The Solitary Couple Vibing ‘Langarm’ On A Wedding Dance Floor

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A slight change of tact for my next few blog pieces as I want to introduce you all to the various people and characters that we see at literally every wedding play at. These will be, not so much off the wall observations but rather descriptions of characters that we come across on a very regular basis. I hope that you enjoy them all and can relate to the observations as much as I do.

Wedding characters #1 – The Solitary Couple Vibing Langarm On The Dance Floor

There comes a stage in the evening on every wedding dance floor when one couple take it upon themselves to go a bit old skool on us and bust out a traditional ‘langarm’ or ‘long arm’ for my English readers. I’ve lived here seven years now but the sight of a full-blown ‘langarm’ never ceases to amaze me as we are exported back in time to presumably the early 1900’s when this form of dancing would have been all the rage. This is not a platform to explore the history of the ‘langarm’ or investigate its cultural attachments and characteristics. My initial reaction when I see this is normally quite simply- “What the fuck are you doing?”

I don’t mean this in a rude way because it’s not the basic concept of the dance that bugs me. What really grains is the complete and utter lack of spatial awareness that this dance routine triggers. It’s the complete lack of empathy and understanding of those around them on the dance floor that completely blows me away every time. For me, seeing a couple dancing ‘langarm’ at a modern day wedding is akin, in metaphorical terms at least, to someone playing golf on the field in the middle of a Super 15 rugby game while it’s in progress.

What gives someone the right to completely trash everyone else on the dance floor, to bash into people, to knock into my mic stand so that I get a whack on the chin with it? I suppose booze consumption does explain it to some extent but that doesn’t cover all of the questions.

My own personal favourite is when we’ve played six or seven very upbeat numbers and then drop down into a ballad, perhaps the Police’s ‘Every breath you Take’. Cue the aunt and uncle who’ve been utterly stationary up until this point in the evening to come on and totally trash the dance floor. Up they bound from their table, like surfers gliding in propelled by the waves of their former youth and before you know it, it’s utter chaos on the dance floor as people’s heads and backs are collided with, mic stands are sent flying and all of this, whilst our aforementioned ‘langarm’ couple remain blissfully unaware of the carnage that they are dishing out.

Ok, it’s a small gripe but I guarantee, look closely and you will see this at literally every South African wedding that you attend!

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The Bridesmaid Who Sings In The Ceremony….And Then Takes Over The Whole Party Gig!

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Like a few of my posts, this one may seem a little left-field but dig deep into the memory banks and I can assure you that we’ve all witnessed this somewhere in our wedding attending past.

The subject of today’s conjecture is of course the bridesmaid at a wedding who sings during the ceremony and then proceeds to take over the whole wedding gig.

This is a slightly controversial one in that it appears that I am completely taking the proverbial piss out of people trying to sing. I guess, in a way, I am but that’s not the driving point of my argument here. I’m just having a little moan so please pleasure me.

Let me break it down for you….

It’s a beautiful sunny day, the congregation is seated and the wedding ceremony is under way. The vineyards sway gently in the background caressed by a light wind. The birds twitter in song, the sun beats down on this blessed scene…and then someone absolutely massacres “The Rose” by Bett Midler. Why is it always “The Rose” during a wedding ceremony?! It’s almost as if there is an unwritten law permitting only ‘The Rose” to be sung during a wedding ceremony- but this is just an aside.

It’s normally the groom’s sister but can equally be a cousin or a close friend of the bride who has somehow attained the position of ‘the person who can sing’ amongst the wedding group. She would have attained this role having put in years of impromptu vocal performances around a fire, the school play, summer camp, in a road trip singing along to the car stereo- she’s earnt her place, literally, on the altar. I’m not criticising it either- anyone who has the balls (excuse the pun) to sing in a wedding ceremony has my vote. I’ve done it and it’s horrendously nerve wracking. That is, however, where it should end- at the altar.

Unfortunately, an additional factor comes into play now and that’s booze. Without booze, I’m pretty sure that none of the below would happen. This is how it goes;

On entry into the main reception, having seen a band set up, our star will head straight for myself or Tony and ask what sort of stuff we do, not in an attempt to check out what we will be playing later in the evening but to see where she can slot in. ‘Well, we don’t really do many female vocal numbers’ I say- that’s pretty obvious I would have thought for a two-piece male singing duo. ‘Oh, don’t you do any Adele or something’? ‘No’. That really does leave her in a bit of a fix but fuelled by champers, the lady is not for turning. This is simply the start of roughly three to four hours of incessant pestering which will lead, ultimately, to an absolutely horrific rendition of ‘Mustang Sally’ at about 11pm.

I’m never sure whom to blame in these circumstances. Do I blame the girl herself?- her confidence boosted by 5 glasses of champers, 6 glasses of wine and 3 tequilas. Do I blame the bride and groom for asking her to sing in the ceremony thus giving her this newfound confidence? Do I blame myself for being a cynical, egotistical old fart? It’s probably a mix of all three.

So, if you attend a ceremony next season and a bridesmaid, relative or friend sings in the ceremony then beware because it won’t be the end of it by any stretch. If the girl happens to sing and play the keyboard in the ceremony well you are well and truly stuffed- that’s another kettle of fish altogether!

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The First Dance At a Wedding- Keep it simple!!

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The first dance at a wedding; that most sacrosanct of personal moments in life. I guess that when you are growing up and thinking that one day you may tie the knot, the image of some sort of first dance will creep through one’s mind.

The first dance remains a pivotal part of a modern day wedding. It’s often the part of proceedings that the grooms we have worked with fear the most. I imagine them lying awake at night in a cold sweat dreading the fact that they will, for a few minutes at least, be subjected to the gaze of their guests as they put in some moves on the dance-floor.

My philosophy on first dances, when I get asked about what one should do is simple…..just chill the f**k out.

I’d say that 30% of brides and grooms we play for go to dance lessons to prepare their first dance. I find this figure incredibly high. What is this? The 1930’s or something?! I come from the “hold her tight and sway” school of thought when it comes to the first dance.

Again, as with so many other posts on this blog, I really do risk the danger of shooting myself in the foot with these thoughts. I really don’t mean to offend- these are just my own personal thoughts but in my opinion the following should all be banned when it comes to opening the dance floor at one’s wedding;

  1. Dance lessons.; why the f**k would you go through potentially hours of mind-numbingly dull, highly pressured, unpleasant, uncomfortable, argument-inducing dance classes. It’s your wedding day- the happiest day of your life. Why have a pre-coordinated dance routine lined up slap bang in the middle of the evening, which you have to spend the whole day worrying about?
  2. Those CRAYZEEEEE first dances; Please stop these immediately now. The amount of people who asked me to play the first thirty seconds of Jason Mraz before changing it into 50 Cent or something similar is getting ridiculous. These types of first dances were brilliant up until now but it’s time folks to knock these on the head. It’s been done to death, it’s not funny or spontaneous any more so please stop it.
  3. Jason Mraz- please just ban him now from all first dances.

Brides and grooms often ask me what their first dances should be. The answer is that I don’t have a clue- it’s such a personal choice. It must be a song that means something to you, not to me. The best first dance I ever heard was Johnny Clegg’s “Dela” at a wedding we played in Clarens a couple of years back, followed closely by the Pointer Sisters’ “Jump” which was so out there and such a breath of fresh air.

 

 

 

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The Weird Uncle Staring At Us While We Play A Wedding Gig!

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I know that this observation might come across as being a little strange at first but I can guarantee you that we observe this at about 2 in 5 weddings. Introducing- the phenomenon of the weird uncle watching the musical proceedings leaning against a wall towards the back or side of the venue.

This may not seem like the most obvious occurrence but both Tony and I can vouch for the fact that at a fairly large amount of wedding gigs, there always seems to be a weird uncle or relative who’s played a few chords in his time who will spend the entire evening, double brandy coke in hand, leaning against a wall staring at the guitars and the chords we are playing!

This phenomenon can manifest itself in a whole number of other ways too. Sometimes, we are alerted to him very early on in the evening, long before the guests have even sat down. We’ll be setting up some of the gear facing the other way when the immortal words “what guitar are you playing tonight?” will drift across the room and smack us on the back of the head. A whole string of questioning may then follow; “What effects pedal do you use”….”What sort of stuff do you play” (my standard response is always Death Metal to see their reaction) which is all leading to the inevitable 10 minute chat about what guitar he’s playing, his gig history and the fact that he doesn’t find much time for it these days.

And let’s not forget the ultimate muso to muso question; “Do you do your own stuff?”….We sold out a long time ago baby!

Roll on three hours later and the gig has begun. As the crowd goes wild one can always catch the weird uncle out of the corner of one’s eye staring emotionless at the stage and making us feel extremely uncomfortable.

There are other forms of muso stalking on the night as well. This usually comes in the form of the guy who’s absolutely trashed who dances at the front by the stage for the entire gig playing air guitar to every single chord, every single solo. Without any question, this guy will come up to us between sets asking if he can play a song or two.

I know this sort of guy very well because that’s exactly what I used to do at every wedding too!

 

 

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Our Favourite Wedding Venues

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We receive a lot of wedding gig enquiries from brides and grooms who have often not chosen their wedding venue yet. We often get asked what are favourite venues are so I thought I’d list them below. We play at a load of places all over the country so I think we’re pretty qualified to make these recommendations as being some of the best around.

In no particular order;

Vrede En Lust; http://www.vnl.co.za

We love Vrede en Lust for a whole number of reasons. Firstly, it’s extremely classy and special without being at all schintzy or over the top. It’s class without being flashy. Scenically, it’s an absolutely stunning setting with your ceremony overlooking the vineyards beyond, pre-drinks are in a lovely pool garden and then the main reception takes place in an awesome permanent white ‘tent’ structure’ overlooking vineyards and the mountains beyond. Another thing that makes this venue so great is the relaxed but awesome and experienced team run by Yolanda. They do weddings all of the time here and you can tell that the way they run the operation is efficient and professional without being military and impersonal or stressful. The food here is consistently the best out of all the venues we play and that’s down to the awesome chef Duncan and his team. Another great bonus of this venue is that the wedding party can move through to the pool house for an after party till all hours- we’ve heard of many an after party pushing through till dawn here!

Rockhaven, Elgin; www.rockhavenfarm.co.za

This is an absolute cracker of a spot and we’ve now played many weddings here. Again, it’s all about relaxed quality. It’s a classy venue but really very relaxed and informal with a beautiful setting. Ceremonies take place in a stone ‘chapel’ overlooking the large dam and the mountains beyond. Canapes take place on the lawns overlooking the dam and then the main reception is held in a converted farm building. You can’t go wrong here. The food is always excellent and it’s just so conducive to a hug jol. Liz and her team are top notch.

Mollenvliet, Helshoegte Pass near Franschhoek; www.molenvliet.com

I must admit that I’d heard a lot about this relatively new venue without having played there until this season and I must say that I’m extremely impressed! I love the way that they offer a type of ‘3-centre’ experience. The ceremony can be on the top lawn before you and your guests walk through to a ‘street scene’ pre-drinks section literally in the middle of the vineyards. The main reception takes place in a beautiful building. As well as being an immaculate venue, it get’s the basic things right- the bar is relatively close to the dance floor which is always a good start.  One of the most impressive things about this venue is the team ran by the indefatigable Sven. Sven has to be one of the best venue operators that we have come across. He’s professional, efficient but extremely calm at the same time- an absolute winner for us service providers.  A great wedding venue and will prove to be extremely popular over the coming years.

Standkombuis, Yzerfontein; www.strandkombuis.co.za

We haven’t played a wedding here for a while but this is a brilliant venue. It’s a bit weather dependent so definitely one for the peak summer months but this place is what it’s all about for me. It’s relaxed, great sea views, very rustic and thus highly conducive for a massive jol.  I like any venue that doesn’t take itself too seriously. The food here is an awesome West Coast seafood buffet. You simply can’t go wrong and the guys here have got it down!

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When People Can’t Make Wedding…But Tell You In a Speech

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My latest wedding gripe might go relatively unnoticed by the vast majority of wedding goers but I guarantee you that it takes place at every single wedding- I’m explicitly referring to the section of the evening where the MC or Best Man reads out messages from those who couldn’t attend. 

Am I the only person on the planet that thinks that it is mildly ridiculous to be subjected to a one to two minute dedicated slot at a wedding for people who, in most cases, basically didn’t make the effort to be there unlike every single other person listening?

For me, if you haven’t made the effort to be there, why should you have a section of the proceedings set aside for you to read out a personal message for the bride and groom? I find it incredibly irritating.

Look, I understand that in some instances there will be occasions when people extremely close to the bridal party will just not be able to travel- the birth of a child, a bereavement or a chronic illness are all valid reasons not to travel.

It’s the people, however, who fall into the “we’ve looked into travelling over and its just too bloody expensive” bracket who should have no right to allotted time at a function.

And don’t even start with “we’ll be at home cracking open a bottle of champers in your honour” schtick. You won’t.  If you couldn’t be arsed to go to the wedding it’s unlikely that you would set aside a night of your weekend to stay at home and open a bottle of bubbly.

If you can’t make a wedding, that’s fine. Just don’t bore me with your messages on the night.

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Bonkers!

Bonkers!

This is a photo of a recent wedding where a man came up and jammed three songs with us playing, what he described as, Indian finger cymbals…Go figure.

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Random Scattered Words = Irritating!

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Perhaps it’s the result of playing at something like 50 odd weddings a year that has resulted in me becoming somewhat of a cynic and an old bore. My next wedding gripe might strike some of you as being a little bit overboard but I’m getting really irritated with the random words stuck on the walls all over wedding venues.

Most of you probably don’t even give it a passing thought.  The first 20 odd times that I noticed them at weddings, I probably didn’t fully register it either. However, look closely and virtually every single venue is doing this.

For me, random scattered words can be placed in the same bracket as wedding photo booths ie; quite cool and ‘out there’ when they first came on the scene. I do stand to be corrected but I’m pretty sure that I recall a time when random scattered words were nowhere to be found at weddings?

So what am I referring to specifically? Well, I’m talking about the strategic placing of lovey dovey, cuddly words all over the wedding venue.  You will obviously see all your basic marriage associated words such as “Love”…”Friendship”…”Good times”…”Family”….”Happiness”. That’s the basic, first level of scattered words. You then get the next level up which might contain offerings such as “Just Married”…”Hitched” or any number of quotes from literary thinkers, normally always Oscar Wilde.

I’m not stupid- I do get that it’s a nice way of decorating a venue and creating a nice feel. I get the principle completely but I just don’t buy it anymore! For me, it’s obvious, it’s lazy and it’s been done already.

If you really want to spice up the venue and want scattered words everywhere, then they should be more realistic about marriage. Instead of “Love” and “Happiness” they should put “Snoring” and “Farting”. “Mortgage”, “Sleep Deprivation When You Have Kids” “Irritating In-Laws” all have much more resonance for most married couples.

I know it’s not quite as jolly but it’s a bit different and hasn’t been hammered to death already!

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Wedding Photo Booths- Please Ban Them Immediately

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Don’t get me wrong- the basic idea of having a ‘photo booth’ at your wedding is, fundamentally, quite cool. I get it. It’s fun and all that but please….stop it…just stop it right now.

Photo booths, along with bars that are approximately one mile away from the dance floor are my biggest gripes when it comes to weddings. I recall a time in the not too distant past when photo booths at weddings were quite cool, original and fun. For me now, they are just a massive pain in the ass.  A photo booth located ‘around the corner’ from your dance floor is akin to basically saying- “I want to fuck up my whole jol”.

For starters, I guarantee you that you that every single girl at a wedding will spend at least 20-30 mins in and around the photo both at any given time of the evening. The guys will also get involved as the night progresses. For me, it’s actually quite simple- do you want to have a rocking jol and a heaving dance floor or do you want to disperse the shit out of your party?

For me, if you really do want to have to have a photo booth, I would have it open from the beginning of the canapés until, like, 9pm and the end of all the formalities. The canapés and breaks between all of the speeches and other natural gaps are the perfect time for all of that stuff. It totally detracts from the whole event if you have it running till late on in proceedings.

Some people get in an actual photo booth, which is quite a major effort. It’s the wedding photographers who offer (and presumably charge extra for..) a ‘photo booth’ product who just blatantly stick up a sheet and leave some funny hats lying about that are really taking the piss.

Look, five years ago it might have actually been quite cool and fun. But it’s SO BEEN DONE NOW. Please stop it and stop making my life as a party bandleader so much harder. For me, the best idea is to stick a load of disposal cameras at each table and develop the photos after the event. Sure, you will end up with a minimum of five photos of people’s genitals but that’s still way cooler and so much less disruptive than a bloody photo booth.

It’s mental. Rant over. Anyone agree with me?

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