An intrinsic part of rock’n’roll is the humble set list – that is, the list of songs that each band member has onstage, so that they all know which songs are coming next. An age-old and very worthy pursuit for gig-goers, presumably ever since gigs began, has been to liberate a band’s set list from the stage after the show as a memento – if you were lucky, you could perhaps even get one signed!
You can categorise the set list into three distinct species.
Well, I say three… I have to be honest, my experience only goes a certain distance here. When it comes to arena tours with their enormous stage productions, does the old paper set list get pushed aside? Personally I have no idea – for all I know there’s a little set list monkey backstage with an earpiece link up to all the musicians by which the monkey can communicate the next song. Although this seems unlikely. Perhaps best I stick to what I do know, which is:
(1) Neatly typed up in a bold sans-serif font (A4, capitalisation optional)
People that use these are far too organised, and I am a little suspicious of them as a result. This valuable stress-saving setlist is a winner in some ways, as you can print a bunch of them out before the tour or the gig, and then you’re done. But they come with one major drawback – the numerous wonky arrows, scribbles and in-retrospect-I-could-have-made-this-clearer style of shorthand alterations you must make if you want to change the song order around, which is by no means a rare occurrence.
(2) Neatly hand-written with black marker pen (A4, capitalisation essential)
A.K.A. The Classic. Most often written in the space between the soundcheck and the performance, allowing for maximum flexibility in choice of songs. Neatly written it is a thing of beauty, art in itself. Drawbacks include the need for carrying some plain A4 paper and decent marker pens at all times (regular set list writers will always have at least three dried up markers in their bag), and the fact that many musicians have handwriting that could make a doctor blush – so it’s important that these folk don’t get the job even if they want it.
(3) Scrawled in biro on the back of a cigarette packet (Size: the smaller the better)
It doesn’t have to be a cigarette packet. It could equally be a shopping receipt, a large rizla, or a hand. Usually features two different colours of ink from when the first pen runs out halfway through. The second colour will be written much more hurriedly. Honestly, what are you people thinking? Sort yourselves out.
I flirted with number one for a little while, but soon returned to my roots, the classic number two. We’ve all resorted to number three before at some point, it’s unavoidable, but there are people that actually make a habit of it. A preference for it even. THIS IS NOT ACCEPTABLE BEHAVIOUR.
Personally I like being able to choose the songs I think will work best after judging the venue, how I feel at the time, and the general vibe of the night – but this inevitably leads to a last-minute rush to try and get the set lists ready, at a time when you should really be psyching yourself up to perform, rather than scrambling around in the darkest reaches of your cases and bags looking for a marker pen.