Friday, May 19, 2006

The Wedding Swingers….

Ah yes – the wedding, the happiest day of your life, the day flying by in a blur, the family and friends coming together in a glorious celebration of love and matrimony….meanwhile, out the back, the band are probably huddled around, furtively smoking roll ups, scarfing down your buffet, or taking advantage of a slightly tipsy and emotionally unstable bridesmaid. And on a good night, all three. The sound that comes to mind when you hear the word ‘wedding’ may be one of any number of things. The chiming of church bells, the subtlest rustle of an ivory-coloured wedding dress passing down the aisle, the sob of a discarded suitor, the rattle of rice on church path, the howl of a confined infant…. to a band, the sound is ‘kerching!’ . To be fair, it’s not just the band – the venue, the caterers, the dress maker, the tiara-wrangler, the butcher, the cake-baker, the folks supplying the bar – a wedding booking says nothing to these people so much as “get thee to the travel agents, you’ve just paid for your summer holiday”. And to be equally fair, it’s always the band who are first on the list of people to call when the budget needs trimming. “Do you think you could do it for less by any chance?” is not an unfamiliar call to receive a few weeks before the big day when you’ve turned down all those social invitations that looked so much fun because you’re gigging – to which the answer is, quite correctly, “have you asked the others?”. And no-one ever has. Fortunately, being the kind of band we are, we have to put up with this sort of malarkey infrequently, as most of the nuptials we get to soundtrack (“Here’s to the happy couple, we hope you’ve had a great day and this is ‘The Bends’…..”) are as a result of folks having seen us in the pub and considering to themselves that we’d be a great addition to their special day (see previous posts on playing parties for details). It’s either that for them or they book a DJ who will either empty the dance floor, or who is so hang-doggedly soulless after three decades of these sorts of gigs that you might as well make your own compilation and stick it on the CD player between sets. Indeed this is what we’ve suggested for this weekend. C’mon, we’ve all seen the Peter Kay sketch…
In our case, the actual playing at weddings you get for free. We enjoy each other’s company, it’s a night out, and hey – who doesn’t enjoy watching a beautifully made-up girl in a posh frock whirling around barefoot on the dancefloor, literally letting her hair down in the process. I love a wedding, me. No, what you’re paying for is the hour we have to hang about at the start of the evening because the speeches are over-running, the dessert hasn’t been served and the coffee isn’t ready – not so bad when you’re greeted by a clearly relieved best man who apologises, points you at the kitchens and hands over the brown envelope of used notes, much worse when you’re invited to wait outside because the club rules don’t allow denim in the bar, invited to park around the corner as they need the front of the venue for the photos, told that no, refreshments are only for guests (bear in mind that we’ll have been asked to be there at anything up to four hours before showtime so that we’re “out of the way before the guests arrive”) or are shown the four-foot square allocation of floor we have to set up in because the DJ has rather cunningly turned up really early and nabbed the best spot in the middle of the stage and gone home to put his feet up in front of Dr Who for a couple of hours while his mix CD soundtracks the buffet. None of this is made up. We once turned up for a party to be asked by the DJ what sort of music we played as he, rather sportingly, didn’t want anything to be duplicated. Upon discovering that we did a version of ‘Twist and Shout’ he delightedly rummaged in a flight case and produced a battered seven inch single. We held our breath. “I play that one!” he shouted triumphantly. “Take long to work it out?” asked the Bass Player drily. You’re also paying for the turning down half way through the second number because people “can’t talk”, the requests for things we don’t do - “You must know it - it goes do do do de do de do…I’ll sing it for you!”, the occasional breaking up of fights and, of course, having to stay up until two a.m. before packing up because someone’s decided to have an impromptu karaoke session using your PA. I know, sounds terrible, doesn’t it? And me with this terrible pain in all the diodes down my left hand side. And so why do we do it? Well, for a start, obviously we have holidays to pay for too. And it’s always nice to be asked to play for someone’s big day – it brings the best out of us. The Bass Player has recurrent nightmares that years after one of these gigs people will not be talking about the dress, the weather or that unfortunate incident with the hog roast in the night time, but “…do you remember…wasn’t the band shit…?”. And there’s always something about these shows to take home and reminisce about. The time The Singer broke up a fight with the simple barked phrase “Tqke the moral high ground!” for instance. Admittedly it wasn’t the sudden impact of reason that stopped the fight but the incredulity that accompanied hearing such a suggestion in the midst of a quasi familial war zone. In Lincolnshire. Anyway, we have a wedding gig this weekend. We’ll be the ones at the back, furtively smoking rollies, scarfing down the buffet and, well, who knows……?

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