Choosing the Set

July 29 ,2009

I’m waking up here in Cary, NC. Last summer we had to cancel this show due to my vocal injury so I’m happy to be back! The vocals are better than ever by the way and we are off to a great start on the Gratitude Cafe Tour. It just goes to show you, whatever doesn’t kill you will definitely make you stronger.

Some folks have been asking me lately how I decide what, when and where I plan my sets and song selection so, I figured I would dedicate a blog to that topic.

Set lists in my mind have always been a blessing and a curse. Sometimes they save my show, sometimes they can hurt. I like to look at a set list as one possible trail I can take to the peak of the mountain. The peak of the mountain being the climax of a euphoric show. That set I write out is the head of the trail. A clear path into the unknown. I strike out on the set and along the way I may come to a fork in the path, another song pops in my head that fits the energy and vibe of the room. I think, “hmmm, do I stay on this path I planned so carefully, or do I venture off and blaze a new trail to the peak?”

When I’m feeling confident and in the zone, I always go with the flow. I always let the energies and the vibes of the room, the crowd, the band and the music flow into one another and ride that euphoria to a magical place. I freestyle the set. Of course, I have certain songs and groups of songs that carry with them different moods and I have a good idea what kind of reaction I might receive if I play them. Also, sometimes you have to play some dark music and go deep to make the light music shine brighter. It’s really all rather ethereal and hard to express in words. Like Jimi Hendrix said, “music sweet music I wish I could caress and touch”.

Then there are nights where everything is going wrong. There could be technical difficulties, your dog died, your girl left you, your mom yelled at you, you have child custody case, you spilled your drink, tripped on your shoelaces, your fly was down, the band is fighting, the Sixers lost, you’re out of weeeeed, your rents late and you’ve got heartburn and on top of that you just broke a guitar string. What can you do?? It’s showbiz. Keep on smiling and playing that guitar. Find the release in the music. Sometimes, on nights like that I rely heavily on a strong set to guide me to the top.
And that’s that.

Stay tuned for the next blog—“Choosing the songs”

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