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Etiquitte Question - Opening Acts Playing Headliner's Material

Discussion in 'Bass Humor & Gig Stories [BG]' started by jaywa, Aug 16, 2012.

  1. jaywa


    May 5, 2008
    Iowa City, IA
    I know that when you're opening for a well-known act with songs they've written and/or made famous, it's a flat-out no-no to play those songs as part of your own setlist. In fact a BL I know basically got his band blackballed with a certain local promoter for doing exactly that.

    But what if all the bands on the bill (including the headliner) are nothing more than "weekend warrior" cover bands? I'm in a cover band and a few times this summer we've headlined multi-band bills. The first act(s) get anywhere from an hour to 90 minutes each and then we go on around 9:30 or 10 and finish out the night with a ~3 hour show. Anyway, on a couple of these gigs the bands ahead of us played songs that we also do in our show. In almost every case the opening bands played those tunes so badly (or at least, so differently than our version) that the audience may not have even recognized it but it still felt kind of weird. So I'm looking for thoughts on the following:

    1) Do different rules apply when all the bands are playing mostly or exclusively covers? I mean, it does seem a little ironic/hypocritical for one band to jump another band about playing a song that isn't "theirs" to begin with.

    2) Since I anticipate we'll be doing more shows like this in the future, are we in-bounds as the "headliner" to ask to see the other bands' setlists in advance and request they not play certain songs if they're the same ones we do? Or would that be a totally douchey thing to do?

    Thanks in advance.
  2. charlie monroe

    charlie monroe Gold Supporting Member

    Feb 14, 2011
    Buffalo, NY

    Get over it. Rock the song out and bury the other band.


    Are you booking/promoting these festival type gigs? If yes, you have some weight to throw around. If no, you may choose to forward your own set list to the other talent and let them decide what to do about it.
  3. I find that most cover bands don't really share what's in their set list. I have had other bands play songs in our set list before we go on stage simply because no one knew what the other band was playing.

    With our band we do try to get to know the other local bands and make an effort to stay away from songs they, if we are opening for them.

    Our attitude has always been it doesn't really matter, it is ususally very few songs that conflict and we usually play them with a different feel or arrangement than the other bands.
  4. bloobass


    Jul 10, 2012
    Louisville, KY
    Yep. If you earn a reputation for nailing certain covers, bands that share bills with you with stop playing those covers...at least that's happened in the area I live.
  5. AdamR

    AdamR Supporting Member

    Sep 24, 2007
    Bethel CT
    well seeing most cover bands play the same 30 or 40s songs I probably would stay away from gigs with more then one cover band playing.

    However most cover bands have 3 hours of music or so, If you have to bands playing your probably not going to play 3 hours each so if the band before plays a song maybe just skip it and play something else on your list ?

    and yes I play in a cover band.
  6. jaywa


    May 5, 2008
    Iowa City, IA
    Re the first point... that's kind of how I feel about it. Go ahead opening band, give that song your best shot and then we'll come out and show you how it's really done.

    Re the second question... we're not putting these events together but in almost every case we're providing the P.A. and lights and in several cases we've also allowed the opening act(s) to use our backline to simplify changeover. So we're bringing more to the party than a lot of headliners would and that tends to give us a little more leverage with the planners / promoters of these things.

    My BL is a pretty low-key, "live and let live" kind of guy -- and our band rarely if ever gets upstaged, especially by other local acts -- so I highly doubt we'll be asking to approve our opening acts' setlists anytime soon... but was just curious if that would be a reasonable expectation if things started getting out of hand this way in the future.
  7. RustyAxe


    Jul 8, 2008
    Seems rather simple to me ... if the previous band's version was better than your own, drop the song from your setlist. But if you can do it better than they did, leave it in, and show 'em how it's done. They're covers ... they belong to no one but the writer and/or the band that recorded them.
  8. BassChuck

    BassChuck Supporting Member

    Nov 15, 2005
    Depends on what 'opening for' means. If you're sharing the bill with another band, play what you want and go for it. BUT... if you are opening for a band that is a headliner and has tunes they are famous for, I say hands off.
  9. jaywa


    May 5, 2008
    Iowa City, IA
    That's good advice. My band has about 4 and a half hours worth of material and like I said, when we "headline" these things we're never on for more than 3 and a half hours... so it's not like we can't scratch a song or three that someone already did and still be OK.

    And yeah, being a cover band in the genre(s) we're doing (country, pop and 80s), it's just part of the territory. Like someone said earlier, there are just certain songs that almost every cover band in America has in their pocket. I remember with a previous band, playing a 6-band benefit event and "Hands to Yourself" was played by no fewer than 3 of them. Got kind of ridiculous towards the end.
  10. cbrophy


    Nov 11, 2009
    Central MA.
    More than likely, the folks that were there earlier in the evening that heard the other song covered have long since disappeared from the venue and no one knows something has been repeated....I say move on and don't sweat it!
  11. p-lo


    Jun 18, 2010
    St. Louis, MO
    Have only run into this a few times playing benefits and similar events and in my experience the bands are more interested in not repeating material simply for the audiences listening pleasure.

    If we weren't there to hear their whole set we have gone as far as asking the band playing before us or sound guy for a copy of their set list. We have plenty of material and just avoid songs already played. By the same token we will happily hand our list over to a band following us in the same situation so they can do the same thing.
  12. similarly different at a show just before Christmas the band right before mine played part of jingle bells to open the show. we played part of deck the halls and destroyed them..

    so i'm in the camp of bury the other band.
  13. Dave W

    Dave W Supporting Member

    Mar 1, 2007
    White Plains
    I wouldn't worry about it at all. My band would probably choose not to play those songs that night, but it wouldn't be the end of the world if we did have to play them if we were running short on material for example.
  14. jaywa


    May 5, 2008
    Iowa City, IA
    Honestly, most of the time, the songs our opening bands have played are songs I wish we had dropped two years so it pains me not at all to skip those for a night.

  15. bassfran


    Mar 1, 2012
    Endorsing artist: Lakland basses
    There was a band in NYC a number of years ago called D.A.B., which stood for Destroy All Bands. Their gimmick was to open for national acts and proceed to play the headliner's ENTIRE set, thus making the headliners extremely angry. Ha! I would've loved to have seen that for myself.

    As to the OP, I have had this happen a few times at festivals before. The Nu-Country group I was with did about 30-40% covers in our show so it just comes with the territory. I say bury 'em.
  16. gigslut


    Dec 13, 2011
    St Louis, Mo
    If I was doing a short set at a 6 band show, I'd stick to my A list and leave out the fillers.
    If you want to be remembered, play songs you know the other bands won't or can't play.
  17. gigslut


    Dec 13, 2011
    St Louis, Mo
    I played a festival this summer where a local act that preceded us played, almost song for song, a set list we used three years ago. It was almost too coincidental. I think they had seen us play. They played them all badly, too. Most of the tunes were covers we had since dropped, filler songs for those 5 hour gigs, and hearing them played like that removed any thoughts we might have had about reviving them.
  18. jaywa


    May 5, 2008
    Iowa City, IA
    Yeah... we've kinda got a built-in advantage there cause we have a fiddle player. There's at least 15 songs in our standard show that I have never seen any other band in our market even try to cover cause they simply don't have the instrumentation. And one song where one band tried it but they sequenced the fiddle part and it sounded laughably cheezy.
  19. etoncrow

    etoncrow (aka Greg Harman, the curmudgeon with a conundrum)

    All of you are "cover" bands; none of you own the songs. Get over it.
  20. GypsyMan


    Jun 30, 2011
    Keep a spiral note book and pen with you, and if the other band approaches you, Give the othe BL the notebook and:

    Tell the other band;

    You guys Blew so badly I thought you might want to take notes on how we do it! :hyper:

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