I played a wedding ceremony and cocktail hour last weekend at a fancy golf/sailing club down in Wellfleet. Overall, this one was pretty easy compared to some weddings I’ve played. That is, no major glitches with equipment, a great wedding coordinator whom I’ve worked with in the past, a bride who didn’t make unreasonable or unrealistic demands. Still, because this is the height of tourist season here on Cape Cod and Wellfleet is on the opposite end of the Cape so it took me about two hours of stop and go traffic to get there. Fortunately I’d left plenty of time to get there and set up and being a long-time resident of the Cape I knew what I was in for.
Setting up was quite involved as I had to set up three systems, one for the use of the officiant (so attendees could hear the ceremony….brides never consider that an outdoor wedding makes it tough for all to hear), one set-up for playing the processional and recessional music, and my better system for playing the cocktail hour in a tent nearby. There was only one small glitch with transitioning from one song to the next during the processional but I doubt anyone noticed or cared. Playing the cocktail hour was about as expected too, i.e., no one was listening except the bartender nearby. That’s OK though. I understand what my function is at these types of things, in short, it ain’t a concert! The pay and tip were good and the ride home was tolerable. I chalk this one up as a win.
Regarding those set-ups. If you are going to play an outdoor event you must always consider things you take for granted at inside gigs like access to power for amps/P/A.’s Always bring as long an extension cord as you can find and attach a multi outlet splitter to the end, and hope like hell that the electrical service where you’re playing can handle the power draw. Two of those three set-ups are battery powered, something I learned was just about vital a few years ago. One of them is the relatively new Bose S1 Pro, a very nice sounding and amazingly small and light unit. I mount that one a PA pole and everyone could hear my playing just fine. Also, consider the possibility you will have to spend time in the hot sun. Some players actually write into their contracts that a source of shade must be provided. I did not do that and did have to play in the sun but thankfully there was a nice breeze off the water so it wasn’t too bad.
But because of where I expected to have to set up I brought along my “back up” guitar, a Yamaha FG-830 with a K&K pick-up for use in the direct sunshine. It’s a nice guitar and I didn’t worry about it as much as I would the Martin that used under the tent for cocktail ceremony. If you’re going to be playing outside a lot it makes sense to invest in a serviceable back-up guitar. And as always, I bring duplicate equipment such as extra cords, tuner, strings of course, batteries and other small things because there need to be options if something breaks down. Which it may very well do!
On the subject of wedding music, I’ve heard good bands and not so good ones at weddings I’ve played or attended. An example of a not so good one follows.
My home and studio are located about a mile from a place called Bourne Farm, which is a historic farm and grounds that are often rented out for weddings. We can easily hear the bands who play under the big tents that are brought in for events. I’ve heard some great ones, bands with horns and a repertoire that is sure to keep people dancing. On the other hand, the band that played a wedding there last weekend was sorely miscast for such an event. It consisted of a single electric guitar, electric bass, drums and female singer. First, they were loud. I mean, way loud. If I can hear them perfectly through a mile of woods I can’t imagine what they must have sounded like close up. Then there was the tune selection. Slow, slower, slowest would describe it. Somehow I never thought of a 15-minute version of “House of the Rising Sun” (complete heavily distorted screaming guitar solo for about 10 of those 15 minutes) as being a wedding song! And it went downhill from there. The woman singer would more accurately be described as a screamer/wailer. And then, for the big finale, a 20-minute version of……. Freebird! More screaming and wailing and speed demon distorted lead guitar playing. I don’t know about where you are, but in every venue I play the tired old joke is to shout out: FREEBIRD!!! to whoever is playing. There is no bigger cliché in rock music history. Yikes.
Maybe they were the cousins of the bride or something. That is the only reasonable explanation I can come up with regarding why this band was playing a wedding reception. So glad I wasn’t invited to that one!!
On the absolute opposite end of the musical spectrum was the concert I attended in Woods Hole last week by one of my favorite singer/songwriters, Kim Richey. I’ve written about her before in this space and it blew my mind that she was doing a show so close to where I live and I just had to go. Her appearance was an adjunct to the Woods Hole Film Festival, which was showing a documentary about the famous Bluebird Café in Nashville. Kim is sponsored by that venue and she got her start there – cooking! She went on to record some Grammy nominated songs and her songs have been covered by many famous artists. As usual, Kim was terrific – what a voice! – and the audience of about 100 loved every minute. Her guitar playing is rock-solid rhythm guitar on an old Gibson J-50, which suits her voice and songs perfectly. She was also very funny and self-deprecating, something I love in performers. She hardly ever tours “up North” so this was an even bigger treat. Check her out if you have the opportunity, you will not be disappointed, promise!
For my part, this summer is turning out to be extra memorable at the Daily Brew as I’ve had some very talented local musicians sitting in with me just about every Sunday morning on the back deck. The crowds have been responsive and I’ve met many interesting summer visitors to our area. I continue to be constantly grateful for this long-term gig. In a few short weeks summer will be fading away, the tourists will be back home and I’ll move back inside the Daily Brew. Hopefully, local musicians will continue to sit in. It’s so much fun! Hope to see you there one of these days, too!
Peace & good music,