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Coffeehouse setlist suggestions

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I'm booking a show in April at the coffee shop I manage. It's going to be me and my friend Charlie, and we'll probably be switching around between acoustic guitar, electric guitar and electric bass. We're both singing.

Now, I'm trying to come up with a good setlist. Charlie has a few originals, all good. But while we'll probably play a few "coffeehouse-ish" type cover songs, I want to at strive for a few cover tunes that are either unconventional, unorthodox or just plain unexpected. I'd love some suggestions. Mind you, the bulk of the crowd will be Christian college kids--for what it's worth.

While nothing is totally final yet, here's an idea of what we're doing so far:

"the Outdoor Type" (Lemonheads cover)

"Atlantic City" (Springsteen cover)

"Total Depravity" (Havalina Rail Co. cover)

"Sexual Healing" (Marvin Gaye cover)

"I'm on Fire" (Springsteen cover..we figured out a really bizarre arrangement of this)

"Blue" (Jayhawks cover)

"Wreck of the Edmond Fitzgerald" (Gordon Lightfoot cover)

"Small Black Box" (Michael Penn cover)

"Northwest Passage" (Stan Rogers cover...probably the closer; it's a cappella, which--in theory--will be pretty stirring)

I also want to do one Son Volt, one VoL/Mallonee song, and at least one Motown tune (folk arrangement). Chris Isaak, Arcade Fire ("Neon Bible"), and Elvis Costello ("Radio Sweetheart") might make appearances.

There's a good possibility that I won't use many songs that are suggested, but even if I get one additional tune out of it, the suggestions will be worth it.

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How about Dar Williams' "The Christians & the Pagans"?

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I love Richard Thompson's acoustic take on Britney Spears' 'Oops I Did It Again.' Although it's a bit of a cheap shot since it's already been done.

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I also want to do one Son Volt

did you have on in mind already? If not, how about "Hanging Blue Side."

And some Richard Buckner might be good. Many, many to choose from, but I can hear "Ariel Ramirez" in a coffeehouse, no problem.

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I am in favor of taking popular songs that are basically anti-acoustic and, well, doing

to them.

Dale

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I am in favor of taking popular songs that are basically anti-acoustic and, well, doing
Yeah. My philosophy on covers is that you either take a relatively unknown tune and re-translate it for a new audience or else you take something more populist and totally flip it on its head. For the latter, it's great fun to take some manic, roaring rock tune and chill it. About ten years ago I started subtly dropping old Kiss covers in public settings, refried as ballads. They were almost unrecognizable.Strutter makes a wonderfully somber acoustic number. Last year, Ben Folds did one of the greatest covers in recent memory-- Dr. Dre's B*tches Ain't Sh*t in a very vanilla Bacharach-style arrangement. Glorious stuff. Edited by coltrane

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Do either of you harmonize? An acoustic version of "Purple Rain" would be fun.

Or "Keep on Rockin' in a Free World."

-s.

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Thanks for the great suggestions so far, folks.

Yes, we do harmonize.

And as far as approach goes, I pick songs based mainly on this--what I think I can do well. I've done the drastically reworked pop hit thing before (which is a lot of fun!--I did Macy Gray's "I Try" the best, I think). I also tend to pick fairly straight covers of songs I know most won't know, to hopefully expose them to new artists. Coffee houses in these parts usually just consist of Jason Mraz covers or other soft-sensitive-guy-tunes.

Edited by Jason Panella

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I like David Rawling's cover of Girls Just Wanna Have Fun.

It's on Youtube still I think.

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And, oh man, we can't forget Jonathan Coultron's AC cover of "Baby Got Back."

Dale

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And, oh man, we can't forget Jonathan Coultron's AC cover of "Baby Got Back."

Dale

Oh, and while this might not work in the coffeehouse setting, it reminds me that everyone should listen to "Baby got Book" at least once a year. There's a thread about this one somewhere.

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For the latter, it's great fun to take some manic, roaring rock tune and chill it. About ten years ago I started subtly dropping old Kiss covers in public settings, refried as ballads. They were almost unrecognizable.Strutter makes a wonderfully somber acoustic number. Last year, Ben Folds did one of the greatest covers in recent memory-- Dr. Dre's B*tches Ain't Sh*t in a very vanilla Bacharach-style arrangement. Glorious stuff.

This cat at a hotel in out in Santa Fe did just that sort of thing with several 80's pop/rock songs (Judas Priest and White Snake come to mind). Very lounge lizard arrangements. Then he broke out into an acoustic Little Wing. Very hip. What was crazy is I had just heard Monte Montgomery do Little Wing, too. That was mind blowing.

Joe

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One I'm thinking of adding--a cover of Jon Auer's cover of the Guided By Voices tune "Gold Star for Robot Boy." Covers of covers sometimes make me cringe, but I get giddy at possibly playing this.

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Years ago I was in a band that did Sweet Child Of Mine as a country song, in the vein of Townes Van Zant. It was fun watching everyone realize what they were listening to. It has been covered a bit ,so it isn't as surprising.

My sister sang Little Wing (with only acoustic guitar accompaniment) as my wife walked down the aisle at our wedding. That song gives me chills.

It looks like you are making some really good and interesting choices. I would love to see the set as it unfolds.

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Sweet Child O' Mine by Banda Do Sul from the Bossa N Roses cover album.

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OK, the show is next week, and I THINK Charlie and I have a set-list pinned down.

"the Outdoor Type" (Lemonheads)

"Total Depravity" (Havalina Rail Co.)

"I'm On Fire" (Springsteen)

"Atlantic City" (Springsteen)

"Sexual Healing" (Marvin Gaye)

"Prufrock" (original by Charlie)

"Stumbling Through the Dark" (the Jayhawks)

"Wishful Thinking" (Wilco)

"Cataracts" (Andrew Bird)

"Small Black Box" (Michael Penn)

I'm singing about half, Charlie has the other half--we both sing on plenty of them.

I realize in the end it's not the most creative list; I do appreciate some of the suggestions, too. I tried a few of the tunes, but they ended up not working for one reason or another.

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Revisiting the whole "cover song as an art" thing....

Played in D minor, and couched in a dark and very slooowwww blues setting ala Lightnin Hopkins, Motorhead's the Ace of Spades can be a pretty damn convincing number. I've been toying with it recently and it's really fun and would work well as a substitute for any brooding blues standard in a given set. (I've been listening to No Sleep Till Hammersmith for the last month and it's an underated and neglected little mastepiece... chock full of prospective covers begging to be retooled BTW)

Here's another: Give Sabbath's Neon Nights a spin in open E as a bouncy, John Denver-sih folk tune.

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Gotta love Lemmy!

Sabbath always throws the coffee house set. I used to do Fairies Wear Boots as a kind of Slim Harpo number.

Once, in a pique of admiration for both the Stooges and Don Walser, I did Search and Destroy as a country yodel. I'm a crap yodeler and it wasn't as successful as I would have liked but the looks of bewilderment were worth it.

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I did another show about two months ago; I acted as an intermission to some friends' comedy act.

My theme was "the '80s." I played:

-"Girls Just Wanna Have Fun," Cyndi Lauper (on acoustic guitar...my profile pic is of me playing it, actually...I did it similar to the Rawlings/Welch version)

-"Caribbean Queen," Billy Ocean (on acoustic...I did a fairly straight cover that somehow ended up sounding like a Pavement song)

-"Smooth Operator," Sade (on electric...I forgot most of the song so just played the chorus several times...it ended up sound like a slow jazz song)

-"Dancing in the Dark," Bruce Springsteen (on electric...ala Billy Bragg)

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