1. Please take 30 seconds to register your free account to remove most ads, post topics, make friends, earn reward points at our store, and more!  
    TalkBass.com has been uniting the low end since 1998.  Join us! :)

Late Night Bar Gigs. What gets people up and dancing?

Discussion in 'Band Management [BG]' started by ebladeboi123, Jan 20, 2006.

  1. ebladeboi123


    Jul 11, 2005
    Oberlin, Oh
    Well my band is going through the gigging motions again as we've almost finished our album and it's time to earn some money again. We've been talked about alot amongst the "local bar scene" if that even exists. Appearantly we play ages above our ages (15) according to one venue which has hosted us many times. However, recently they have emailed us about taking a monthly rotation on with other bands. However there is some sort of "friday night test." Friday nights in a bar I guess people like to dance, now me being 15, I'm not aloud into bars, for obvious reasons. But from your expiriences, what gets those drunks off there stools and dancing like bafoons.

    On the saturdays we've played these have gotten them up.
    Wild Thing (Troggs)
    Sweet Jane (Velvet Underground)
    Rock 'n Roll (Lou Reed)
    Ziggy Stardust (Bowie)
    Take me to river (Talking heads style)

    What do you guys suggest in the way of more "upbeat" "danceable" tunes for the drunks to sing and dance to. Only 1 rule- no Sweet Home Alabama. Everyone in our band hates the song with a burning passion, and we get asked almost every show to play it.
  2. kjones


    Dec 4, 2004
    Without being a jerk, I'll ask, "Why do you think they're asking for it?" They're asking because that's what they want to hear. You have a decision to make, whether you're playing for yourselves or for the audience. We do play Sweet Home sometimes, and I'm sick of it too, considering I've been playing it 30 years, just about. We also play Gimme 3 Steps, and Call Me the Breeze, and the reason is because they get people up and dancing. We feel our job is to make the customers happy (and thirsty). Happy customers make happy barowners, which makes for happy us when we get booked back in the place.

    If it were up to me and my lead guitar player, we'd be doing all Rush and Deep Purple for our covers. Not sure how much the crowd would be dancing to that, though, when we go into 7/4.
  3. Absofreakinlutely.

    The customer is right, even when they aren't. That's a good lesson to learn now, besides... I'm pretty sure we all play songs we are sick of. That is the price of making people happy sometimes.
  4. lefty


    Sep 25, 2004
    i love call me the breeze!!! man i was just singing that song today at work.
  5. Smallmouth_Bass


    Dec 29, 2005
    Sometimes you have to get your kicks out of the audience reaction to the songs rather than just the songs themselves. I often play songs that I do not like very much, but when I see people having such a good time and dancing, I get off on that and it puts some energy into the music.

    Try and find a balance of playing "classics" everyone in the band likes and ones the audience will go for. It may take some work and trial and error though...
  6. abngourmet

    abngourmet Gold Supporting Member

    Nov 11, 2004
    There's any number of tunes that get folks up and dancing (then later, drinking). It depends on the demographics of the crowd, but tunes that some consider as "standards" almost always get people moving. I hate to say it, but Sweet Home Alabama is one of those tunes, whether you like it or not. I don't care for it much myself, but like previous posters have noted, that's what they want to hear. If you desire to keep playing gigs, that's what you're going to have to do. If you don't, most bar owners will just find someone else who will.

    I've noticed that folks normally dance to the following tunes. Usually it's an older (30's-40's) crowd who dance to this kind of stuff. Don't know if you're playing this kind music, so take it for what it's worth.

    Mustang Sally
    Proud Mary
    Gimme Three Steps
    Wipe Out
    You Send Me
    What I Like About You
    and yes, Sweet Home Alabama

    Newer stuff like Creed (which, by the way, I can't stand but played anyway), Three Doors Down, Puddle of Mud, etc. go over well too. We had good luck with Guns and Roses stuff as well (not a band I cared for, but again, played it anyway). Country, well, I've got no clue on that genre since I've never played in a country band (nor do I ever want to ... yechhh!), but I've been in clubs not playing where people go nuts for any kind of Hank Williams Jr. stuff, Garth Brooks, etc.
    And you'd be surprised how many folks love old disco type stuff - KC and the Sushine Band, etc. I've also seen people dance to funk - think Parliament, Average White Band, etc. Stuff to consider I guess, though I personally wouldn't be caught dead playing disco if I absolutely didn't have to. I lived through the 70's, and trust me, most of that stuff sucked then, and it still sucks (well, to me anyway).

    Hope this helps.
  7. Munjibunga

    Munjibunga Total Hyper-Elite Member Gold Supporting Member

    May 6, 2000
    San Diego (when not at Groom Lake)
    Independent Contractor to Bass San Diego
    People dance most to songs the band hates to play. So dust off your "Mustang Sally," "Play That Funky Music," and yes, "Sweet Home Alabama" if you want them to dance. The purpose of the gig is to entertain the audience, and they like that crap because it's so familiar and the can sing along while they dance.

    What kills me is that, as much as I hate to play Mustang Sally, that what gets the people up, then when they're up, the leader signals extra solos to stretch the danged thing out, so I'm hating life in many ways, but loving the fact that those drunks are out there on the floor working up a powerful thirst.
  8. ::::BASSIST::::

    ::::BASSIST:::: Progress Not Perfection.

    Sep 2, 2004
    Vancouver, BC Canada
    My band's setlist includes mostly danceable songs.

    Here is part of it:

    1. break on thru e 227

    2. back in the ussr a 232

    3. purple haze e 253

    4. green river e 230

    5. taking care of business c 456

    6. driven to drink f 400

    7. i feel fine g 213

    8. suffragette city a 326


    9. call me c 323

    10. incense and peppermints e 246

    11. mike in the box e 400

    12. get back a 235

    13. mother's little helper f# 245

    14. dont stop e 308

    15. justice sleeps e 330

    16. its the end of the world g 359

    17. light my fire a 707

    18. highway star g 608

    oh yeah, and the other 90mins worth includes Sweet Home Alabama. I dont like it either.
  9. DaftCat


    Jul 26, 2004
    Medicine Hat
    What would this thread be without...

    "Brown-eyed Girl"


  10. SBassman


    Jun 8, 2003
    Northeast, US
    Lotsa references here to Gimme 3 Steps.

    I have played it out a million times now. I friggin Hate it. But, for whatever reason, a bunch of people always get into it.

    One song we're about to add is - Play That Funky Music.
    Yes, it has been played to death. But, for whatever reason, that song has Magical Powers that get people shaking their booties.

    I played that many times in my former band, but we do not yet play it in my current band. Again, we're about to add it. I never thought we would, cuz the other guys have uttered lots of bad stuff about it. :) But, at a recent gig, the guitar player broke a string, and I decided to Fill Time with the Play That Funky bass riff.

    I tell ya - the Second I started it, the booties started moving. It was like I had Magical Powers over them. :)

    It convinced the guys to add it - for some of the gigs.

  11. SBassman


    Jun 8, 2003
    Northeast, US
    One more thing:

    Lots of songs can get people up and dancing - songs you would Never expect to.

    IF the bass player and drummer have a good groove going. A good groove can turn almost Anything into a tune that makes people dance.

    The Groove has Magical Powers

  12. +1

    Yep, you have to think of you're band as a business first, and "art" second when it comes to cover bands.

    Example, last band I was in was a R&B horn band. We just did a killer version of Tower of Power's "Credit" It's a cool but obscure tune so the dace floor was pretty vacant. Band leader call's Mustang Sally, boom the dance floor was packed.

    Most people will only dance to music they have heard before, so the popular stuff is what gets them up on the dance floor.

    No one is saying that you can't play music for yourselves and that you absolutely have to play Sweet Home Alabama, but if you seriously get that many request for that song, it only makes sense to play it.
  13. Bottom Feeder

    Bottom Feeder encridublee smatr

    Nov 22, 2004
    Huntington Beach, CA
    I think you need to look at your band as a living, breathing juke box. If someone requests something and you know it, you're golden with at least that one person. If you get everyone dancing you're golden with the girls dancing, the guys dancing with the girls and the barowner who is selling booze to the guys dancing with the girls. You truly are there to entertain the crowd. Unless you are selling tickets and are a showcase band, you play what they want and not what you want. I don't really like most of that stuff but the payoff is seeing them enjoy and getting a return engagement.

    I wish I could convince my bandmates to adopt this theory, we would get more gigs and call-backs.
  14. Living on a prayer - Bon Jovi
    I heard a band play it tonight and it worked
  15. Ryan L.

    Ryan L. Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

    Aug 7, 2000
    West Fargo, ND
    +1. That is probably the biggest dance floor filler of all time, IME. Along with many others mentioned above as well.
  16. ebladeboi123


    Jul 11, 2005
    Oberlin, Oh
    Thanks for the input guys. We have close to 3 hours of covers that are close to what you've described. I think we've decided to add Mustang Sally into our set, we're also going to add Brown Eyed Girl, but we're going to try some other versions (possibly a little more buffetish- I don't know)

  17. some not mentioned yet:

    Keep Your Hands To Yourself
    Hard To Handle
    Some Kind Of Wonderful
    Pride & Joy (if you really swing it)
    Love Shack
    All Right Now
    Honky Tonk Woman
    Jailhouse Rock
    Fooled Around And Fell In Love (a slow one)
    Wonderful Tonight (a really slow one)

    no matter how much you hate it, Sweet Home Alabama, Mustang Sally and Brown Eyed Girl nearly always work. I've played in bands where we did not list them in the set - but called them out when we needed to get the crowd going. It's a like Pavlovian response. You just have to ring the bell.
  18. I had a very experienced musician once tell me (and IMHO I think he is correct) "People want to hear the song how they hear it on the radio, not how you think it should be played or someone elses interpretation."
  19. Sundogue


    Apr 26, 2001
    Wausau, WI
    This thread is very relevant to the song list of the new band I joined.

    Having played in bands on and off for over 25 years, I've had my opportunities to play songs "for myself". This new band plays an entire evening of songs that are geared strictly for the crowd...not to amuse musician's and provide an outlet for artistic pursuits.

    I had a bit of a problem with the set list at first. A lot of these were boring to play the first time I played them years ago. They were boring to play for the next twenty years. The songs I hadn't played but had heard a million times were songs I was NOT looking forward to playing. But, I took this on with the thinking it's a part time job. I thought myself as a musical mercenary.

    The entire night is all overdone songs...crowd favorites to be sure, but nothing that challenges or thrills a musician (specifically a bass player...with a lot of root note playing). But here's the thing...

    I had a TON of fun playing out with these guys! After years of playing songs "I" liked, but one's the crowds were less than enthused about, I now play in a band that plays to the crowd. What a difference!

    I found that I actually enjoyed playing these old covers...not because they were challenging, or artistically inspiring, but because the crowd liked them so much that the ENTIRE night the dance floor was full, the bar was packed and EVERYONE, including the band had a blast.

    No wonder this band gets all the choice gigs and is the most popular band around. Everyone in the area, from little kids (even my eight year old daughter heard about the band from classmates) to eighty year old grandmas...and every age in between all love this band. We're booked solid and I'm making anywhere from $400 to $1500 a month...and I'm enjoying the heck out of it.

    The whole band's philosophy is this...if you want to play out, have some fun and make a ton of cash...play crowd favorites and just enjoy playing them for what they are...crowd pleasers. If you want to be experimental, and play only those songs other muscians will appreciate, then play them at rehearsals or by yourself at home.

    When you play out live, you are an entertainer first. If you play covers and want to be a successful band (read as...always booked, making a lot of money for something you enjoy doing anyway) then pick songs the crowds want to hear and leave your ego at home.

    Funny thing is, after all those years of playing songs I wanted to play, I'm having way more fun pleasing the crowd. What's more enjoyable for a musician that plays cover tunes out live? Playing those artistically satisfying songs where the crowd (if there even is one) just sits and looks at you? Or, playing songs the crowds love and always having interaction with the crowd and everyone is having a huge party together? No-brainer for me. Why play out live if it's just to amuse yourself? That's kind of like musical masturbation.

    You want to know what kinds of songs will get the crowd out on the dance floor? Pick all the classics. Spend your free time listening to "Golden oldies" and the "Classic Rock" radio stations that play the ol' retreads from the 60's, 70's, 80's and 90's.

    There's a reason those radio stations are successful. Believe it or not, playing songs FOR the crowd can be way more fun than playing for yourself.
  20. Don't really know enough about this but "You Really got me", "Bad Moon Rising", "All Day And All Of The Night" and some other rock'n' roll-ish/60's stuff should do ("long tall sally" "all shook up" "Mony Mony" etc). Stick in a couple new well-known-but-not-too-heavy rockers ("7 nation army" "Last Night" "Get What you give" and a few others) and that should sort you out. I personally can't stand the old Mustang Sally/Sweet home/Sweet child of mine type of thing - but stick perhaps one of them in there...


    (just make sure they're pretty well known and PLAYED BY A BAND ORIGINALLY - thats all you gotta do!)