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  • Reading the crowd

    Taking off from the last couple of posts in another thread, but thought this should be its own topic.

    JimiV and I were just talking about having to adjust setlists on the fly.  This is something we do quite a bit based on how the crowd looks/feels.   What surprises me is how many bands apparently DON'T do this, or don't do it well.   I realize bands are limited to the material they know, but if you're booking yourself for certain types of events it probably is in your best interest to widen the material you know as much as possible. 

    One thing I always try to do is ask what the expected age-range of the guest will be, and how that will break down.  I then put together a songlist based on that and still often re-arrange it on the fly.   At the show we did last weekend it was pretty obvious it was an older crowd, so the newer stuff gets pushed aside for the classic material.   At one point I'm talking with the event coordinator about this and she mentions that the band they had last year OPENED with "I Kissed A Girl" and they were a complete fail.   Really?   That band wasn't able to look out at the crowd and see that that song probably wasn't going to be their best choice for an opener?? 

    Hmmm....and hmmm....   I dunno.  To me this seems like pretty basic Cover Band 101 stuff.  Other bands seem to still struggle with it.  Or just refuse to do anything other than "their show"?   Whatever.   More gigs for me if that's the case.  

    End result:  this email yesterday from the event planner:

    You have a whole new set of fans in Nevada County! You guys rocked it and everyone loved you! I have never in the 7 years of doing this event had such a unanimous positive feedback on the band. THANK YOU!
     
    Please mark July 19, 2014 on your calendar!
     
    Cheers
    Sandra
    _________________________________________________
    band websites:
    http://www.JumpStartYourParty.com
    https://www.gigmasters.com/Rock/Jump-Start
    https://www.facebook.com/JumpStartYourParty
    http://www.weddingwire.com/biz/jumps...587fe5f12.html

  • #2

    The gating issue is the amount of material the band has at the ready.  Many bands don't have the longevity to make that drastic a switch on the fly.  I know I'd like to have the flexibility you're talking about, but my band hasn't been together long enough for me to be confident everyone will be able to pull off that much of a deviation other than set list order - our reserve pool of switchable songs is lesser. 

    Comment


    • guido61
      guido61 commented
      Editing a comment

      Opus Antics wrote:

      The gating issue is the amount of material the band has at the ready.  Many bands don't have the longevity to make that drastic a switch on the fly.  I know I'd like to have the flexibility you're talking about, but my band hasn't been together long enough for me to be confident everyone will be able to pull off that much of a deviation other than set list order - our reserve pool of switchable songs is lesser. 


      Even setlist order can help if you have some variety in the setlist to begin with. 

      Even in our case, it's not like we know 500 songs and have a completely different songlist for different types of audiences.   It's more a matter of having a core setlist of good general "all purpose" material (stuff like "Billie Jean", "Dynamite" and "Don't Stop Believin'" work with pretty much every audience) and just shifting around the more genre/age specific stuff and being able to switch those in and out as needed.  Doing "Highway To Hell" for the more classic rock friendly crowd instead of "Die Young", for example.   All in all, we probably only switched out 7 or 8 songs.   But switching out those cornerstone pieces makes it FEEL like a completely different setlist.

      I hope the band who played the year before and opened with "I Kissed A Girl" learned from that mistake and either learned some alternative material, learned to switch their setlist order, or learned to not book gigs they were not going to be the right band for if they weren't interested in doing either of the first two.  


    • stdio
      stdio commented
      Editing a comment

      I think that is a great point you brought about about song choice and playing to the crowd. But also I think that your band is operating at a pro-level and are more conscious of the crowd and trying to make it a great show for everyone. Some of the bands I've seen (and even my band on occasion) still may have that 'this is our band and we are gonna play what WE wan't and if you don't like it oh well' kind of approach and don't realize that it is not going to do any favors for them down the road.  Plus they may not know enough tunes yet to be able to change it up much. Then they wonder why they don't get booked again. But what do i know... we played Passage to Bangkok and Lakeside Park (which people danced to????) at our last show.  :smiley-bounce022:n But we are knowwhere near the pro cover band level yet.

      Spoiler
       

       


    • Old Fart Rocker
      Old Fart Rocker commented
      Editing a comment
      I think bands need to be flexible and learn how to read a crowd. Then have enough material to make those adjustments. Nothing worse than being stuck with the set list in front of you because the band or certain members in a band can't handle being taken out of their comfort zone.
      We start off the night with our set list like most bands do. We build our sets based on what the perceived crowd will be. We also have an "extras" list that is made up of groups of 3-4 songs that we can plug in anywhere we need to based on reading the crowd.
      I've played with people who are just not flexible on the set list. Usually because they have a rather small library of songs they can pull from or don't have the ear to be able to do something on the fly. Makes for a boring gig for both the band and the audience.
      I played in a band about 10 years ago that wouldn't even put a set list together for the gig. We would basically read the crowd and call out the songs that we thought would work best. We had an extensive master list of about 200 songs. That's maybe a little extreme the other direction, but often made for a more fun and spontaneous night.

  • #3

    This is one of those "never say never" topics as far as I'm concerned.  I don't have an issue with revamping a set list to accommodate requests or to adjust to better fit the demographics of the crowd, etc.   However, I also recognize that going "off list" is often NOT without it's downsides.  

    Unless a band has great stage communication - deviating from the "set list" more often than not introduces at least some dead time between songs. 

    For keyboard players who are using patches that are song specific (like myself) - going "off list" pretty much renders my pre-gig efforts to organize my patches for instant access useless and forces me to menu dive to get to my patches - increasing the time I need to ready my rig for the song that's been called and increases the risk of patch "errors" (if/when a song gets started before I'm ready).

    I use the Kronos set list feature to organize my patches into set list order prior to each gig.  It works great since all I need to do is step through the ordered list.  Typically, I organize my patches so that each set is displayed on a single screen.   The days, when I'm working with a project that tends to go "off list" - I've taken to adding a "5th set" of generic patches.  When we start going "off list" - I simply page over to the "5th set" and use the generic patches.   Unfortunately, some of my bandmates just don't seem to understand that when we go "off list" - there's not enough time for me to "menu dive" between songs to go find my song specific patches and instead must use the "generic" patches so that I can be ready immediately for whatever song is called.  I can't count the number of times the bandmate who calls the audibles has said to me "I didn't hear that cool ____ sound on ____ tonight.  Did you forget to play that part?" - and I've had to explain that when we go "off list", there simply isn't time to menu-dive to get to the song specific settings that contained that sound - so your stuck with the "generic" patches that I can get to immediately. 

    I can deal with either approach - however I prefer sticking to the set list.  If we need to deviate - I'd prefer that we adjust the list between sets (so that we know what the next set will be).   I would prefer to avoid playing the night on "audible" calls - simply because it means I don't get to put my best foot forward in terms of the sound palatte that I'm able to use.

    The SpaceNorman

    www.facebook.com/SuperstarsOfRock
    www.souldoutrocks.com

    Keyboards and Tone Generators: Yamaha CP300, Kronos 88, Roland AX Synth, Motif ES Rack
    Keyboard Rack: Samson SM10 Line Mixer, Motu MIDIExpressXT MIDI Interface, Shure PSM200 IEM system, M-Audio Wireless MIDI, Live Wires IEM ear buds, iPad wOnSong.
    Stage Amplification: Stereo via 2 Yamaha DSR112s

    Comment


    • WynnD
      WynnD commented
      Editing a comment
      Generally, if you can't write a good set in advance, you probably can't put one together on the fly either. I'm all for keeping the show moving, every change from a written set works against that. More than 7 seconds of dead space and your dance floor is empty. (Totally!) You are best if your next song is started with a couple of seconds of finishing the previous song. A good show is always close enough for most people. I've noticed that you get fewer song requests when there isn't time between songs.

  • #4

    Like Lee - I've worked with bands at both ends of the spectrum.  From a keyboard player's perspective - how you organize structure your rig is heavily influenced by which end of the spectrum the bands you're working with operate.  

    Another factor that comes into play - that I don't think has been mentioned in the thread yet - is how often a band performs.  A band that performs multiple nights each week / multiple weekends each month is different than a band that gigs 1x a month or so.  When I'm playing with a band that gigging multiple times a week/month - putting a song on "auto-pilot" while I converse with band mates about what song is next and/or go menu diving to pull up patches for the next tune isn't a big deal.   When I'm playing with a band that gigs 1x every month or so - not so much. 

     

    The SpaceNorman

    www.facebook.com/SuperstarsOfRock
    www.souldoutrocks.com

    Keyboards and Tone Generators: Yamaha CP300, Kronos 88, Roland AX Synth, Motif ES Rack
    Keyboard Rack: Samson SM10 Line Mixer, Motu MIDIExpressXT MIDI Interface, Shure PSM200 IEM system, M-Audio Wireless MIDI, Live Wires IEM ear buds, iPad wOnSong.
    Stage Amplification: Stereo via 2 Yamaha DSR112s

    Comment


    • #5
      In our case, I think he was trying to hit all of the angles. He had bands that played blues, country, classic rock, hard rock, etc., scheduled throughout the weekend. We can easily fill an hour with classic and hard rock, so I'm not sure why he wanted the Top 40. There were a couple of younger kids there that appreciated it, but still...
      * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
      My cover band

      HARD WORK BEATS TALENT WHEN TALENT DOESN'T WORK HARD

      Comment


      • #6
        A $20 bill attached to the request usually goes a long ways towards deciding whether to repeat a song or not as well...
        _________________________________________________
        band websites:
        http://www.JumpStartYourParty.com
        https://www.gigmasters.com/Rock/Jump-Start
        https://www.facebook.com/JumpStartYourParty
        http://www.weddingwire.com/biz/jumps...587fe5f12.html

        Comment

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