Joined: 25 Jan 2004
Location: Asheville, NC
|Posted: Sat Feb 27, 2010 8:28 pm Post subject: Ongoing Setlist Debate
| For better or for worse, I'm the guy in our band that the others look to for direction. The band leader I suppose. My wife and I have written most our original material, we practice and record at our house on my gear, and I'm usually the one that tracks down gigs.
I've been the defacto setlist composer for our band pretty much as long as we've been gigging, and there's a fairly specific methodology I use to come up with out setlists. I've grumbled about having to do it a time or two, but ultimately I'm a little too much of a control freak to place the responsibility in someone else's hands. Well, a few days before our last gig, out of nowhere, our drummer surprises us with his own attempt at arranging the list, and I though it sucked. And I told him. He seemed to be taking my approach to it, and doing the opposite, for the sake of being different.
My approach is based on a bunch of factors such as how long we're playing (number and length of sets), type of venue (bar vs. benefit gig), and set dynamics. I like to start with something in-your-face, ride that wave for a few tunes, then by degrees, move into some midtempo songs, then a few slow numbers, then wake people up with some faster, grooving tunes, and end the set with another bang, something preferably on the epic side of things. Essentially, I like to maintain a fluid progression through the set regarding tempo.
If we're playing three to four hours, we wind up doing about 2/3 originals and 1/3 covers. If we're sharing the bill, we'll do mostly originals with a few covers peppered throughout. My wife is our lead singer, has by far the best voice, and is by far the best looking banana in the bunch. I always start each set with her singing the first couple of tunes, and I like them to be originals. I do like opening the second set with a cover, Patty Griffin's I'm Getting Ready, cause it rocks, and lyrically it makes sense.
If I bring an acoustic, I'll try to keep those songs together, or at most in two groups, to minimize time wasted changing instruments. By the same token, we play three dropped D songs which are all very different but luckily work well together. So I try to keep those together.
John's idea was to mix things up as much as possible, starting with a midtempo song the keyboard player sings, then proceeding to move from slow to fast to midtempo to slow to fast, ad infinitum throughout the set. It wrecked Elise's voice, and felt very disjointed and spastic to me. None of the drop D's were together, and he had one set ending with three cover tunes.
I insisted on a couple of changes, but still thought it didn't go over well. There just wasn't any continuity to it. The funny thing is our keyboard player (who's days are numbered in this band), said he thought it was great and agreed with John's notion of tossing fluid progression out the window.
So how do you approach your setlist arrangement -- dynamically fluid, willy-nilly, astrological alignment, or some other strategy I haven't thought of yet? There is a certain discipline to it, but I guess there's also slight possibility that John's right and I'm way off track here. Let me hear your thoughts on this.
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