Saturday, March 31, 2007

The Science of the Set List

This seems like something that Sarah herself should write about, since she's the one actually having to figure out the set list before each show, but I'll take a stab at it anyway, using what i've gleaned from being in her general vacinity while she performs this task. Keeping in mind that I had the bright idea to just write all of their songs on little pieces of paper, put them in a hat (or some other random container that could play the role of the hat), then draw them out one at a time as a way of picking the set list.

That's probably not a very feasible idea have to take into consideration a few things. First, how long will you be playing? If you can only fit a limited number of songs in, they may as well be those that you deem your best. Next, do you have all of your instruments set up for this show? If you don't have room to set up the keyboard, you probably won't be playing any of the songs that use the keyboard. Then, who's your audience? If there are kids there, try to stay away from any adultishly themed songs or songs that contain any above-level-one obscenities. You can get away with saying 'hell' a time or two probably. Another consideration is, in this setting, do I want to play all fast songs? All slow songs? A good mix?

Quick sidetrack: I'm watching a basketball game right now, and a player had fallen to the floor and he sat there with his hands out until another player helped him up. I see this all the time in sports. Aren't you an athlete?? Get your own self up, dude!

Where was I? Oh yeah, lastly, the first and last song you play can have a lot of importance. For first time listeners, you want to play something that will really grab them, and is also indicative of your general style. As for the last song, you want to go with a fan favorite that will leave a lasting impression. Your 'signature song', you might say.

I'll point out that I think Sarah usually does a good job of selecting a set list. I thought she did a particularly good job at the Warehouse friday night. Speaking of that gig, it was pretty funny when we showed up and the Warehouse people were basically like, "there's a band playing here tonight??" They need to work on their inter-Warehouse communication skills. The band sounded good though, despite the tremendous heat in there. Wow. Fortunately, Sarah located the thermostat early on, and that managed to bring down the temperature a bit, but it was still rough.

The Springtime Tallahassee gig went well also. That's always a chaotic, but fun, situation. Getting past the police barricades can be tricky, even when you have the required pass. Fortunately, band wife Jaye was able to talk her way in, and we were able to unload the van from right next to the stage. It's an interesting place to have the stage set up, as there's a lot of foot traffic right there. You definitely want to play songs that will really grab people as they walk past. Ya know, get them to stop and say, "hmmm, who's this talented Tallahassee band? I wonder if they have a CD available for purchase." Cha-ching.
Also at this stage, there's the captive audience at Andrews, the restaurant that's right there. All those outdoor diners have to listen to you, at least until they're done eating.

It looks like the band won't be playing many gigs in the upcoming month or so, therefore, I won't have much to post about here. But, maybe I can come up with something. If you're lucky...

Friday, March 23, 2007

If they only knew...

Smoke. Smokiness. This is yet another thing I've learned to deal with while helping the band at their gigs. Playing in bars means you will, quite often, go home smelling like cigarette smoke. Last night was another one of those times.

Cigarette smoke goes with you. It clings to your clothes, your hair, your skin...
It permeates, is what it does. And it is not contact-lens-friendly.

But, other than that, last night's gig went well I'd say. In fact, there's nothing much interesting to write about, though I did come to one other realization that falls into the "from both sides now" category: It is weird to see my friends give autographs.

Back in 2000, I saw The Nields play in Tampa. After the show, I, like so many other fans there, was getting autographs from the band. Well, as I handed the CD liner notes to the bass player, Dave Chalfant, to sign, some friend of his, who I assume he's known for a long time, said to him, "dude, it is so weird to see you giving people autographs." At that moment, I must say, I felt pretty dorky. That comment made me realize that basically he was just a guy who plays a guitar. To his long time friends, he's probably the guy who got sick and threw up for half of spring break, or he's the kid who lost his retainer in middle school and had to dig through a garbage bin to find it.

Now, I see people getting autographs from the SMB and I want to say, "don't you know he/she's just -"...well, I won't go into specifics, but you get the point.

Of course, I do realize that they play great music and that everbody wants to get autographs from bands they like. Heck, I've even managed to accept my dorkiness and get autographs from a couple artists since that day in 2000. Dar Williams for one, and Christine Kane (gotta throw her name out there in case she still reads this) as well.

But, usually I skip the aftershow signing sessions and let the bands have one less person to feel weird about giving an autograph to.