Set Lists

I’ve never really appreciated the beauty of a good set list.

A good set at a concert should move the listener from one mood to another, building energy and sitting back, creating a journey.

This part I knew.  It seems straightforward, like putting an album together.

What I hadn’t counted on was being part of a band where everyone keeps switching instruments. The guitarist plays acoustic and electric instruments.  One guy plays hand drums, acoustic guitar, mandolin, or keyboard, depending on the song.  I usually play bass and sing backup vocals, but sometimes I play keyboards, and on a few songs I put my bass down just to sing.  And sometimes we guitar and bass players have to re-tune, since we don’t have roadies offstage who can hand us fresh instruments in alternate tunings.

These changes wreak havoc on a set list.  The musical journey is completely unimportant next to the need to have some semblance of continuity between songs.  The most nerve-wracking part of gigs isn’t playing; it’s filling the space while people are switching guitars, re-tuning strings, or struggling into a djembe harness.  Coming up with banter isn’t impossible.  Coming up with something even remotely engaging to say, however, is pretty damn difficult.  Songwriting, I can handle.  Scripting stage patter, even loosely planning it?  I’m at a loss.  I never had to chat with my audience when I was performing classical piano.

So we’re working on coming up with the perfect set list, one that minimizes these pesky changes between songs but still creates a set worth listening to.

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