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
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!
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 was 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.
The 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 provided 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 would 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!
Speeches 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…
After 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 the 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!
For an example of the band performing in a similar marquee setup (also Inside Outside Marquees), have a look at the following video