I’m never sure if I look forward to weddings or not.
Of course, I’m not talking about either of my own weddings. I looked forward to both of them quite a bit. And the second one ranks as the best day of my life, if I was prone to labeling and ranking and sorting out my days in those kinds of ways.
I’m also not talking about the great fun and special feeling of attending a wedding of friends, or family… people we wish all the best for.
No, no– I’m talking about the weddings I play.
The weddings that fill up my summer weekend calendar, make my husband grit his teeth, make me unable to attend our friends’ potlucks, ball games, movie nights, evening floats. birthday gatherings, sometimes, even, weddings.
The wedding gigs.
I have been playing music in western Montana professionally for sixteen years, give or take.
In Montana, weddings are often quite a ways away from town… up to three or four hours. They are sometimes overnight affairs asking up to two full days of time from people who aren’t close friends of the couple. It’s a big deal.
I have probably attended a hundred or more weddings…. as part of The Band.
That is a LOT of weddings. I have eaten more than my share of salmon and rice pilaf, squeezed under droopy tarps in the rain, perched on rickety stages and trailers, swatted mosquitos between solos, and fended off would-be-toast-makers after the bride said “no more.”
I’ve also had the opportunity to take a canoe out at 2 AM on a pudding-silent Holland Lake, stars like fish in our wake; to watch a hundred delirious brides and grooms dance their starry first dance; to belly up to a bar staffed by the happy couple “cause that’s the only way we figured we’d see everybody”; to taste cherished family liqueurs and marmalade and local bison and outrageously good barbeque of all types.
I feel extremely lucky to play weddings with my bands, a pretty idiosyncratic couple of bands, who don’t fit the “wedding band” job description. We are so lucky that there are couples who want to hire us to… well, to do what we do! rather than what a “How To Hire A Wedding Band” guide from Real Simple magazine recommends.
Neither of my bands plays “a little something for everyone.”
We don’t mostly play familiar tunes.
We don’t have horns, lights, a hot chick singer, a fedora wearing lead singer dude, or a set list.
We don’t fit the bill.
But tonight, under a drippy, droopy tarp, Caroline and I played a fiddle-guitar version of “Faith” (George Michael) while the boys refreshed their beers. We played a beautiful version of David Rawling’s “Ruby”, a live-karaoke version of “Gin and Juice”, a lovely “If I had a Boat” (Lyle Lovett) and a whole biunch of Caroline and Nate’s originals with hardy party wedding folk dancing in the rain.
I never know if I look forward to weddings or not– but it’s funny– weddings are almost always a good time.
People are happy!
The ladies are dressed up and looking lovely (and in Montana, dresses + boots is typical, and, at least according to my bandmates, that is A-OK on the lady-watching front.)
There’s yummy food, and drinks are flowing. Good for the band and the crowd.
Usually a beautiful place. I mean, outdoors, Western Montana, summer. Nuff said.
And, here I get personal…
I think people who hire either of my bands are folks who want authenticity over certainty. Character over predictability. “
I should print up “business” cards that say:
“Me and my friends (and that’s me and my bandmates) would love to help you and your friends have a fun time at your big party. If you like the music we play, we’ll have fun!!!”