No Plan Is Still A Plan

A set list is a standard tool used by performers all over the world since the beginning of time. To make a set list, you write down the songs that you intend to play in an order that you think will be pleasing.  Sometimes a lot of careful planning is done to ensure the setlist will take the listener on an intentional journey. Most often a setlist is frantically scribbled down on a bar napkin ten minutes before the show.  I have been known to compose setlists across this full spectrum of preparation.  In the past, I had a setlist for every live event.  Even for an open mic, I would burn plenty of time and brain power trying to plan the perfect song.  
In May 2020, I started playing a regular, live stream show on Friday afternoons that we affectionately called “No Plan Friday.” I wanted to play without a net.  I did not want a preconceived plan.  I think as a performer, my job is to take the audience on a journey.  A well-defined setlist can be great for taking that emotional journey if the listener is beginning at the same point as you. I think the mark of a truly great performer is the ability to gauge where a listener already is on the journey and begin from that point.  It should not be my ego taking you somewhere.  It needs to be all of us going there together.  
No Plan Fridays have allowed me to work on this skill.  I rarely make a setlist at all.  If I have a set list, I am comfortable departing from that list.  To quote Captain Jack Sparrow, “the setlist (pirate code) is more of a guideline.”   It’s good to have a map of the territory but more important to be able to look around and see where you are.   


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