A Set List: It May Not Be Rocket Science But . . .

Editor’s Note:  We are including the Independence Pup with this post.  Our July 4 post will be solemn.  So, today, we say, “Happy Fourth of July!”

Figuring out what we are doing means figuring out what we are going to play.  Yes, we have to have a set list.

More than a year ago, we wrote about developing a set list in a blog.  Then, the whole “live thing” was totally new.  As time went by, we added songs to our “inventory” -- usually out of necessity.  Somewhere along the line, we could “mix and match” depending on how long we were playing and whether we were playing with another band.  Creating a set list became easier.  Still, to continue growing, we tried out a new tune or two almost each time we played.

As you know, the landscape changed.  So building a set list for the July Sunday Surf Party meant going back to basics.  Or was it an opportunity to tweak the focus of the band?  Remember Paul’s words, “It’s what you make of it.”

Tweaking might not be a bad idea.  Most people who attend our performances are not true surf devotees.  Many are family and friends who are there to support us; they are quick to say that instrumental surf is not necessarily their favorite music.  Some tell us that they like the atmosphere of retro rock played in a family-friendly venue where they can sit, listen, eat, drink, commune, and maybe bowl.  They sing along or nod approvingly to recognizable covers.  Go too far astray, and noses wrinkle and brows furrow.

Except for a few surf aficionados, nobody knows -- or cares -- whether Mr. Moto or Penetration or Pipeline is played true to the originals.  Alternate or tremolo picked versions of some “standards” probably do not float as many boats as we might think or hope.  Our audience prefers the Ventures to Dick Dale.  New songs go over only if they seem or feel similar to old ones.

Besides, the Sneaky Tikis will bring high energy, alternate picked surf music to the July Sunday Surf Party.  They will play the “classics” in a style that I love:  Uptempo, loud, heavy tremolo picking, glissandos, trading leads.  They will demonstrate exceptional skills and talent.  In Becky’s words, “they are UNbelievable!” 

So our set list should give the audience a chance to catch its breath.  The set can be a contrast to the power and energy of the Sneaky Tikis.  It can offer something fresh to the audience’s ears.  Besides, let’s be real, we cannot come close to the Sneaky Tikis at their game of revved up surf rock.

Finally, the Pups will not be the same as before.  Our band will have a different personality.  Our set list must work with that personality (whatever it is).

Creating a set list is not rocket science.  But it is more than throwing darts at a list of songs.  The goal is to provide those who make the effort to come out to a show with something that fits their musical sensibilities, stays fresh from song-to-song, leaves them with some pleasant memories, makes them feel welcome and appreciated, and lets them know that we are having fun. 

Thinking about this stuff could bring on a headache.  Or was it spilling coffee?  Wait!  Have to remember this is not rocket science.

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