door off, leaving its members stranded in Atlanta.
"It's one of the only cities we haven't played," says Tranter, who says the band has moved to 1,000-capacity theaters in a few select cities. "So many bands are created and start out opening huge tours, but real bands that have put in the work and the time don't often get the opportunity."
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A high-fashion pop culture icon (who opened for New Kids on the Block her last time in town) and a down-and-dirty rock band may seem a strange match. "She's a pop star and we're a loud crazy rock band, but we're aesthetically similar. We're both over the top visually. And secretly, we went to music school and she takes her music very seriously," adds Tranter, who met his band mates at Boston's prestigious Berklee School of Music. (Drummer Dan Crean studied classical composition in Holland as well.)
"Hardcore super Gaga fans know we're her favorite band. She's talked about us in the press. Even if it is rock 'n' roll, you can dance to it. Twenty-five percent of the audience hates it, which is perfect because it is rock 'n' roll."
Madame Meat Dress' adoration for SPW was obvious recently when she joined the band on stage at Chicago's Lollapalooza, nearly nude, and stage diving with Tranter. His close relationship with her isn't unusual, considering Tranter's feminine influences. He was into Guns n' Roses and AC/DC as a kid but "when I saw Courtney Love in 1994, I knew what I wanted to do. The minute I saw a female-fronted rock 'n' roll band - that changed my life."
Opening the year's most visually daring tour might seem daunting, but Tranter says, "We add some visuals (at the arena level) so we're not just four crazy ants running around the stage."