new funk band set list advice - how to avoid sounding like a wedding funk band!

Discussion in 'Band Management [BG]' started by Burt35, Mar 27, 2014.

  1. Burt35


    Dec 9, 2013
    I am currently building a 7-piece funk cover band from the ground up. My tastes in funk are very broad and I've been into the music for a really long time. As a result, I shudder at the thought of creating set lists that reek of cheese. I speak of the usual suspects trotted out by every wedding band or awful bar band. Lots of you have surely seen a band slammed from top to bottom with such tripe. A couple of these songs might work if done skillfully, but not if a whole set sounds like a "SUPER SOUL FUNK ALL-STAR OLDIES" CD.

    Now here's my issue. I want my set lists to have tunes that I love to play, and that the crowd will love to dance to. This band is shaping up to have smoking players across the board, so we will certainly be able to bring it. But what percentage of our tunes should be familiar to a general audience? How acceptable is it to include a bunch of kicking tunes that aren't very well-known? If we perform them as well as I think we will, will the crowd meet us half way with tunes they aren't familiar with?

    Anyway, just looking for some experiences folks have had. Thanks!
  2. SirMjac28

    SirMjac28 Patiently Waiting For The Next British Invasion

    Aug 25, 2010
    The Great Midwest
    Yes they will people will dance and get into it if the songs are done well do you have any particular songs in mind?
  3. Burt I hear ya. Mjac, I respectfully disagree.

    IME/O, songs people know get the dancing started. Something unfamiliar will as likely as not clear the floor; but you improve your odds if you seque into it strongly. See the DC Go-Go movement.

    You may have to make some hard choices between the less-known songs you like and the reliable crowd-pleasers. It'll take some trial and error, and every gig will be diffferent, but I bet you guys will end up with a torrid repertoire.

    Good luck!
  4. john m

    john m Supporting Member

    Jan 15, 2006
    Tower of Power
    Blood Sweat and Tears
    Chicago (though not really funk)

    Average White Band

    Earth Wind and Fire (the lesser played tunes)

    Steely Dan--- can be funky

    Stevie Wonder

    Remember---if you want to get paid to play--- you gotta mix it up--- Motown gets 'em dancin'
  5. bass12

    bass12 And Grace, too Supporting Member

    Jun 8, 2008
    Montreal, Canada
    Depends on your crowd. I've had a lot of luck with a couple of original bands playing in cover band clubs in the past. But a lot of people need to be familiar with a given song if they are going to stay on the floor. I find younger crowds (who just want to party) can be more receptive to music they're not familiar with, but older festival crowds can be great too. The point about D.C. go-go is a good one. If you keep the beat happening then you can "fool" people a bit and, by the time they realize they're dancing to a different song, you already have them hooked. I would just mix it up. Play some classics at strategic times in the set and you'll be able to get away with playing some more rare stuff. I used to play in a band that would incorporate all kinds of rarer funk by groups such as Pleasure, Cymande, Manu Dibango, Eddie Bo, Cameo and Dyke & The Blazers. It was never a problem, probably because we also would play some stuff that was more recognizable to the audience. And this is in Montreal - not exactly the funk center of the universe.
  6. BassCliff


    May 17, 2012
    So. Cal.

    In my experience, it never hurts to get them started with something tried and true like "Brick House" and then hit them with a couple of obscure, but tasty, funky tunes. But you pretty much have to give them something familiar once in a while, at least every third or fourth tune, to keep the crowd happy. My country band has even been doing "Get Down On It" and the crowd loves it.

    Thank you for your indulgence,

  7. Depends on your target. If its single white females in a beer-barn setting, where alcohol is the main reason for being there, they probably want a wedding band funk.

    If its music is the primary reason for being in the club, and getting drunk is just an afterthought, most people will be happy to dig a deep groove.

    One of the best dance/funk bands I’ve seen, I honestly couldn’t name one song they played. I’d occasionally here a lick or a lyric that I recognised, but then it was just a DJ Mega Mix style of deep grooves and improvisation. They’re was occasional banter from the frontman, but the band never really stopped. They packed the floor (with Middle Class White 20yr olds) every Saturday night at the same club for about 18 months......even with a $12 cover charge.

    The thing that sticks in my mind the most was the skinny little American drummer who played pretty much non-stop like a freaking machine for the full 90 minute set, and he wasn’t a young man either.
  8. SanDiegoHarry

    SanDiegoHarry Banned Supporting Member

    Feb 28, 2014
    San Diego, CA
    Schofield, new mastersounds, galactic, lettuce, etc.
  9. chuck norriss

    chuck norriss Banned

    Jan 20, 2011
    "Vitamin C" by CAN is sick. "Use Me" Bill Withers. I'm not sure if people will dance to "Use Me" but they might do the nasty.
  10. AaronVonRock


    Feb 22, 2013
    I've learned a new genre today, wedding band funk. Sounds derogatory.
  11. chuck norriss

    chuck norriss Banned

    Jan 20, 2011
    do some laid back stuff like "inner city blues"
    not everyone can play/sing "september." if yuo cant pull it off well then I wouldnt attempt. whatever just keep playing
  12. buldog5151bass

    buldog5151bass Kibble, milkbones, and P Basses. And redheads.

    Oct 22, 2003
    Fact is, you are playing for the audience, and they want to hear what they know. Some songs will make you grit your teeth. Open the sets with more known, then when they are up, move into the "better" stuff. Mix it up. If they are sitting down, go back to what they know.

    I also find lesser known songs by known bands work better, since they know it from hearing the album.
  13. Winfred


    Oct 21, 2011
    The sentence above is where the wicket gets sticky. It is a very difficult balance, and I do NOT want to discourage you. I love your idea, and I think it's great. But it ain't easy...

    Most of the stuff that we love to play, simply isn't popular. And by "we", I mean pretty much every musician on the planet. And by "popular", I mean a top 40 hit that has survived and continues to be played on radio stations for 30 or 40 years (more or less). Doesn't matter what genre, people just love to hear the same tunes that "mean something" to them.

    You will have to play some of those, or you won't get repeat gigs at the wedding band rate of pay. That's as blunt as I can be about the situation.

    You may not want to sound like a wedding funk band, but you probably would like being paid like one. :)

    As for a percentage, I'd say at least half should be the classic tripe. Sad, but true, dude. At least half the songs have to keep women dancing and drinking. Because if you're not willing to play at least that many, there's another group that is willing to do it. And they'll take every gig they can get.
  14. SirMjac28

    SirMjac28 Patiently Waiting For The Next British Invasion

    Aug 25, 2010
    The Great Midwest
    +1 I totally agree with that and I should have added that for sure and it helps to add the the not so popular stuff after everyone is a little liqueured up :) the only exceptions I've noticed is at weddings where everyone dances to just about anything with a beat.
  15. St. Louis Scot

    St. Louis Scot

    Sep 16, 2013
    Austin, Tx
    I suppose it depends if you are trying to create art or are you trying to create money.

    I had a band that only played the songs we loved to play. We were all top-of-our-game musicians. But we weren't doing originals or trying for a record deal. Didn't take long to realize we weren't going to draw large crowds = people aren't drinking = we stopped getting gigs.

    If you can find the right mix, that'd be primo. I hope it works out better for you. Keep us posted.
  16. Alex J

    Alex J

    Jul 5, 2011
    I play in a funk band and we often do songs like:

    The Chicken - Maceo Parker
    Pass the Peas - Maceo Parker
    Get the Funk Out Ma Face - Brothers Johnson
    God Made Me Funky - Headhunters
    Standing on the Verge of Getting it On - Funkadelic
    Fencewalk - Mandrill
    African Soldier - Seun Kuti (afrobeat, but still..)

    Even though some of these are pretty obscure and we do them instrumentally with a horn section taking most of the vocal lines, people always get up and dance. You just have to make sure you play the right nights! :bassist:
  17. There's an elephant in the room.....

    People want to be ENTERTAINED. You need a Theme, a focus, something that's appealing & easy to market; a point of differentiation aka USP - Unique Selling Point. Then you WON'T be just another wedding-funk band.

    If you're a brand new band that's building it from the ground up.... just get gigs and get paid. You'll keep your star players and won't fizzle out in the first year. You'll also get experience, & get better known.

    Start with at least 20 floor fillers, pick the simpler tunes = less rehearsing now, plus they'll become back-pocket songs you can pull out at the drop of the hat at any gigs.

    Build your repertoire from there, adding songs you like, etc. Work out how to give these 'good' songs the most impact they can eg. feature a band member, special solo, crowd actions or chanting chorus with you, actions or dance moves on stage as part of the show, etc.

    What clothes do you want the band to wear? A colour-theme, or maybe wild 70's outfits add instant stage impact.
  18. A big +1 to any songs that have been sampled in hit songs.

    Be aware of TEMPOS and dancing. Have most of your songs up tempo if you expect people to dance.

    Funk-up certain pop tunes can work well. Jamiroquai gave Bad Girls a new life.

    We did 16-bar intros of well known songs then segued into songs WE wanted to play. Worked every time. :D
  19. Funky Ghost

    Funky Ghost Translucently Groovy

    If you have horns then The JBs and Detroit Emeralds would get my nod right off the bat. Fun to play and they are crazy good funk. The Headhunters are also sick sick sick.