Do you take requests?

By SAM PFEIFLE  |  April 4, 2013

"But playing in bars you have to be open to requests," he allows. "It's just part of the thing."

Man, can that thing get old, though. The request every acoustic band gets most nowadays is for "Wagon Wheel," by Old Crow Medicine Show (and now with a popular cover by Darius "Hootie" Rucker). Everyone jokes that it's the new "Freebird," except people actually expect you to play it. Jose Ayerve has a great story about finishing up a gig as A Severe Joy, which is essentially a one-man electronic performance-art show, only to find "PLAY WAGON WHEEL" in big block letters (and circled) on the email list sign-up sheet he'd put out.

"I won't do 'Wagon Wheel,'" Rowe says. "I won't even learn 'Wagon Wheel.' If they want 'Freebird' it better be printed on the back of a $50 bill, and the same goes for 'Sweet Caroline.' There's a list of songs that I absolutely refuse to learn.

"Sometimes they come up and ask for a song that I don't do, but I'll say, 'Of the millions and millions of songs ever written, that's one I don't know.' Sometimes they laugh and sometimes they say, 'You're a fucking asshole.' You just don't know what you're going to get."

At times, though, doing a requested cover is the only way to win the room. Basiner says he will actually ask for a request if he can hear the buzz of conversation starting to take over a show. "Breaking down that division between audience and artists is really important to me," he says. "You're all there to have a good time . . . Hey, Tom Petty is out there doing a rarities tour. I mean, come on, man, they want to see the hits! They're probably rarities because they're songs that aren't that good!"

Rowe finds another way to bridge the audience-request divide. He'll play covers if they're written on the backs of bills offered as tips. Of course, this can backfire, too.

"I got testy with a group who kept sending up money with requests on the back," Rowe says. "I played them, and then I played a song I wanted to play. Then they sent up a bill with, 'play something that doesn't suck,' on the back. A lot of people think we're just jukeboxes and they stick a dime in and they get what they want. But that's not the way it works."

The audience has a responsibility, Rowe and Basiner agree, to make requests that make sense. At least, they both suggest, have some understanding of what they're up there trying to do. "We got a request for a Justin Bieber tune the other day," Basiner laughs, "and it's just like, 'Really? Does that sound like something we would play?' But that's pretty rare. We've stuck so firmly to the genre that we're in that people for the most part have some sense."

"I'm an entertainer first," Rowe says, "and I am apologetic when I get a good and sensible request that I don't know. I want everyone to have fun. That's my mission, and it bothers me when I can't deliver that. But there are some people that you just can't do anything for."

And that's when you just might get punched in the head. ^

< prev  1  |  2  |  3  |   next >
  Topics: News Features , Dave Rowe
| More


Most Popular
ARTICLES BY SAM PFEIFLE
Share this entry with Delicious
  •   FIRST SECOND COMING  |  August 22, 2014
    Hey, look, I Discovered a Planet
  •   THE CRUNK WITCH THAT THEY ARE  |  August 14, 2014
    Three albums in, Crunk Witch are now far more than novelty. The all-digital, husband-wife duo of Brandon Miles and Hannah Collen have created enough material at this point to establish a clear method behind what can sometimes seem like madness.  
  •   FIRE ON FIRE  |  August 07, 2014
    From the varying deliveries and styles through the three fully instrumental tracks, there’s a lot to consider in Pyronauts , with equal attractions in playing it loud in the car with the windows down and in the headphones.
  •   HIP HOP SUMMER  |  July 31, 2014
    For pure output, it’s hard to argue Portland is anything but a hip hop city.
  •   SEVEN-MAN ARMY  |  July 24, 2014
    Lately, it’s been open season on “Wagon Wheel,” which has become the acoustic musician’s “Freebird,” one of the very few songs that people actually know well enough to find it funny to request.

 See all articles by: SAM PFEIFLE