Later today, I’m off to my first wedding of 2020. In 2018, I was at four. In 2019, my Google calendar makes it to have been 26.
I think I was only a guest at one of those; all the rest I was working. And while honourable mentions should go to Giardino Strings and The Mechanics for some of the bookings (and, in both cases, some non-wedding gigs too), the vast majority of last year’s jobs, and today’s, are with Miracle Cure.
The USP of this band is doing both standard pop/rock/covers material as a two-guitar four-piece, and also (when the extra cash is forthcoming) Irish songs (trad and well-known covers) and a few jigs and reels with a fiddle player added (me, or quite often my once and future colleagues Alleya or Maria).
One of the best things about that is that the crowd is usually at least a quarter Irish. And my observation is that culturally the Irish at a party – any party – don’t take themselves too seriously, are very difficult to embarrass, and are always up for a drink, a dance and a laugh. Which makes them a great crowd to play to for a function band. (You have a captive and usually tipsy audience at a wedding, but they may still sit in the shadowy corners of the tasteful lighting, chat and ignore you. Plus there are times when I watch a group of 30-something English punters on a dancefloor and just think of Jessie J: ‘Why’s everybody so serious? / Got their heels so high they can’t even have fun’. At my favourite wedding gigs, the couple have actually laid on baskets of cheap flip-flops to leave by the band and pre-empt excuses for not dancing!)
The double-edged sword of a Miracle Cure gig is they usually put all the Irish stuff in the second set, and so I turn up halfway through and set up in the break. On the plus side, I’m on site for less than half the time the rest of the band are and I do less sitting around (though I think all of us who play fiddle with Miracle Cure are gradually sliding into the non-Irish material just for the hell of it, though in principle it’s optional and I haven’t yet tried, let alone succeeded in, working out a part to ‘Sweet Child o’ Mine’). On the minus, I have to try and hit the ground running, because there isn’t really time in one set to warm up gradually, at gone 9pm, after a lengthy journey (pretty much anyone paying up for a live 5-piece at their reception is also having their wedding at a country house / hotel-type venue in the middle of nowhere), when the other musicians and punters have been at it for at least an hour. It can be intense. And the ratio of travelling to playing time can be unusual!
But, take it all in all, I get wedding pay for fairly straightforward work. And the sheer density of bookings (there were often two lineups out on the same night last year) speaks to the success of the project and the happiness of clients. Density of bookings also meant Miracle Cure paid a lot of my rent in the second half of last year. So you can expect there to be a lot more times in 2020 where I’m flailing away at my best fake trad Irish fiddle, and then posing in the obligatory pre-encore band-and-crowd selfie: