Last night, pondering possible new 'attractions' for the bar, we evolved a rather addictive little trivia challenge around the music playlist.
The initial concept was to see how many artists one could recognise from a given run of 5 songs. This would have been an individual challenge, with each evening's participants recorded on a blackboard behind the bar. 5 out of 5 wins you a shot. This works well when things are quiet early evening. And it might be a format worth returning to, if we're going to make this a long-running gimmick.
But.... well, last night got surprisingly busy, surprisingly early. So, we needed something rather more communal, a direct punter-against-punter challenge. The game became.... be the first person to reach a total of 5 correct calls. Because you're now competing against others at the bar, timing is of the essence: you have to shout out the artist's name first. Playing solo had been a bit too easy for me: after crashing out on 4 out of 5 a couple of times (I do not do rap/hip-hop!!), I'd won my first shot of the evening. The quick-on-the-draw elaboration, though, put me under a lot of pressure. A young American tourist proved to have an uncanny ability - a quirky super-power - to recognise songs before they had even started. I suppose he just has rather more sensitive hearing than me, particularly for the higher ranges: there really were a couple of occasions when he named an artist before I knew a new track was playing! And his speed of response was awe-inspiring: with Rolling Stones songs, in particular, he was invariably able to call them within a fraction of a second. My breadth of musical knowledge was slightly - only slightly - greater, but he was whooping my ass on speed.
However, this initial variation on the game had a fatal flaw: if the challenge was merely to be the first to reach 5 correct artist identifications, someone would inevitably 'win' every half hour or so - even with points deducted for incorrect guesses, or long strings of obscure songs that no-one could spot, it wouldn't take too long for someone to reach the required total. With three or four of us in the game, with overlapping areas of specialism - the Motown Queen nailing anything remotely funky, "Radar O'Reilly" snapping up all the Stones and Creedence, me proving to be inexplicably knowledgeable about the 1950s - we were calling nearly everything. This works very well when there's just a small number of people in the bar - although it's perhaps going to hurt the bar's bottom line to be giving away so many shots! However, the exercise seems to become more collaborative than competitive.
And so, the final elaboration of our 'iTunes Challenge' became.... be the first person to achieve a sequence of 5 correct identifications. You have to be the first person to name the artist. You wipe your score if you call something wrong. No second attempts on any given song (though other players can still make their one attempt to name it, if the first person gets it wrong). Now, this is compellingly competitive. But perhaps it's now just a little too damn hard to win: with such formidable contestants gathered at the bar, no-one managed to be first to the identification more than 2 or 3 times in succession. Also, it becomes very hard to keep track; you have to be able to trust your fellow drinkers/competitors to keep the tally straight. And it becomes a bit of a hassle for the barman to keep checking your answers against the playlist, especially when things get busy.
I think the first or second formats actually work better. But it might have to be just an occasional divertissement on slow nights, rather than a regular feature. We shall see.