NPR logo What's In A Set List?

What's In A Set List?

Photos: Amy Shriefer and Michele Guzman/NPR

For a band, a set list is a guide through the night's concert. For a fan, it's something tangible for a lucky few to take with them after the music ends. For NPR Music, hastily snapped iPhone photos of set lists give our producers and directors outside the event an idea of what to expect.

Upon looking back at our collection of snapshots from SXSW, we realized that not all set lists are created equal. Each provides a unique peek into the persona of a given band. A self-proclaimed musical perfectionist, James Blake produced a meticulously typed out list, including the venue and exact amount of time allotted for his set. On the other side of the spectrum, the eccentric Man Man scrawls and scribbles its set list in an array of colors, shuffling songs and adding flourishes with the manic energy its members bring to live shows. The young Yuck shows its age with cute doodles and an encouraging message penned at the bottom, while the rock veterans in Bright Eyes display their musical confidence with a smattering of question marks to fill in at the end of a long, neatly typed list.

All of which invites the question: What's in a set list?