EXAMPLE 1:  A November Wedding – in a beautiful marquee…

EVENT:  Wedding Reception for Emily and Chris
BAND FORMAT BOOKED:  6 piece – drum, bass, guitar, fiddle, keyboards, additional female singer.
VENUE:  Marquee in garden of private property in Brockham, Surrey Hills.
MARQUEE COMPANY:  Inside Outside Marquees
CATERERS:  Two Many Cooks
BAND:  Rollercoaster
DATE: November 2015
TIME OF ARRIVAL: 2pm
FINISH TIME:  12am

(…written by Alistair (bass / vocal / band manager!)

This was a booking for the wedding of a highly respected caterer in the wedding trade (Two Many Cooks).  Emily called me up about 4 months before, and asked “I’m getting married in November – when are you available?”  And this isn’t so uncommon.  We actually get a few bookings asking if we are available over a few dates, or when we ARE available.  The point is, with Rollercoaster, when a booking is gone, we don’t split the band to take another date… we are simply committed to the confirmed gig. And with around 60 weddings a year, it can get quite busy in peak periods!22657302683_3ca0d379a3_b

The booking was for the 6 piece band (the fiddle / mandolin player had a previous commitment, otherwise it would have been the maximum 7 piece format).  Emily confirmed within days of the enquiry, and from then on it was lots of planning on her part.  This would lead to various timings for soundcheck, get in, etc.  The choice was made for the band to arrive at 2pm, meaning we would be setup and clear by 4pm, which 23258213366_9ec39502f5_bwas when the wedding party would be leaving the church, which was 100 yards along from the marquee.  Her first dance was to be Lauren Platt’s version of Happy, which we decided would be best played from the recording, as it is quite a heavily sequence piece (owing to it being a ‘mashup’ with Massive Attack’s Teardrop).  Emily had seen the band before at previous weddings and events, so chose to let the band have full control over the setlist, and any DJing in between.  To be honest, this is usually the best thing to do, though clients always have the option to add or remove whatever songs they choose form the selected list.  It means we can work to what is happening on the dance floor, as opposed to what a client will hope is happening on the dance floor.    Our set is designed to appeal to all ages, and we have enough to mix and match to any given occasion.  For this wedding, there was an Irish element, on the groom’s side, so we could play to this, though again, we would never saturate one style of music, unless it was absolutely appropriate.

A week before the gig, we spoke to Emily and checked all was good – we settled up any financial elements, and double checked timings.  We also double checked parking and access – which is important for the setup.  If the load in takes 30 minutes to negotiate and transport equipment to the stage, then this will mean the soundcheck may be cut short, which would affect sound quality later on, etc.  On the day, we were able to drive the cars up to the gate, so it was a short walk for the load in.

22916413399_8313aca56d_bThe stage was a wide, but a shallow one – meaning we would spread across the width of the dance floor, though there wouldn’t be room in front of the drum kit, due to the depth from the back of the marquee to the front.  It was raised just enough to allow the guests to see the band (and us to see the guests – important for communicating with the crowd).  Up-light were positioned across the back of the stage – a nice addition that creates depth and contrast behind the band.  There was a decorated tree in a large plant pot in the middle of the stage at the back, which meant we had to move the drummer over to one side (stage left), as opposed to being central as usual.  It wasn’t a problem, but would be something to consider when laying out a stage.  Power points were located across the back, making it easy for us to plug in the equipment.

The marquee company provided a wireless microphone, thatwe plugged into and tested with our PA.  We can 23258266706_3c6cae096b_bprovided a wired microphone, though this isn’t as good as wireless, due to the trailing wires across the dance floor – alternately we would hire in a wireless unit).  Today, the mic was to be used in the speeches, so I would demonstrate this to a ‘floor manager’ form the caterers, and later to the chosen MC.

The soundcheck took us right up to 4pm.  We checked that all the levels were right – making sure you can hear the
vocals, and all the instruments – going through sections of different songs, with our different singers (on a gig like this, there are 3-4 different vocalists taking the lead throughout the show).  We also set our lights, making sure they lit the band, and dance floor alike.  At any gig, the sound will tend to change slightly, with a room full of people, from that of an empty one.  We make sure one of the band members (fiddler or female vocals) heads out during an early point in the set, just to check is is all sounding good, and if needed, make any adjustments.  On the really big shows, we would22656046334_9ab6a9624c_o take a separate sound engineer, but for the most part, at the standard wedding, this isn’t needed.  The sound in marquees is second to none – it is THE favourite environment for a band to play in.  There are no sound restrictions – and anything the audience hears, is coming directly from the PA or the instruments… as opposed to being reflected off the walls.  Worst sound environment for a live band – a cathedral.  Best sound environment – a marquee!
Then we had the period between soundcheck and performance.  On this occasion, we had 2.5 hours between soundcheck and crew meals, which is why we ask for an area to chill out in and get changed (effectively a green room).  We were next door to a very fine country pub, so half the band went there for an afternoon tea, and the other half chilled in the main house kitchen.  With everyone back at 6.30, we were served a very tasty meal (naturally, with Two Many Cooks at the helm)  We then change into our suits and the started the count-down until heading out into the main marquee.  It may seem odd, but a mirror, and a private area to change is quite useful at this point – we need to look as good as possible- and hopefully it shows!

22916415649_81933d86f9_bSpeeches ALWAYS overrun.  Just occasionally, they don’t, but as a rule, they do.  We expect this, so are ready to hit the stage anytime from 8pm onwards (sometimes earlier)… though first dance is often 9-9.30.  It can be as late as 10pm… sometime later if the band have had a late extension.  Some parties opt for a finish as late as 3pm – and will relax on the timings to suit.  As I always say, every wedding / event, is different.  On this occasion, the speeches ended around 9, and we moved out to the dance floor to tune up and check the gear.  We have to check the gear, as sometimes guests will inadvertantly move levels, equipment etc.  Uncommon, but something we need to check.  We also need to re-tune the instruments.  Often, when we are setting up, the marquee will not be at full temperature… and all string instruments are susceptible to changes in air temperature.  Hence, by the evening, all the equipment could be out of tune…

23203242821_84026bac8f_bAfter getting the OK from all the musicians, I informed the MC that we were ready to roll.  He firstly invited the guests to witness the cutting of the cake (an incredible multi layered cake as it was), and then proceeded to welcome bride and groom to the dance floor for the first dance.  We will often introduce the bride and groom ourselves – the guests need encouraging out of the seats etc at the back to come forward – but there is no problem with the chosen member of the wedding party completing this task.  The drummer hit play on the iPhone (Emily had provided a special version of her first dance), and on the closing notes of the first dance, I announced “…ladies and gentlemen – Emily and Chris”… and the band started 22917922569_df3872fb09_bthe first set of live music!
We had a short 10 minute break at around 10.50pm, during which the drummer Chris DJ’d from his laptop, keeping the guests happy on the dance floor (at this stage, most folk will choose to head to the bar for refreshments).  Second set pushed on, and around midnight, after 2 encores, we played the final song – Daydream Believer (a great one for all the wedding party – young and old).

So at midnight, as the guests drift away to various taxis, lifts, or hotels, we started the pack down / load out.  By 1am, we were all in our cars heading home.  And that’s pretty well one example of Rollercoaster playing another happy couples very special day!

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For an example of the band performing in a similar marquee setup (also Inside Outside Marquees), have a look at the following video

EXAMPLE 2:  A December Wedding – at Ramster Hall, a Surrey Country house …

EVENT:  Wedding Reception for Nikki and Mark
BAND FORMAT BOOKED:  4 piece – drum, bass, guitar, with Jason on fiddle.
VENUE: Ramster House, Chidingfold.
VENUE WEBSITE:  www.ramsterweddings.co.uk
CATERERS:  Jacaranda
BAND:  Rollercoaster
DATE: December 2015
TIME OF ARRIVAL: 6pm
FINISH TIME:  11.50pm

(…written by Alistair (bass / vocal / band manager!)
This booking had been taken back in October 2015, so a relatively late booking.  They had settled on the 4 piece band, and decided not to get the band there early for setup.  The finish was no later than midnight, so there was no extra there – and it is a local gig, so no additional travel.  There is no sound limiter at Ramster, which means the overall balance of the band is much better… it’s actually a well laid out venue, with the bar at the back, then the tables, then the dance floor, and finally the performance area.

The band arrived at 6pm, and were able to load out immediately to the 23271887619_10cc9e5b70_bperformance area.  The setup at Ramster is such, that you can pull across a large screen, and load in / assemble equipment, out of sight from the wedding party, who are dinning at the other end of the hall.  The hall is also large enough to allow allow the dance floor to be clear from tables, which is a bonus, as there is no change around or moving tables when the meal is finished.  The speeches started around 6.30, at which point we went round the hall into the long room where the coffees would be served.  It was here that the caterers brought out our meals.  Jacaranda are a very experienced catering company – they are sole caterers for Ramster, as well as Bury Court Barn (another top venue in the area)… and they always get it right, which is key at any wedding or event!

23012793233_f2ef7e2060_bThe speeches went on slightly longer than expected, but we returned to the room when they were complete, and continued setting up (the guests moved through to the other room for coffees and to cut the cake).  The aim was for an 8- 8.15pm start, and we were ready to roll at 8.15 (we started playing background music through the PA).  We had pre-warned that timings vary, depending on how long speeches go on.  Nikki had not wanted the band string up during speeches, which is not a problem, but can affect setup time.  As it is, the typical first dance takes place around 8.30-9pm, so we had plenty of time for a good party.23613782346_484bb29890_b

The ushers brought the wedding party through at 8.20, so within the next five minutes, I called the guests up to gather round the dance floor (people tend to hold back, which doesn’t give people the best view of the first dance).  Nikki and Mark had asked the band to learn the first dance (we ask for 3 months notice to do this), which was Magic by Coldplay.  I introduced the happy couple to the dance-floor, and started playing.

The first set ran until around 9.45, at which point we to a break from playing, and DJ’d modern and contemporary party songs, as requested by Nikki and Mark.  Cheese and biscuits were served at the back of the hall.  As happens with most weddings, the majority of the guests to the break as a chance to go to the bar, to chat, to head outside etc.  Only a few people stayed on the dance floor.  This is 23557469821_c40b4c556d_bstandard, and happens irrespective of the music being dj’d.  On a few occasions , there will be a group of guests who will dance throughout – though this all depends entirely on the wedding… each and every event is different in that respects.

We started the second set at around 10.30, and ran it right up until the finish 23344158190_c5efcaffda_bpoint of 11.50.  We always try to close the night with a slower tempo song.  This leaves the guests happy, but not worked up i.e.  500 Miles is NOT a great track to end on, where as Daydream Believer, or Champagne Supernova ARE.  500 Miles IS a fantastic songs to play one before the end…  It’s a method of ‘set design’ that works well!

The guests departed, leaving us to pack up our gear…and we were away from the venue by 1am.

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EXAMPLE 3:  A Village Hall 70’s Themed 50th Birthday

EVENT: Joint 50th Birthday Party for Nic and Chris Record – 70’s Themed
BAND FORMAT BOOKED:  6 piece – drum, bass, guitar, fiddle, additional female singer.
VENUE:  Marquee in garden of private property in Brockham, Surrey Hills.
MARQUEE COMPANY: Headley Village Hall, Headley Down, nr Churt.
CATERERS:  Self Catered
BAND:  Rollercoaster
DATE: December 2015
TIME OF ARRIVAL: 5pm
FINISH TIME:  1am

(…written by Alistair (bass / vocal / band manager!)

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Gina (guest) greets Holly

Jenny approached the band around one year in advance of the event.  Her husband Nic was to be turning 50, along with his twin brother Chris.  Chris would be traveling from Dubai, along with a few of his friends, as well as friends an family from South Africa.  Jenny was aiming for a surprise party.  She didn’t want it to be over the top – though they had the choice of the country houses, castles, tithe barns etc on the area.  She wanted it local, in their village… and rather to pay attention to the details.  Jenny had seen Rollercoaster at a Charity Fundraiser in a village hall in Thursley… and she and Nic had loved the vibe… and seen what could be done with a simple venue when you pay attention to the decoratio
ns and lighting.

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Band Bonding

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70s Al

So with the band booked, one year in advance, the client had a chance to figure out the details.  It would be a Studio 54 Theme / 70’s Disco style.  Rollercoaster play all genres of music, but we can arrange the set to include more of certain songs – in this case, we would put the disco tracks toward the start.  There was no requirement for Celtic songs, so these most likely would be left out of the set.  Jenny was going to self cater – ie. it wasn’t a specific catering company – as the 70’s theme meant certain 70’s canopes would be served.  There would be catering staff to serve these.  There would be a Vodka luge, and a full free bar, which would be opposite the pole… for the pole dancing!!!  The venue lighting was handled by a friend of Nic and Jenny’s… who worked in the lighting business.  We looked after the stage and dance floor needs (complimented by the glitter balls etc)

During the year, Nic found out about the party.  We’ve played many a party that was intended to be a surprise… and few have succeeded.  I would say, it’s very hard to accomplish, though great if you can!  Anyway, Nic and Chris knew, and were now looking forward to the big event.

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Glitterball-tastic

So on the day of the big event, the band set off for the venue.  It was a relatively local one, so this meant leaving the house around 4-4.30 for a 5pm arrival.  Guests would be arriving at 7pm, so this gave us enough time to be setup and sound checked.  All venues are different, so that’s what a sound check is for.  Sometimes we will add more bass frequencies, other times, more reverb (in a big hall, it would be less reverb, as there are lots of reflections o
high ceilings etc.)  We also need to work out how we will set up the lights – sometimes it’s not possible tohave them off the stage, so we adjust their location and height.

Chris (drummer / DJ) had prepared a playlist of 70’s disco songs… whenever there is a theme, we’ll prepare this in advance, or the client will provide their choice of playlist (by memory stick, cd’s or advance as a Spotify Playlist).  So when the guests arrived, he put some quieter music on… people really need to drink, eat, catch up etc before it ramps up… plus this gives everyone a chance to relax, and allows for latecomers.  Around 9pm we hit the stage, kicking off with tracks by Barry White, Stevie Wonder, The Jackson 5, and Dolly Partons’s 9-5.  After that, we moved into the rest of the set, leaving out any of the slower tracks.  During the break, we kicked into the true disco section, and the guest threw their finest 70’s moves – and it was a spectacular sight!

70s Rob

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Chris ‘Hendrix’ Haigh

It’s worth mentioning, the 70’s theme is a particularly good one to have people in fancy dress – it was a great chance for the band to open up their shirts, put on wigs and sunglasses… and have fun on stage – in a 70’s kinda way (as you can see by the pictures.  It’s also a fab genre to be able to Dj in the gaps and at the end.  On this occasion we finished live and DJ’d for the final 30 minutes.  For this final 30 minutes, we turned all the disco lights out fro
t (off the band) and packed various equipment down.  This speeds the time we can get out of the venue at the end, which in turn, means less time for anyone waiting to lockup – not so relevant for larger venues, though some do have a ‘off the premises by’ clause.

After the last tune, the lights were brought up, and the guests departed… with various promises of flying the band out to Dubai for
various forthcoming parties.  We packed up, loaded out, and were heading home around 1.30am.  Another successful night in the life of a Rollercoaster band!