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The Art of the Set List

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

We'll look at how artists and club DJs pick and organize the songs they play in live performance. Guests include Christopher Borrelli, who wrote about the topic in the Chicago Tribune, and musician Ira Kaplan of the indie rock band Yo La Tengo.


Christopher Borrelli and Ira Kaplan

Comments [7]

Jeremy from Manhattan

A improvisational rock band from Chicago, Umphrey's McGee, has played a series of special events over the past 12 months or so where those in attendance are able to text the setlist to the band (their sound caresser handles the voting).

These events culminated with a full concert in April, complete with four sets of music chosen by the fans either live or through voting that occurred before the show.

Jan. 05 2011 05:26 PM
Chad from Greenpoint

I think it is interesting to see how "set list," as the guests have been describing it, means a variety of things: how well the set was played (as in what fans say after a show), the song-list itself and how the pieces appear to respond to one another, what the artist wants the music to do in the context of a particular night, the structure and emotional barometer of a crowd and performance, etc.

I think the more interesting question might be how a set-list changes during a performance and what that might mean in terms of performance. Any thoughts?

Jan. 05 2011 02:49 PM
Matt from Jersey (again)

Yeah, I realize that takes away some of the surprise from seeing the show fresh and without any expectations, but the music speaks for itself, I think.

Jan. 05 2011 02:47 PM
Antonio Becerril from Mexico

Yes, we the listeners want the hits, but they have to be clever in generating an atmosphere and a vibe, just like a Springsteen, KISS or the Stones. They give you the hits and the rarities.

But the worst setlist was when Judas Priest played Breaking the Law as it's third track, leaving no magic or expectation to fill another hour and a half with lame solos and floozy improv.

Jan. 05 2011 02:47 PM
Matt from Jersey

If I'm going to see a band that's been around for a long time, I'll check one of those set list sites to see what songs they've been playing - old ones vs. new ones. You know, purely for reference. But in the end, you still hope for an exciting set at your own show, either way.

Jan. 05 2011 02:43 PM

My college band played exactly one show while it existed--we designed our set list around the material we had in the order we thought it would sound best.

Jan. 05 2011 02:43 PM
Peter from Crown heights

The best live show I've ever seen (Yo La Tengo excluded) was a show by Komeda in Minneapolis.

They didn't know a local station had made a hit of a song that wasn't the album single. They played it second on the list, the crowd went crazy, and they were dumbfounded. The unexpected reaction led the band to scrap the set list and play tunes based on the increasingly rapturous audience response.


Jan. 05 2011 02:39 PM

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