I usually mix covers and originals...you usually get 5 songs...I have a CD to sell so I get their attention with two covers that I am pretty sure nobody else will play, like Bill Wither's "Ain't No Sunshine" and then follow that up with "Here Comes the Sun" by George Harrison. Then I hit them with an original from my CD then another cover, and then finish with an uptempo original from the CD and announce that I have them there to sell! Usually works...
Also, I try to do my own version of some covers, so they recognize it and can sing along, but it's just different enough to make them listen. So, there's my two cents...oh yeah, always be prepared in case the act before you takes one of the songs you had on your list to play...that happens all the time!
Here I am at an open mic with my 1936 Regal dobro doing an old blues tune written the same year!
I have recently begun to do open mics again after a long time being away from it. I also tend to mix covers and originals. I am planning on doing one this coming week-each performer gets 15 minutes so I am thinking of doing 2 originals and 2-3 covers depending on length of songs. It seems that it's always good to have some songs that people recognize and, as Ed said, might want to sing along to. Have fun with the 3 upcoming open mics and let us know how they go.
Erik here - I'm with AER Amps, and also a part-time musician. My take on open mic's is that cover songs are best to get a crowd "engaged" right off the bat. If they hear something that they recognize (especially if it's done well, in a unique way), they'll listen. And then once you have their attention locked in, you'll have a much better chance of keeping it for some originals. So similar to Edward's strategy (above) - although going back to a cover (depending on open mic set length) at the end can also work well, leaving the crowd with something they recognize.
That said, it depends entirely on the crowd and type of open mic. If you have some killer originals, and the crowd is genuinely responsive and attentive, you may not have to dip into the cover songs repertoire at all.
Just got back from the open mic. Halloween in a college town...what a full-on FREAK SHOW!!!!!! Guess I'm even older than I thought.
Set went ok; I'd give it a B-. Opened with "You Ain't Goin' Nowhere" and had a few folks singing along. Last two songs were originals that were well received. Worst part was half way through the second song I got a tickle in my throat!!! Tried to wait between verses to cough, but didn't always make it.
Overall a positive experience. Note to self: bring a bottle of water on stage!!!
Glad to hear it went well!!! I have had the throat thing happen too...I always have something to drink up there with me now...we use a thing called a "swirlygig" that attaches to the mic stand...don't leave home without it!
We do "You Ain't Going Nowhere" too and it usually gets the audiences attention! One of the guys in my trio plays mandolin on it, the other guitar, and I play banjo and harmonica! I trade verses with the guitar player and on the last verse that I sing, i do my "world-famous Bob Dylan impersonation" this gets announces just before I song it and if some aren't listening, they do then. Of course my impersonation is bad, but that just make s it all the more fun!
Keep on doing it, it will only get better and more comfortable...I promise! Edward