The band's setlist vs. my ideal list

Discussion in 'Band Management [BG]' started by hrodbert696, Dec 5, 2010.

  1. hrodbert696

    hrodbert696 Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

    OK, this was just a malcontent moment, but I've been going over the list of songs my band actually has in the pipe and thinking about how it compares to what I think would make for a successful and fun cover band.

    For the background, we're a group of 40-something hobby musicians, me on bass, a drummer, lead guitarist, rhythm guitar/lead vocalist, and trying to sort out schedules to get a new keys player worked in. I think it's a good group but my main frustration has been that it seems to take some of us an inordinately long time to learn new songs, whether due to ability or motivation I'm not sure. Eight months together and we're allllllmost ready to start marketing ourselves out to get gigs.

    So here's the actual current list (we all nominate songs more or less democratically):

    Basket Case/Green Day
    Mary Jane/Tom Petty
    Say Please/Monsters of Folk
    Heart of Stone/Rolling Stones
    Don't Let Me Down/Beatles
    Nobody's Happy/John Eddie
    Lead with Your Heart/Original
    Rockin in the Free World/Neil Young
    Suffragette City/Bowie
    Crumblin Down/John Mellencamp
    Let It Bleed/Rolling Stones
    Rumble Seat/Mellencamp
    Hurt So Good/Mellencamp
    Without You/Original
    Right on Time/Original
    Hound Dog/Elvis
    Peace Frog/Doors
    Where Are We Runnin?/Lenny Kravitz
    Hard to Handle/Black Crowes
    Cinnamon Girl/N. Young
    867-5309/Tommy Tutone
    Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door/Dylan

    Plus we just added....
    1985/Bowling for Soup
    Always on the Run/Lenny Kravitz
    Gloria/Van Morrison

    And there are a few in semi-limbo: basically they were nominated, the singer never took them up, so I volunteered to sing them but we hardly ever really practice them:
    Criminal/Fiona Apple
    All Star/Smashmouth
    End of the World as We Know It/REM
    Beverly Hills/Weezer

    So what's everyone's reaction to this? Does it look like a list that would go over well? Obviously, we still need about eight or ten more tunes to get to the point of playing a full set.

    I'd like to hear some reactions and then post how my personal ideal cover band set is evolving...
  2. Beginner Bass

    Beginner Bass

    Jul 8, 2009
    Round Rock, TX
    A&R, Soulless Corporation Records
    Bron-Eyed Girl
  3. EddiePlaysBass


    Feb 26, 2009
    I do not know all of the songs on there, but it seems more than okay to me. I would suggest adding "Blue Suede Shoes" to Hound Dog. My band plays them both in A and segues from the latter to the former. Works well!
  4. what gigs are you looking for? if you are looking to play the 20 something bar crowd i think you may need to do some reworking mainly more songs like the "songs we just added" and "songs i volunteered to sing" lists, if that isnt your target audience then i'll move along
  5. jmattbassplaya

    jmattbassplaya Supporting Member

    Jan 13, 2008
    Tampa, FL.
    If the songs were added democratically then I really don't know what you can do to change it now :meh: but since you asked...

    As a 20yr old who's actively gigging bars in a college town, I'd have to say that your setlist wouldn't go over well at all. Some of the songs aren't that well known to younger bar hoppers, and some of them are simply too slow (tempo-wise) to get people on their feet and dancing.

    That said, if you're advertising yourself as a classic rock cover band and you guys are looking to fill a very specific niche, then the setlist could work. However, I think you guys would have a hard time getting started with these songs. The only ones that struck me as instant keepers were 'Basket Case', 'Mary Jane', 'Hard to Handle', and 'All Star'. A few, like 'Supersonic' and 'Hound Dog' were-take-it-or-leave-its, depending on how you pulled them off (this is all IMO and what I would use).

    The rest I couldn't see going over that well. However, it's important to know that my scene might be vastly different from the one you're looking to get into.

    I dunno. What were you wanted to do/change?
  6. slaps76

    slaps76 Supporting Member

    Jul 10, 2008
    Medford, MA
    Yea depends on what kind of bars you're looking to play out in. If you're in a 'downtown' area, you're going to lose the 20-something crowd for the most part, but as an overall mix it's pretty good if you're playing to an older crowd than that.
  7. hrodbert696

    hrodbert696 Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

    Thanks for the comments to far, guys, and let me add some information; we started off just picking songs to jam with and it's evolved into a set list to prepare to gig with. Everyone agrees in principle that we want to play songs to dance to but we also have said we don't want to play the same old crap that everyone does. Unfortunately I sometimes feel like people think that means that popular songs are "disqualified." We never defined ourselves as specifically a classic rock band but I think part of what's happening is that the guys tend to nominate a lot of older stuff because of our ages.

    Jmatt, I AM thinking of the college crowd, so thanks for the feedback. I don't know all the ins and outs of the scene here yet, but we do have the University of New Hampshire on our doorstep as well as some smaller schools. I'd like to be able to tap that audience. But there are also your share of bars with an older clientele and there is a demand for classic rock to judge by the local radio.

    I guess I'm hoping that as we get going we can add more songs that will hit it off with a crowd and quietly retire those that don't... so I'm hunting for some advice about what is likely to appeal and what's not, and to what kinds of audiences. I generally assume that younger audiences only know new songs and older audiences only know old ones, but I keep meeting people in both age groups who defy that stereotype.
  8. PDGood

    PDGood Supporting Member

    Sep 19, 2010
    Nashville, TN
    Yeah, as others have said it depends on who you are playing to. As a baby boomer, I would say that I recognize a lot of these songs but that they aren't the logical first choice. For example for Stones the crowd pleasers are Honky Tonk Woman and Brown Sugar. But I like your choices and they are good if that's what you want to play for yourselves - just not the most mainstream if you're playing for others.

    The Doors song is one I haven't heard of and I grew up in that era. But I get how it is with a democratic set-up, you get everyone's opinion all mixed together. When that happens you just have to live with it. More bands are broken up and more time wasted by arguing about things that you can't fix or will seem unimportant later. To me, sticking together was always the main goal.

    Having said that, I've learned that over the years it's best to set a very specific description of the band direction right from the start - or this sort of thing will happen. I got in a similar situation with a band of friends - everyone brought in the songs they liked and it was fun to jam to, but you couldn't book it anywhere on the planet. The keyboard player/singer and I had the same ideas so we just let that band fizzle out and then later called the same guys and said - Look, I know what we did in the past, but now we'd like to put a blues band together and do a specific sort of thing (and described it). Everyone agreed and joined up and we had good rehearsals - then one day the guitar player came to practice all excited about a syrupy sweet jazzy song he had learned and thought was great. I put my foot down and said, no - remember this is a blues band now. He got pissed, but in the end it gave the band direction and we were better for it.
  9. hrodbert696

    hrodbert696 Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

    OK, well, for comparison, here's a fantasy set list I came up with, if picking a list were all up to me. This is not to ask you all to stroke my ego and say my list is so much better or anything. I'm basically trying to figure out how a really strong set list would look. This isn't an actual list I'm proposing to the band, and some of the things on it I know we couldn't do - we tried the Cold War Kids song for a while but none of us could sing it, and I don't think the Sheryl Crow could work without a female singer (which we don't have). But again -- does this look like the kind of list that would go over well, and to what kinds of crowds?

    Walk this Way – Aerosmith
    52 Girls - B-52s
    Love Shack – B52s
    Juicy – Better than Ezra
    Like it Like That – Better than Ezra
    Hard to Handle – Black Crowes
    Suffragette City - Bowie
    1985 – Bowling for Soup
    Ain’t No Rest for the Wicked – Cage the Elephant
    Shake it Up – the Cars
    Tubthumping - Chumbawamba
    Should I Stay or Should I Go - The Clash
    Hang Me Up to Dry - Cold War Kids
    All I Wanna Do – Sheryl Crow
    Soul Meets Body – Death Cab for Cutie
    Groove is in the Heart - Deee-Lite
    Peace Frog - Doors
    Rio - Duran Duran
    Take Me Out – Franz Ferdinand
    What She Came For – Franz Ferdinand
    Sledgehammer - Peter Gabriel
    Centerfold – J. Geils
    Mony Mony - Billy Idol
    What You Need - INXS
    Laid - James
    I Love Rock n Roll – Joan Jett
    I Want a New Drug – Huey Lewis
    This Love – Maroon 5
    99 Luftballons – Nena
    Do What You Want – OK Go
    Get Over It – OK Go
    Lump – Presidents of the USA
    Let’s Go Crazy – Prince
    It's the End of the World as We Know It - REM
    Can’t Stop - Red Hot Chili Peppers
    Satisfaction – the Rolling Stones
    All Star -- Smashmouth
    Digging Your Scene - Smashmouth
    Two Princes – Spin Doctors
    Every Morning – Sugar Ray
    Take Me to the River - Talking Heads
    Semi-Charmed Life – Third Eye Blind
    Wild Thing – Troggs
    Desire - U2
    Blister in the Sun - Violent Femmes
    Beverly Hills – Weezer
    I Want You To – Weezer
    Troublemaker – Weezer
    My Doorbell – White Stripes
    Hardest Button to Button – White Stripes
    Have a Nice Day (Guten Tag) - Wir Sind Helden (my own translation)
  10. tycobb73


    Jul 23, 2006
    Grand Rapids MI
    Your setlist is much better than the bands for anyone under 50, but a pet peeve of mine is doing more than one song by an artist in a night. It sounds like there is a female in the group somewhere. I would have her do a good chunk of stuff.

    And you're a coverband. You have to do popular songs. Anything on the radio will work. They just don't have to be popular songs that other bands do.
  11. slaps76

    slaps76 Supporting Member

    Jul 10, 2008
    Medford, MA
    Your list is a lot better if you're looking to play for college bars.

    One mistake people make when putting together cover lists is saying "we don't want to play what everyone else plays." On one hand, you don't have to play all of brown eyed girl, blister in the sun, jessie's girl, and don't stop believing, but there are songs that are proven to work, and there's a reason the higher paid bands play songs that every person in the bar most likely knows. I've come across situations a lot with bandmates who think playing something obscure to "be different" will win the band points, but when it comes to the gig, it rarely does.

    Younger people will know most of the older cover "standards," but the obscure stuff is going to fly over their heads....and it only takes one bad song to completely clear the dance floor.

    So if you guys are looking to make a completely "danceable" set have a lot of work to do, but it looks like from your list, at least you have a pretty good grasp of what songs will work....but try to mix in more current music, take some popular songs that are being played on top-40 stations today.
  12. No offense but why is it every cover band plays the same crap? Most of them are ok songs but it seems that every band that plays this genre plays all or most of the same stuff.
  13. slaps76

    slaps76 Supporting Member

    Jul 10, 2008
    Medford, MA
    Think it's a combination of two, they're playing what is proven to work in a bar setting, and two, a lot of cover bands lack the effort & creativity to put together a good setlist that will work for the crowd, but still keep it somewhat fresh.
  14. This gives me a great idea for a Led Zeppelin/Van Morrison mashup.
  15. Go to the bars you think you'd want to play at, watch the bands, see what works. Steal the songs that go over well.

    Add your specialty songs that make you "different". If you do all your favorites that nobody else heard of, you may have trouble getting booked and especially re-booked if you don't go over...

    I think its easier to start working doing popular stuff in the genre you want to end up in, then morph into more of what you want to be, than trying to get hired and build a crowd from zero. You get stage experience, you build up a crowd, as you start adding your favorites, you can gradually get people to stay with your newer format.

  16. Richland123


    Apr 17, 2009
    It appears to me that your ideal setlist focuses more on dance songs, which is the best move you can make. Girls love to dance and if you get the girls to like the band, the guys will follow. There is nothing wrong with doing other songs but try to keep the bulk of the show on energetic dance songs.
  17. PDGood

    PDGood Supporting Member

    Sep 19, 2010
    Nashville, TN
    Because that's what the audience wants.

    I understand your point though, I feel the same way about oldies radio stations - they play the same songs over and over even though there were other good old songs. The general public wants what's familiar - partly because they have memories associated with those songs and partly because they just prefer the comfort zone of something familiar.
  18. I think you CAN expand the audience's comfort zone, within limits, but you need an audience first... Once you develop a following you have more room to experiment while still surviving and working.

    Being too different AND unproven leads to playing more in basements than bars.

  19. timber22

    timber22 Supporting Member

    I like your set list better than the band's list although it's not bad
    I'm in a similar situation. Our song selection process is pretty democratic and we're not all on the same page with what we like. That means the set list is a little disjointed at times, and has too many slower songs IMO.
    I think it is possible to play some different stuff than the ones every cover band plays, but you have to try really hard to find them. For example, we play Junior's Farm by McCartney & Wings. I don't know that I've ever seen a another band cover that, and it works well for us.
    But, the reality is that in a typical bar/club with a typical crowd, everyone sings along and dances to the same songs, even if they've heard them 100 times by 50 different bands. What I can't get some of the guys in my band to understand is that 95% of the people in the bar don't care at all if you are playing a challenging guitar lick that you worked on for 2 months. They want to laugh, drink, sing and dance to songs they know with their friends.
  20. JohnMCA72


    Feb 4, 2009
    You're not there to educate anybody as to what's "good" music, you're there to sell liquor!