I'll be writing here occasionally, though this is pretty clearly Katherine's ship. I am, however, attempting to overcome my aversion to hassle, and am doing my best to participate in this process. One of the components of the wedding that I am spearheading is the music. Katherine's tastes in music are not particularly well-defined, but she knows that I do take music somewhat seriously.
Our initial plan was to rent some sound equipment and set up a laptop with a playlist. We would then enlist the help of one of our many technologically-savvy friends to monitor the set-up during the reception (I expected to have a few volunteers for this eminently-enjoyable role).
I'll offer a snippet of the wedding playlist I had begun to prepare:
Sing, Sing Sing - Benny Goodman
Keep the Customer Satisfied - Simon & Garfunkel
Cell Block Tango - Catherine Zeta-Jones, Susan Misner, Deidre Goodwin, Denise Faye, Ekaterina Chtchelkanova, Myá Harrison, & "Chicago" Cast
Give the Girl a Kiss - Bruce Springsteen
All My Loving - The Beatles
You and I - Wilco
Ever the Same - Rob Thomas
Quarter to Three (live) - Bruce Springsteen
The Sweet Escape - Gwen Stefani
Daydream - The Lovin' Spoonful
Summertime - Marcheeba & Hubert Laws
Build Me Up Buttercup - The Foundations
I'll Be Your Mirror - The Velvet Underground
Hung Up On You - Fountains of Wayne
This is a pretty eclectic mix, I would say, of some upbeat rockers, some older songs, and some romantic, slower pieces. I would also point your attention to the hints of jazz and R&B in some of the music.
The situation changed, though, so now, we need to find a live music act for the wedding. The fun of preparing an interesting playlist that Katherine would approve has been replaced by the fun of finding a live music act that fulfills various requirements, some of which seem to contradict each other. There probably is no fully-rational way to make this work, so intuition and feel will have to do. I'll start with a few bands/musicians that I like a lot:
- Bruce Springsteen and the E-Street Band: As far as I can tell, Springsteen is the best live performer of his generation, and probably the generation after his. I love his earlier albums; "The Wild, The Innocent, and the E-Street Shuffle" is probably my all-time favorite album, and I revere both "Born to Run" and "Darkness on the Edge of Town" as well. During the mid-70s, Springsteen's career trajectory was still largely unsettled. He didn't become a full-on "rocker" until the late-70s, mainly with Darkness. His music prior to that was a mix of folk, jazz, and R&B, with his shows moving around those themes (listen to Kitty's Back from 1978 and you'll see what I mean). I am also from New Jersey, and we are contractually obligated to like at least one of Bon Jovi or Springsteen.
- The Band: "Music from Big Pink" taught me the value of musicians who know how to play their instruments. The Band played behind Bob Dylan when he moved from acoustic to electric, and that move would NOT have worked without a band as good as "The Band." Their sound has significant folk undertones, and they were good performers on a variety of different instruments. (How can you not love the mandolins floating around that album? Just wonderful.)
- Wilco: Wilco is one of the only modern bands I listen to consistently. They have a good mix of keyboards, guitars, subdued percussion, etc. Impossible Germany is one of my favorites that they do. It showcases some great guitar work towards the end, and also has a bit of an improvisational feel.
- Pink Floyd: Extended themes, slow pacing, prominent guitars. All good things.
I am looking for a band that incorporates components of these sounds: the long musical interludes, the improvisational feel, the intra-band chemistry that allows musicians to play off of each other. I also want something largely accessible--I don't want the septuagenarians at the wedding completely alienated by the sound.
Katherine wants something that, in her words, "her mother will judge impressive enough for her guests." She is also looking for dancing, and I think she would prefer a female vocalist. (Her stipulations are rather minimal, which is good for me here, but they are also somewhat prohibitive. Perhaps it is better this way; I get some additional guidance.)
Generally, these lowest-common denominator decisions, like airline food, lead to horrifyingly bad things--in other words, people can hate them together. I am determined to avoid this fate, though.
Enter the Brooklyn Boogaloo Blowout. This is a band that Katherine and I saw live at 55 Bar down on Christopher Street in Manhattan. They were joined by an exceptional female vocalist--Leah Siegel--who really added something. The band had a lead guitarist, a bass guitar, a keyboardist (who played what sounded more like a Hammond organ than a piano, but both sounds are good), drums, and a saxophone. The interplay was excellent, and the music was quite good. We like this instrument combination.
They don't, however, seem to do weddings. They were also a tad too loud for my "don't alienate the septuagenarians" requirement.
I spent a good deal of time surfing through websites trying to find a similar sound, and I have at least one lead. The band is called BD Lenz (the band name is eponymous with the lead guitarist's name, I believe), and they are playing at the Salt Creek Grille in Princeton, NJ on Friday, September 3 (apparently as a fully instrumental group). They are also playing at a place called Yo y Papa in Morristown, NJ on Friday, September 18, and claim to have a female vocalist lined up for that one. (Katherine will be out of town for that event, unfortunately.)
Katherine and I will probably be going down to Princeton to see them on the 3rd, and I may go out to Morristown to see them on the 17th with a FlipCam, depending on how the first viewing goes. (We may just pick them on the spot then, or we may eliminate them from consideration.)
Here's an excellent cover of "Superstition" by BD Lenz: