Prelude Entertainment Blog
It was a beautiful day in downtown Chicago, and the perfect day for a wedding. I pulled up to the valet at Pettterino’s and unloaded my gear, ready to DJ another wedding, one of hundreds I have had the honor of being a part of over the years. My pianist was already enchanting the crowd in the reception area, and the champagne had begun to flow. I had almost two hours before I had to begin my DJ groove thang, which included the dinner hour. I leisurely set up my typical DJ set up with my speakers and lights on stands and cables tucked away out of sight. The cocktail hour was lovely, and Tommy Muellner, one of my favorite jazz pianists to work with, was exemplary as usual. Having a jazz pianist, or classical duo to set the mood for an event, has always appealed to my creative esthetic, and if my clients decide it can fit in their budget it is always a superb way to start an event like a wedding.
Dinner was marvelous, and the staff at Petterino’s is professional and personable. My client graciously made sure that my pianist and I were fed and well taken care of, including paying for the valet which is always appreciated by musicians and DJs. The last thing you want to have to worry about in downtown Chicago after loading in your equipment is where to park. Kudos to my wonderful client and her fiancé for making it easy for us to offer a relaxed and fun vibe to their event. It’s nice to be appreciated, and a cool, calm, well fed and centered entertainer is what you want for your wedding.
So, after the cocktail and dinner hour everything was falling into place. I checked with the bride and she was happy, so far so good. Since we had discussed music choices and the requests from the wedding party well in advance, following the playlist, must plays, don’t plays, and special dedications was a well thought out roadmap. Fortunately the bride left me enough room to make decisions on the fly that added immediacy and the freedom for improvisation of musical choices for the dance floor, a wise decision on her part. Full dance floor all night.
At the close of the evening is where things took an unexpected turn. The bride and groom were very, very pleased with the entertainment choices, and the seamless way I worked behind the scenes to coordinate events and connect with the staff so that they didn’t have to worry about anything, I even got a fat tip for the piano player and me at the close of the evening’s festivities.
The end of the evening is the rough and tumble unglamorous part of the event that nobody ever sees, nor should they, but it was during this period that the most extraordinary set of circumstances made the my entire day stand out from any other day or event I have worked in quite some time.
Packing my gear is not the most romantic or fun part of the evening, and it is usually a time when I and the banquet hall staff are alone in our individual quests to get things squared away and ready for another day. We all have our routines down, and our way to pack up and roll out, but this day was different. This day as I readied my black gig bag to be filled with the metal speaker and lighting stands, there was a problem. A wasp had decided to make my gig bag his home. I stopped for about 10 minutes and attended to a few other pieces of business to give time for the wasp to fly away. After 10 minutes I came back, but the wasp was still there.
One thing you must understand is that most of the venues that big events like weddings take place are “all business” at the end of the night, and like to facilitate the closing of the place and getting all staff out of the building, especially independent contractors like musicians and DJs, in an expedited fashion. They don’t like to wait around! So, time is marching on and I muster up the courage to start slowly slipping polls into the gig bag, hoping that the wasp won’t get too annoyed and fly up and sting my nose. Every time I put a new pole in the bag I did so with much trepidation and anxiety, then I would take a break to make sure the wasp had not gotten too upset and ready to attack. This was taking way too long, and the banquet staff was rolling out the final tables and chairs from the room. I had taken way too much time with this situation and I had to move on. It was at this point when a Mexican bus boy passed by and looked in my direction. I’m certain even he was wondering what was taking this DJ so long to pack up and load out. I pointed to the black gig bag and said, “Bee, there’s a bee on the bag and I can’t get him off”. He came closer and looked at me and the bag quizzically. I said, “I want to get out of here, but I don’t want to hurt the bee”. This is where two very different worlds connected. This Mexican bus boy, who’s first language and view of the world was very much a separate reality from my own, looked at the wasp for a long time. The three of us stood in silence, then he turned to me and said, “Maybe he is magical, maybe he knew you were his only way out of here. If you take him outside maybe he will be free, and he will take care of you”. I was astounded. I was amazed at the words that came out of this young man’s mouth. I don’t know if he was joking or if he was serious, but I looked him in the eye and said, “Yes, maybe you’re right, maybe he is magical and smiled. I slowly zipped up the bag, my hand passing within an inch of the wasp. I winked at the bus boy, as he smiled, and rolled my cart out of the hall towards the elevator. In the elevator I said a little prayer for the creature sharing the ride with me, partially to protect myself from him attacking me. Upstairs on the main floor I rolled out the doors on to busy Randolph Street Saturday night, with the steel and smoked glass caverns, cabs and car horns, and nary a tree in sight. As we hit the sidewalk outside the restaurant, a brisk wind picked up and my trusting friend took to the sky and into the night.
I have only written a relatively small number of entries in this blog for Prelude Entertainment. In the process of writing, and sharing my thoughts, it has caused me to look at some things I have simply taken for granted before. For example I know without a doubt that I can sing, as I have in many bands over the years, and recording and touring. It never occurred to me that just because I say I can DJ that anybody would doubt it. What I have found as I look closer into the unique world of the wedding business, is that people really want it spelled out for them. Since many of the gigs I get are from people to whom I have been recommended or I already know, it hasn’t been something I thought much about before. I have since began to look at things related to my business in a different light (and that’s a good thing, right?). Since I am on a budget and must do promotion on a shoestring, it has motivated me to get more creative. I have started to put together a few videos showcasing my vocal and my DJ talents in short snippets (usually under 4-5 minutes), since most people seeking entertainment services for their wedding do so after work, on weekends, and whenever and wherever they can squeeze in the time. I have to do everything “in house”, I can’t hire someone to do it for me. I must admit I am enjoying doing these little videos and hope it hits home the point that I am focused, organized, motivated, talented, and most of all, experienced in the areas I am promoting. DIY is a good thing, it’s for people who believe in themselves enough to show the world, and aren’t going to wait around for someone to do it for them. Above all, I am always striving for quality, and doing the best possible job I can in any endeavor I undertake, whether it is helping a bride plan the entertainment for her wedding, performing a club date with my jazz trio, or providing my skills as a DJ at an event.
Today we are going to look more closely at a choice that some brides consider, out of the many choices of entertainment for their special day, should we have a DJ or just plug in an iPod?
As a bride to be you face a seemingly herculean task. With so many choices and options, and so much information, it sometimes feels like a tsunami and can probably be overwhelming to many brides. I only know this because I have had the pleasure and honor of helping many brides traverse the rocky terrain that is the musical element of this complex tapestry known as "the wedding". Now it is true that I am a man, and I can never truly understand your journey, but I do know my business, and that is where I hope we might have a meeting of the minds. There are many schools of thought as to what the brides role is in this rocket to the stars, and I will simply state my thoughts in the hope that my experience and knowledge can be of value to you as you make your decisions. The first and most popular idea is that it should be FUN, and I personally subscribe to the idea that one of the hallmarks of ones life should be fun, and reflect your personality. There is only one you, and of course you want your wedding day to have a whole lotta you in it, that's where the fun comes in. In regards to the music, it goes without saying that your choices will ultimately influence the entire affair. There are some brides who decide that every single song that they and their fiancee like should absolutely be played at their wedding reception. This is where I (the voice of reason) make a suggestion. I know these songs are important to you, and after all it's your night right? Keep in mind that there are guests at your party, and perhaps all your favorite Backstreet Boys or Misfits tunes might not be for everybody. As queen of your domain you must occasionally step back and decide what would be in the best interest of all concerned, and that maybe aunt Alice & uncle Joe might not dig the Misfits as much as you. Now I'm not suggesting that you can't have your favorite music, but what I am proposing is a porporri of musical styles that not only reflects your taste but also includes your guests, bringing a nice mix to the party so that nobody feels left out. Now I have been a musician and DJ for many years, and I understand how to sculpt a musical format that not only has your stamp on it, but gets everybody involved in the party. Oh, and just because I have the Hokey Pokey in my arsenal it doesn't mean I have to break it out at your party. There is much to consider, but as a rule of thumb, I suggest that a few slow songs per hour would be a good way to keep the party flowing. A little old school Frank Sinatra or Tony Bennet is often a great way to mix things up. House music all night long, might seem like a good idea going into an event, but if you have high energy dance music non-stop for an hour it can get pretty overwhelming for some of your guests that are not used to jacking their body all night long. Remember statistics show that 80% of married couples only have an opportunity to slow dance together maybe once or twice a year, and most of the time that would be at a wedding. So mix it up, make everybody welcome to the party. Throw in some 60's twist music, Motown, 70's disco, with your contemporary dance music or whatever are your favorites, your guests will be happy and so will you. Discuss your favorite music with the DJ or band leader well in advance of your event, even sent out a request list to the wedding party in advance. I LOVE making people happy, and one of the best ways to do that is getting a request list, it makes my job easier. I also ask for a "Don't Play" list as well as a "Must Play" list. Like I said, just because I have the Hokey Pokey, it doesn't mean I have to play the Hokey Pokey. I have done many memorable and elegant affairs, and the key has always been good communication with the client. Keep these things in mind as you plan your event, and work with your DJ or band leader, and don't be afraid of asking questions communication is key. I learn new stuff all the time from my clients, maybe that's why I feel so fresh, and full of life, my job is making people happy!
Seems like a pretty simple question right? I asked myself that question this morning, and you know what? I can't answer that question without your help. I could say all these things about Prelude Entertainment, and what we are, but in the final analysis we are a custom made car, designed by you, our client. Yes, we have all the newest bells and whistles, but maybe you don't need "bells and whistles", maybe you just need something simple, not a huge spectacle, or maybe you want to have an extravaganza with laser lights and fog night club experience. So, you see it really is up to you, what we are is what you want us to be. Often budget determines the event, but really it comes down to your vision. Whatever you envision your event to be, whether it be a wedding, birthday party, reunion, it all starts with what you see in your minds eye. We will work with you to make your event come to life, and will be there to advise you along the way with music selections, input on timing and events like the introduction of the bridal party, cake cutting, first dance, anniversary dance, father/daughter dance, mother/son dance, toasts, line dance suggestions, cocktail hour, and dinner music, etc. I will bring my experience to work for you.