Just Say No to Cover Bands


March 15, 2017BY Jeff Starr

While it might feel safe to book a cover band to play songs we have all heard on the radio, it ultimately comes across as predictable and uninspiring. Your guests expect more.

There are a ton of bands out there who will perform at events and provide a more creative and memorable experience for your event. They are able to incorporate a wide variety of styles into their repertoire and appeal to the musical senses of a diverse audience.

Here are three bands we love. They appeal to different types of audiences and we have enjoyed working with them over the last few years.

The California Honeydrops

This Oakland-based, American blues and R&B band known for their diverse musical influences from Bay Area funk to Southern Soul and back around to Delta blues and New Orleans second-line. They cite influences from the likes of Allen Toussaint, Buddy Guy, and Dr. John.

Midtown Social

San Francisco’s preeminent party band with a blend of California soul, funk and rock. They’re a nine-piece band with three vocalists and procession incorporating afrobeat and modern jazz. They’re appealing, dance-worthy grooves and original soul-stepping anthems blend soul, funk and rock and hark back to some of the classic 70’s legends Tower of Power, Sly and the Family Stone and Chicago.

Rupa & The April Fishes

Globally inspired group based out of San Francisco and fronted by lead singer/composer and guitarist, Rupa Marya. They offer a mixture of songs ranging from jazz to punk with elements of reggae. Rupa sings in French, Spanish and English and personally cites influences from latin grooves, Indian ragas and Romani Soul.

Ultimately, what these three bands have in common, is they are not pigeonholed into one particular category. They are fluid and expanding, not rigid or exclusive. Their breadth of influence and interest doesn’t assign them to a genre and by sashaying across classification, they’re more likely to strike a musical nerve across attendees and draw more dancers to the floor.

We find audiences are more likely to be hooked early and stay engaged when the set list isn’t predictable and the songs aren’t trite and overplayed. Don’t get me wrong, there is a time and place for a capable cover band and if it’s a more conservative or new client, then maybe it’s the most appropriate booking.

That said, there are really three rules to adhere to before solidifying your booking.

  1. See the band live. You can’t really get a true sense of their style, energy, stage presence and moxie unless you’re able to check out a show.
  2. Understand your audience. What are their personal musical tastes and who are they listening to right now. What style of bands have they booked in the past (if any), and most importantly – what genre of must do they believe will resonate best with their attendees.
  3. Get the band excited about your event. Sometimes the connotation of playing a corporate event sounds staid and uninspiring. But, if you can stay super positive throughout the booking process and build up the audience in the entertainer’s mind, they’re going to be more excited going into the gig and put a little more effort into crafting the set list.

Lastly, have a handful of options besides your top recommendation in case that doesn’t resonate. Send over playlists, pull high resolution pictures from performances and ask the bands for their best and most recent videos and pictures for you to share.

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