Originally Published: May 14, 2010 12:52 a.m.
A band's play list can make or break it with its audience.
"You gotta make your audience happy," said Corey Burk, frontman and lead singer for the Ripptones. "The idea is to get them out of their seats and on the dance floor."
The Ripptones - Burk, lead guitarist and secondary vocalist Ed Flaherty, David Girardin on bass, and drummer Dwight D'Evelyn - has more than 70 songs on its standard play list. However, that list is constantly evolving based on audience response, the band's venue (bar, party or wedding) and the band's like or dislike of a song.
"About 30 percent of the songs on our list are developed at practice, about 30 percent are from e-mailing each other and suggesting songs, and about 30 percent are called out from audiences at venues," Burk explained during a recent rehearsal.
"More than one night we've banged out a request we hadn't done before and ended up adding it to the list," Flaherty said.
It's not that an audience necessarily dictates a band's repertoire, but a successful band learns to play to the audience. The Ripptones' song list includes dance songs, original scores, cover songs, audience requests and personal favorites.
"Corey is really good at staying in the moment and reading the audience," Flaherty said.
Ripptones fans know that Corey is as vocal between songs as he is while singing. Some of his favorite targets for jokes and banter are bartenders, friends and anyone in the audience who catches his attention.
"I get the idea of the audience's mood by bantering with the crowd," Burk said.
Although the Ripptones open each show with a four-set play list, and one "If Requested" play list, that may not be the way the show plays.
"David puts the songs in a very specific order, and Corey just calls them out at random," D'Evelyn said to chuckles from the band.
The singers in a band are the lynchpins to its song list. In the Ripptones, for example, if Burk and Flaherty can't sing a song, it doesn't make it on the list.
"Ed and I pick because we have to sing it, but the others get veto power," Burk said.
And Burk sometimes switches a show's line-up because his voice may not be ready for a certain song, or his voice is ready for a certain song but he thinks it may not be later, so he sings it early. Other times he may drop a song from the night's lineup because he "can't remember all the words."
The members of the Ripptones have personal song lists, songs that are their favorites, but may not be something the audience would request.
"Like when we play 'Whipping Post' by the Allman Brothers," Corey said. "There's probably three people in the audience enjoying it, and four people on stage loving it."
This past January, the Ripptones decided to target their peers - baby boomers.
It was Girardin's idea for Baby Boomer Night, and Hooligan's Pub on Whiskey Row jumped at the chance to host the event twice a month.
"But then we had to come up with baby boomer songs for the play list," Girardin said.
Burk formed the Ripptones in 2005, and he and about five songs from the first play list are the only original members still in the band. Although the band's website (www.myspace.com/theripptones) lists their music as classic rock, R&B, dance and blues, that does not cover the band's entire repertoire.
"Our song list is more esoteric than other bands," D'Evelyn said. "We go from Bill Withers to the Foo Fighters. We try to push everyone's buttons."
During Baby Boomer Night at 7 p.m. tonight at Hooligan's, 112 S. Montezuma St., the Ripptones play a new addition to its song list. Two months ago band members started a contest for a new song from fan suggestions, and Friday night they announce the winner and play the song.
"For us it's simple to choose what we play," Burk said. "What are folks asking us to play, and what are they responding to. Otherwise, we're just standing up there making noise."