Chances are you’ve been invited to a wedding this month. Churches, park gazebos, American Legions and offices of Justices of the Peace are booked. Tux shops are on high alert. Bakeries and florists are all-hands-on-deck. Everybody wants to get hitched in June.
The sixth month is a great and horrible period for disc jockeys and wedding bands. There is no better time of year to make money. There is no worse time of year for personal abuse. The wedding deejay is universally reviled. The wedding band is whole-heartedly despised. The only solace for either is when the checks don’t bounce and the bridesmaids with whom you shared drinks and more don’t test positive.
Wedding deejays vary in size, age and aptitude from your 13-year old cousin Timmy with his three daisy chained iPods plugged into two guitar amplifiers all the way to fifty-five year old former local celebrities who gave up on their careers as morning show hosts on the hit station to spin records and chase small children from the recently purchased five hundred dollar dry-ice fog machine.
I feel such compassion for wedding deejays that I shall resist all temptation to lampoon them, partly out of respect for friends in the industry who have fallen prey to the trap and partly because I know there will come a day when it will be the only work I can get.
Instead, I’d like to talk about wedding reception bands.
There are two types of wedding bands: full-time and part-time. A full-time wedding band is an armor-plated squadron of battle-tested veterans whose skin is wholly impenetrable. You can abuse them, scorn them, ridicule them and they’ll reply with kind smiles and a signed contract. They’ve seen it all, they’ve done it all and they’ll repeat the process again, possibly twice in the same day, three times in the same weekend. Their suits are always pressed, their breath is always fresh, their instruments are always tuned and they clean the stage when they leave. There is no song they cannot fake for tip money and no bride who isn’t the loveliest Princess they’ve ever seen.
And then, there’s the kind of wedding band I’ve been a part of: the part-time wedding band. They are usually a group of artists who have yet to get the big break from the music industry. They remain convinced that break is just around the corner. In the meantime, they’ve agreed to play at Tony and Tina’s nuptial because Tony is the bass player’s second cousin and more importantly, Tina’s father is loaded with cash.
The wedding is often the highest paying gig the part-time wedding band has ever played.
Comparing the two kinds of wedding bands is an easy task. They’re completely different animals. The alligator-filled moat that separates the two is music selection. The full-timers, as I’ve mentioned, know every song ever written (and if not, can fake it). The part-time band, however, only knows one song that had anything to do with the bride and groom. They got together on Wednesday night before their one-night gig at the Barney’s Beef n’ Booze to learn the chord progressions to “We’ve Only Just Begun”, a song that all of them hate.
Chances are, the full-time wedding band also hates this song, but they, unlike the part-timers, respect the Carpenters. They don’t respect them as artists, but as a means to an end, as a way to make a living that does not involve a shovel of some kind. The full-time band does not judge the music they play, but tries to find some focal point in every cheesy song that will make each pass with less pain. The turn-around in Kool and the Gang’s “Celebrate”. The bass line of “We Are Family”. The occasional beaver shot provided by the removal of a bride’s garter during the playing of “Do You Think I’m Sexy”. These are the tiny steps that bring the professional, full-time wedding band closer to the end of the night.
The part-time band has spent the past two years playing a collection of heavy metal originals to largely deaf drunks in a series of smoky dives. They consider requests to be personal affronts to their ability. But, because Tony is the bass player’s second cousin and Tina’s father is loaded, they will acquiesce to pleads for volume control during the second-set Motley Crue medley.
The true test of any wedding band is not the ability to play “The Bird Dance” or give a heartfelt introduction of the newly married couple to total strangers the band will never see again. The true test comes later in the night, after everyone’s eaten, drunk, eaten, drunk, danced, drunk and drunk some more. At that point a drunken Uncle will walk on stage, demanding to sing his version of “Moon River”. While there is no scientific proof, I have compiled some evidence that this same man has been at every wedding since the beginning of weddings. He’s no one’s Uncle, actually. He’s just a drunk man who likes to sing Andy Williams.
The full-time wedding band will graciously allow the mumbling sweaty oaf to drool all over their microphone and somehow follow him as he sings one verse, repeats the chorus three times in a row and falls down, shouting “I love everyone!”
The part-time wedding band will pay no attention to the Uncle as he climbs into the stage and will jack-boot him in the small of his back as soon as he touches any of their equipment. As he falls, he will shout, “I love everybody!” which will be taken as a cue for all cousins to beat the band about their heads and necks with their guitars.
So, if you, like nearly everyone in the United States of America, are attending a wedding this month, make sure to ask the band if they’ve played many weddings prior to this one. If they answer, “Yes! We love weddings!” feel free to sit close to the stage. If instead, they mumble that they’re there because the bass player is the second cousin of the groom, but they hear the father of the bride is loaded, seek shelter.
Fireworks will ensue.
Sometime after “YMCA” and before “Cat Scratch Fever”.
Now, come on, everybody! Who wants to do the “Electric Slide”?