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A question for experienced bar cover band folks.


JimboK

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So my band is starting to do a decent amount of the 9pm-1am Fri/Sat gigs at the local bars. We present ourselves as an 80's-90's outfit with just a touch of the 70's and 00's. So far so good. We have quite a few dance numbers along with some non-dance rock stuff thrown in to fill time.

 

So what I have been experiencing is that there seems to be a peak party atmosphere between 10:30 and midnight where the audience is at maximum frenzy. I cannot be sure but it seems that after 12:15 or so, the energy seems to drop no matter how hard we try. Is this typical? Our past shows were always of the 8-11pm variety and we never saw the drop off.

 

The reason I ask is twofold:

 

1) We naturally want to have our setlist ramp up and finish as strong as possible but it seems we might be wasting some of our best stuff for nothing but a handful of drunks. The hot ladies (and their drink buying followers) seem to be gone by then. Should we plan for this drop?

 

2) We try to do 3 sets instead of 4 in 4 hours. We do full hour sets with 20min breaks instead of the (seemingly) typical 45min sets with 15min breaks. But that puts a break right at 11:15-11:30 and I am wondering if that is hurting us.

 

I am the guy who makes these decisions and it is beginning to seem like I need to plan some non-dance rock tunes to cater to the drunk dudes/ladies after 12:30.

 

I can provide our songlist if needed.

 

Thanks in advance.

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It sounds to me like you've got to rearrange your sets to coincide with the maximum frenzy: 10:30 - midnight. Don't take a break in the middle of the goodness!

 

:cool:

 

 

"Music expresses that which cannot be put into words and that which cannot remain silent." - Victor Hugo
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We were at a Mingo Fishtrap show (killer horn band that mixes great originals with other great sould tunes like James Brown) on Friday night. The first set ran from around 10 - 11:15, then the second set was 11:30 - 1ish, I think. Almost everyone left by 12:30, with only a few songs left in the set. :idk:

"I'm so crazy, I don't know this is impossible! Hoo hoo!" - Daffy Duck

 

"The good news is that once you start piano you never have to worry about getting laid again. More time to practice!" - MOI

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We were at a Mingo Fishtrap show

I caught them this summer at Jazzfest. Very impressed.

:thu: Good guys, too.

"I'm so crazy, I don't know this is impossible! Hoo hoo!" - Daffy Duck

 

"The good news is that once you start piano you never have to worry about getting laid again. More time to practice!" - MOI

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Having made the transition from playing college bars back in the day (when the party didn't really get started until after 11.... to playing smaller local joints these days - I've become a fan of front loading the night with our better material. Unless you're playing to a packed crowd of 20-somethings- the midnight exodus you've seen is almost guaranteed. The 30-50 something crowds are working stiffs - often with kids at home. Around here - that demographic start their nights out earlier and end them earlier. If you've got "filler" in your playlist for the evening - you're not doing yourself any favors by "saving the best for last".

 

As far as the timing of your breaks goes ... do what you can to avoid breaking at the peak of the night ... but don't beat yourself up too much when it happens. Rock your ass off during your sets, play material that doesn't compete with your setlist on break - and make sure that a 20 minute break is truly a 20 minute break. If your 20 minute break stretch to 23 minutes ... followed by another 3-4 minutes of getting everybody back to the stage, strapped up and actually playing will ultimately hurt you.

The SpaceNorman :freak:
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Seems like it's different depending on the place we play, and even then from night to night (regarding "peak time"). To be fair we don't have a big following (yet! :) ) and it seems that's the only time people really pack the smaller bars we play--to see a particular band. In any case, it doesn't seem consistent. Sat night the people kept coming in as the night went on and there were more people there at 12:30 than at 11:00.

 

All that said, I think we do have our strongest stuff up front. We have some filler, mainly because we've been using subs while finding a permanent lead player (argh)...the filler goes in the 3rd set as SpaceNorman says. Our leader/singer put our danciest stuff in a block at the top of set 2, which would usually put it at around 10:20 or so. We switched to doing 3 sets, the middle one is a fair bit longer than the first or last.

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Typical gig around here is 3 one hour sets with two 30 min breaks from 9-1. So 9-10, 10:30-11:30, 12-1.

 

While set 2 is where things peak, there IS an art to keeping things going until the end of the night, and it CAN be done. The younger the crowd, the better. It gets more critical later in the night to keep things moving and have no pauses. You want the later songs to keep everryone going, especially the younger crowd. I'd load up the more "rock" non dance stuff early in the night when people aren't ready to dance yet. Later in the night you want to keep them dancing.

 

It's kind of like this: the songs you like best, that people DO like, but don't dance to go in the beginning of the night, ramping up to something more dancey by the end of the first set. Set 2 is high energy party/dance stuff to get people going. Set 3 is all the songs you absolutely hate, but you have to play them because everybody, especially if they're drunk, ALWAYS dances to it (brown eyed girl, sweet caroline, etc)

 

A few other things i just thought of...

If you have a song with a long intro that kicks into having good energy, it belongs first song, 2nd set. It's sort of like a warning - here we go, finish getting those drinks and get out here on the dance floor. Since everybody's dnacing 2nd set, you want 2-3 songs (out of a set of 15) that are a bit downtempo to break things up - that'll increas the bar ring. That should break the set into a few groups of nonstop dance songs. Last song 2nd set should leave them eager for more, first song 3rd set should kick them in the face. If you get requests during the 2nd set, tell them you'll play them in the 3rd set - that will keep them around, plus you can re-plan your set list during break without interrrupting the flow.

Dan

 

Acoustic/Electric stringed instruments ranging from 4 to 230 strings, hammered, picked, fingered, slapped, and plucked. Analog and Digital Electronic instruments, reeds, and throat/mouth.

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We had this problem. Switched from playing 3 sets to 2 sets. During 4 hour gigs, yeah, it was painful, but the difference was apparent during the first gig we made the change. The difference between audience at the end compared to the audience the previous nights when we did 3 sets was like night and day. Stopping for a break just as the night is nearing its peak is the best way to kill a gig. There seems to be a peak time (often between 10:30 and 12:30, which is prime break time :( ) where taking a break (even just for a few minutes) can quickly turn everything around.

 

We also started mixing dancey/classic songs in with the not so dancey/popular ones in the both sets to keep people interested. Brown eyed girl/supersition/I wanna dance go in the first set. Second set is often more modern, but with the BIG classics (summer of 69, Sweet Caroline, mustang sally, Proud Mary, etc...) thrown in sporadically. Making that change (as opposed to having all your best songs one after the other) also helped a lot.

 

If it's a slow night and we need to kill time but don't want to bring out the big guns too early, we will generally put the slower songs in the first set near the start to get them out of the way - especially if it seems people aren't up for dancing early on. And we always, always digress from the setlist depending on who's currently dancing. If the dancers are older, we'll swap some songs around on the spot and leave the newer stuff until the younger folks come on the dancefloor, and vice versa. It's annoying, but keeps the floor full.

 

But the biggest thing I've seen seems to be breaks. Whenever I dep for a band who play 3 sets instead of 2, the crowd is always gone by the time we're back on stage for the third set.

 

EDIT: Completely agree with JustDan about the long intro for the first song of second set. By that time, people have usually had a fair bit to drink, and nothing gets people up faster than hearing the intro to Sweet Child of Mine roar in over the fading bar music.

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I don't think there are any universal rules. I've played clubs where the 3rd set was usually the strongest. More typically it's the second set. I suggest trying to be adaptable. If a set is going really strong, extend it. Don't break up a good dance party.

 

On the other hand, there are reasons why longer is not necessarily better (yes, yes, queue up the raunchy jokes). Foremost is the band gets tired and the audience can sense it. But the audiences ears also need a break.

 

Try to keep the break between the 2nd and 3rd set to between 10-15 minutes. In bar band world, this is often an issue of discipline and logistics. Every band member should hit the bathroom, get a drink, get whatever else they need, and get their back up on stage. After 10 minutes, the audience should be seeing signs that the band is about to start again.

Gigging: Crumar Mojo 61, Hammond SKPro

Home: Vintage Vibe 64

 

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I would just add that in the many cover bands I've played in, we debated this stuff endlessly. Usually when we thought we'd figured it out, it would be different the next time. Over time, you just develop an intuition about this stuff. The band leader has to be good at reading an audience, that's why they're paid the big bucks.

Gigging: Crumar Mojo 61, Hammond SKPro

Home: Vintage Vibe 64

 

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Hmm...around here, it's unprofessional to not nail the set times - start AND end times. We pride ourselves when we start at the right time to the minute, and end on time +/- 1 min. Maybe one difference is the clubs here all have house DJ's that play the breaks. That's their time to perform...it keeps the crowd going during break.

 

I suppose if the places you're playing aren't doing that, you could put together good break music mixes of popular modern dance music thatis non-stop. That's the place for the cupid shuffle and everything else horrible that exists in the world.

 

...I should also note: the DJ's are usually very good, and as the music is going, in addition to announcing drink specials and such, they're pumping people up for the band.

 

Dan

 

Acoustic/Electric stringed instruments ranging from 4 to 230 strings, hammered, picked, fingered, slapped, and plucked. Analog and Digital Electronic instruments, reeds, and throat/mouth.

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It sounds to me like you've got to rearrange your sets to coincide with the maximum frenzy: 10:30 - midnight. Don't take a break in the middle of the goodness!

 

Sounds like a plan. If they're leaving at 12:15 or so anyway, you'll find out if it's the band or the bar (drink specials, staff or whatever).

 

Could be the town. Some towns are like that. I know one small town down here on the Texas coast that has 2 clubs in it- one on either side of town. One is Texas Country, the other has a variety of bands. I've played both(on different nights) and seen the crowd come and go. The kids traverse the town in large packs since everyone knows everyone and the wrong crowd might show up and the larger crowd skidattles. :crazy:

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....the DJ's are usually very good, and as the music is going, in addition to announcing drink specials and such, they're pumping people up for the band.

 

Must be nice! My experience splitting the bill with a club provided DJ has too often been a very different story. We've run into more than our share a DJ douchenozzles. We always give the DJ a copy of our setlist for the night and politely ask that they avoid playing anything on our setlist for that night ... only to have them end their set with the first tune on our list for the next set. We're run into more than one who has watched us get on stage, get strapped up and give the signal that we're ready to start - at which point, they cross fade into another tune. I usually cringe when I find out that we're sharing the bill with a DJ ...

The SpaceNorman :freak:
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See...I take a different approach...if they tend to leave a certain time, then if you break then, then that encourages them to leave. You want them to stick around JUST A LITTLE longer then rope them in for the next set. I'm a little confused. You say they're leaving 12:15, but in a 4 hr, 3 set gig, last set is 12-1. So you should have already started the last set and have them roped in. Your times didn't add up....(3) 1hr sets and (2) 20 min breaks = 3hr 40min, not 4 hr. Predictability helps too. If they really like the band and KNOW you'll start back up at 12, they'll be there at 12. When it's all up in the air and they don't know what's going on except that it's getting late and you haven't played for a while...well, maybe we should just go.

Dan

 

Acoustic/Electric stringed instruments ranging from 4 to 230 strings, hammered, picked, fingered, slapped, and plucked. Analog and Digital Electronic instruments, reeds, and throat/mouth.

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Mingo Fishtrap kicks ass!

 

I hate breaks. That is when strangers try to to talk to you. I'm shy. LOL. But those of us who are good at that sort of thing accomplishes some fine marketing during breaks.

 

We try to not let off the accelerator once we start a show ..... but some venues are differemt. It is an art not true science. Sometimes you may need to experiement I guess.

 

Here a lot of bands deal with crowds leaving 30-60 minutes before the end of the night.

 

Some venues are in places that are heavily targeted by DUI road safety checks and people try to beat the road blocks.

 

We attract a broad age spectrum. A lot of 20 somethings all the way to 60 somethings. The younguns kick it really late and seem to encourage a lot of older folks to hang out also. I've done work with classic rock bands that draw older crowds mainly and they really tend to leave about an hour early.

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Unless you play the same places over and over again, I find it's almost not worth discussing.

 

I do like to have a hip pocket group of sure fire hits that we can flex to when you get over critical mass, but that takes a little more coordination and direction than a lot of bands have.

 

My old 80's 90's band was good at that and we'd pull the trigger when we thought the party needed it.

 

My current band has over-thought the set list repeatedly and we get faked out by the crowd frequently.

You want me to start this song too slow or too fast?

 

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I'd say a big factor is going to be the type of place you're playing.

 

Of the places in town that I've played, one caters to a more blues/rock/classic rock covers scene and the other is more of the "Jersey Shore" cover band type (80s/90s/00s/pop).

 

The former has a dedicated performance space upstairs and the crowd can be a real crapshoot depending on the band/night.

 

The latter has a stage at the end of the room with bars in the back half and a small bar near the stage. And the crowd doesn't die out until at least 1AM. People go to that place specifically for the late band and it's always a huge party scene there.

 

Granted, some things can play a factor. Case in point, you don't book bands on a weekend in northern NJ during the summer unless you're on a lake because almost everyone goes to the shore on the weekends and there will be no crowd.

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Unless you play the same places over and over again, I find it's almost not worth discussing.

 

I do like to have a hip pocket group of sure fire hits that we can flex to when you get over critical mass, but that takes a little more coordination and direction than a lot of bands have.

 

My old 80's 90's band was good at that and we'd pull the trigger when we thought the party needed it.

 

My current band has over-thought the set list repeatedly and we get faked out by the crowd frequently.

Hi from your San Diego neighbor from the West!

I am very very interested in this topic... the sure fire methods your 80's-90's band used and why the current band is dense, and over thinking. Very good topic. Thank you

You don't have ideas, ideas have you

We see the world, not as it is, but as we are. "One mans food is another mans poison". I defend your right to speak hate. Tolerance to a point, not agreement

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Having made the transition from playing college bars back in the day (when the party didn't really get started until after 11.... to playing smaller local joints these days - I've become a fan of front loading the night with our better material. Unless you're playing to a packed crowd of 20-somethings- the midnight exodus you've seen is almost guaranteed. The 30-50 something crowds are working stiffs - often with kids at home. Around here - that demographic start their nights out earlier and end them earlier. If you've got "filler" in your playlist for the evening - you're not doing yourself any favors by "saving the best for last".

 

As far as the timing of your breaks goes ... do what you can to avoid breaking at the peak of the night ... but don't beat yourself up too much when it happens. Rock your ass off during your sets, play material that doesn't compete with your setlist on break - and make sure that a 20 minute break is truly a 20 minute break. If your 20 minute break stretch to 23 minutes ... followed by another 3-4 minutes of getting everybody back to the stage, strapped up and actually playing will ultimately hurt you.

 

When I started in bands, it was always a twenty minute break... but there seem to be new rules around here. I play 3 gigs a week... where there is no 40- 20 at all. ( or whatever 45- 20 60- 20 ) One one gig I did as a sub on a very very hot ( temp ) stage we played 2hrs and 15 freaking min... short break which I was glad I was late for... then finished the 4 hour gig... that is 2 sets in 4 hours! And that was jazz gig. On a 3hr blues jam, I have played the whole dang 3 hrs with maybe time for some water to cool off!

On another 4 hour gig- three sets, first set is 1 and a half hours.. 30 min break - second set is over an hour, short break short third set.

The theory is PLAY while people are present. This week I have 7 gigs with 4 or 5 bands .. I don't think one single gig has a 40 or 45 min set... things have really changed is my point.

You don't have ideas, ideas have you

We see the world, not as it is, but as we are. "One mans food is another mans poison". I defend your right to speak hate. Tolerance to a point, not agreement

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just to show you typical bar gigs down here have either only one break in a 4 hour gig,2 hours first set , 20 minute break, then finish out the night.OR 3 1/2 hours straight no break..

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just to show you typical bar gigs down here have either only one break in a 4 hour gig,2 hours first set , 20 minute break, then finish out the night.OR 3 1/2 hours straight no break..

See, I told you the scene was changing.. Damn, that's a lot of playing!

You don't have ideas, ideas have you

We see the world, not as it is, but as we are. "One mans food is another mans poison". I defend your right to speak hate. Tolerance to a point, not agreement

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just to show you typical bar gigs down here have either only one break in a 4 hour gig,2 hours first set , 20 minute break, then finish out the night.OR 3 1/2 hours straight no break..

See, I told you the scene was changing.. Damn, that's a lot of playing!

 

ESPECIALLY if you are older like me, and drink lots of water during the gig :laugh:

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I think JustDan's read on the situation is spot on. We follow a similar format except we do two 90-minute sets, then a short "mop-up" set (e.g., six songs) to end the night. For the first song of each set, we go for the "wow factor" to catch the crowd's attention and let them know something different is happening.

"We don't stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing."

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