Showing posts with label music. Show all posts
Showing posts with label music. Show all posts

The Music: Closing the Book

We're reaching the point in the process where the wedding stuff starts to overwhelm real life, unfortunately, which is either exhilarating (we're getting closer to the day!) or frustrating (not another uncomfortable phone call/e-mail!). Katherine is pretty much in non-stop wedding mode when she's not at work, whether it's sewing, or various crafts, or prepping for the ceremony. Our tacit division of labor--which became more explicit about a week ago--is that I handle most of the home maintenance stuff (cleaning, cooking, grocery shopping), while Katherine handles most of the wedding stuff.

The music, however, remains my domain, and there appears to be a bright spot amid the lateness of the hour. A few months ago, I ran a handful of songs for use at the ceremony past Katherine, and she was noncommittal about all of them. Last night, I culled that list into the two I wanted most, and now, she was quite happy with the options. Perhaps being forced to make decisions, in some respects, is a good thing--there's less of a chance to hem and haw and temporize and waste time.

We got two requests for the ceremony itself. BD Lenz generously offered us ceremony music that consisted of himself on an acoustic guitar, along with his saxophonist on the sax. I had mulled over a few options for a while, but I'm pretty happy with the final choices for the ceremony. I went with a bit more of a Beatles' thing for that one:

- Processional: Till There Was You - I really like the Beatles' version of the song, but it has other slower, romantic versions out there as well. The song was originally from The Music Man, but it has also made its way into other contexts, including The Wedding Singer. It works quite well on an acoustic guitar.

- Recessional: When I'm 64 - I had this one in mind from the start, and I'm glad that Katherine acceded. I think it's a PERFECT wedding song, if the core idea of a wedding is that two people have decided to announce that they are guessing that they've found a person that they'll be able to grow old with. The fact that Sir Paul penned something so poignant at such a young age continues to astound me.

The only other song that was seriously considered was "I Don't Want to Miss a Thing," which was our prom song a hundred years ago. There's a great saxophone version of the song on YouTube:

My apologies for the home photos in that one; they're not mine. I listened to this a few times, but I decided that the background orchestration (with the subtle strings) is what gives that its texture. I think just having the solo sax blare out some late-90s Aerosmith would be uncomfortable. Plus, Ben Affleck.

So, why do I say the book is closed? I e-mailed BD Lenz our song choices, including our two requests for the reception from much earlier in this process, "Ever the Same" and "Give the Girl a Kiss." I started having terrible second thoughts on "Give the Girl a Kiss," mostly because "4th of July, Asbury Park (Sandy)" has become the Matilda Edwards to the Mary Todd that is "Give the Girl a Kiss." But, like Lincoln, I ultimately "kept my resolves" and decided to stick with the original choice. (For an excellent treatment of this issue, see Douglas Wilson's Honor's Voice: The Transformation of Abraham Lincoln, which is the best biography I have ever read. For the shorter version, go here.)

That's enough of that. The main reason why I didn't take "4th of July, Asbury Park," a truly great song that has become one of my favorite songs over the last few months, was because of the size of the necessary arrangement. It has a very prominent accordion part, and the piano really does keep the time. I can't imagine the song without those components, and we won't be having either instrument at the wedding. But because I brought it up, enjoy:

The Music: We Get Two Requests

As our four or five readers know, we selected BD Lenz as our wedding band. But what they may not know is that the band graciously allows us two request songs: we give them a month before the gig, and they'll learn two songs of our choice.

This was a difficult pair of choices, believe it or not. There were two separate things that had to be done:
  1. Come up with the "wedding song"--must be romantic, preferably danceable/slow.
  2. Come up with a second song, preferably one that will get people dancing.
Two separate challenges. Katherine and I had periodically talked about the wedding song for a couple of years prior to getting engaged; such is the advantage of the long relationship pre-engagement period. (If you recall, I am the guy who takes expectations seriously. Time does a good job in balancing expectations.)

So, here are some of the "wedding songs" that Katherine and I periodically discussed:
(The emergence of YouTube has made this sort of thing a far more enjoyable experience; instead of hoping that interested readers recognize the songs, I have, instead, been able to provide links.)

This one was actually a fairly straightforward decision: Katherine liked "Ever the Same" a lot. The subtext of the song, at least to me, is how effortless it feels. I honestly don't know what kind of a challenge it was to write, but the final product seems, to me, like it was very easy and natural. (I think back to F. Scott Fitzgerald, who was notoriously rough on his early drafts en route to the near-perfection of his final drafts, as possible evidence that Thomas really worked hard on the song.) I know that relationships (and marriages) take work, but I like the idea that at times, on autopilot, it can work really well.

Additionally, the song is very nice with Rob Thomas on an acoustic guitar. I think I even like the acoustic version better, and the fact that the song is so effective in these two very different styles implies, to me, that BD Lenz will be able to do good work with it.

The second song, though: this was the challenge.

As a New Jersey resident with misplaced pride in his own state, I felt that we had to have at least one Bruce Springsteen song in the program, and BD Lenz's catalog doesn't contain any Springsteen, as far as I know. I even broadened out my horizons to "songs that Springsteen used to cover in his 1970s-era shows," thinking that some of the early soul and Motown that Springsteen enjoyed so much would fit right in the wheelhouse of BD Lenz's style. (They played songs like "Signed, Sealed, Delivered, Oh Yeah," and a lot of Marvin Gaye when we last saw them.)

So, here's the list of songs I considered, including some suggestions from family/friends. I'll offer up some thoughts on each one.
  • Bruce Springsteen - Fire: This one had an early lead because of its appearance in Glee, Season 1. (Roller rink, Kristin Chenowith and the sad lead character, who has my respect b/c he's a Met fan in real life). It's a fairly... erotic song, though, more so than I was comfortable with at the wedding. Moreover, good versions of the song really require that driving rhythm piano in the background, but BD Lenz will not be bringing a keyboardist, as per the arrangement that we picked. (This piano thing is a common Boss theme.)
  • Bruce Springsteen - Paradise by the C: Awesome instrumental from the 1978 tour. I suspect that BD Lenz could do some excellent work with this song. A few problems, though: the prominent Hammond organ solo would have to be replaced by either an extra guitar solo or more sax work, which would detract from the nice contrast thing that this song has going. Plus we're paying for two vocalists.
  • Bruce Springsteen - From Small Things (Big Things One Day Come): This song is a lot of fun. Springsteen farmed this out to Dave Edmunds, a British rockabilly guy, way back in the 80s. It's very upbeat, and it's about as close as the Boss got to writing country music, which harkens back to my childhood a little bit. (This song is often covered by country artists.) Like a lot of country music, though, it's a bit sad. The early love song devolves into a pastiche of sarcasm and sadness. Note the lyrics: "Well, she shot him dead on a sunny Florida road. When they caught her all she said was 'she couldn't stand the way he drove.'" Springsteen sings the lyrics so exuberantly that you almost miss the message. But considering that I do all the driving, this one was out.
  • Bruce Springsteen - The Fever: Before there was "Fire," there was "The Fever," which is a song of pure desperation. We liked this one a lot, actually. It was stricken, though, because it's a little slow, and again, I don't really like the erotic undertones at the wedding. Desperation translates into music really well, but it's not quite what I'm looking for in this instance.
  • Bruce Springsteen - Rosalita: My sister suggested this one, and it's definitely a classic. My only issue with this is the sheer number of lyrics that it has; I feel like someone who isn't fully-schooled in Springsteen would probably struggle to handle the song. I also don't think it has quite enough room for improvisation/embellishment; for a 7-minute marathon, the structure is fairly tight.
  • Bruce Springsteen - So Young and in Love: A great, upbeat song. It's also one of few Springsteen songs that does not rely on a prominent piano, organ, or synthesizer. If I have any objections on this one for the wedding, the lyrics tend to be a tad unintelligible at times, particularly on the studio version, which uses a good bit of scat-type singing in place of lyrics. I thought it might be difficult for our vocalists to sing. This one, at least on my list, came in at second place.
  • Bruce Springsteen - If I Should Fall Behind: This one was proposed by one of Katherine's friends with a strong Springsteen background. (She's also not from NJ, so bonus points there.) From such a wise source, I considered her suggestion very carefully. It's a very beautiful song, but it's just a little slower than what I was looking for.
  • Bruce Springsteen - Mountain of Love (cover of Johnny Rivers): I probably would have picked this one if not for the prominence of the piano solo. Compare this to Rivers' version of the song, and you'll learn everything you need to know about Springsteen. I like Johnny Rivers, but Springsteen simply has much more energy and life than any comparable performer. (This show, for what it's worth, is what got NY Times' columnist David Brooks into Springsteen.)
  • Bruce Springsteen - Raise Your Hand (cover of Eddie Floyd): Strongly considered, but the critical call-and-answer component of the song might not work in a venue with 50-60 viewers, assuming half the guests aren't watching the band.
  • Bruce Springsteen - Give the Girl a Kiss: This isn't the greatest recording of the song; we've got all sorts of crowd noise (and people missing the lyrics, which I find humorous). And astute readers who have been following my convoluted logic so far will recognize the prominence of Danny Federici's organ solo. In this case, though, the organ solo doesn't seem essential to the flow of the song, and could be pretty easily replaced by a nice sax solo. The guitar solos, as well, lend themselves to extended improvisation/embellishment. In short, this is what I'm looking for: it's Springsteen, it's exuberant, it's upbeat, it doesn't end with the male being shot, and it's not dripping with desperation.
So, we're going to go with "Ever the Same" and "Give the Girl a Kiss." We still need to figure out the music for the ceremony (this is all reception stuff), but it's nice to keep checking off these theoretical boxes.

Help me pick a save-the-date design

Why hello there. Since the last post on this blog a month and a half ago, we:
  • booked an officiant (Celia Milton)
  • met with our day-of coordinator (Carina of Luxe Events--she's really lovely)
  • went to see our band (B.D. Lenz) at a "gastropub", which made us feel really good about our band choice again, and finalized the composition of said band: guitar, bass, drums, saxophone, male vocalist, female vocalist
  • scheduled a visit to the rental company (Brillman's Rental Barn) with our caterer for January
That last one I just did today and it's not like we've actually gone yet and had to actually pick out the colors of our linens and such. The idea of having to make those kinds of decisions fills me with a vague anxiety (what if the linens don't truly express the core color of our personalities?!????) but it's probably good to get it over with. Oh, I did also finish my dressmaking class at Sew Fast Sew Easy which is sooort of wedding-related, and I've bought a serger with some Christmas present money...those of kind of wedding task related too! Are too!

My next actual concrete goal is to get out save-the-dates in January, and after that, put together a project plan and timeline for craftiness to get done in the remaining...less than 6 months. Eek. Somehow now that the big decisions of booking vendors have mostly been made, I find myself dragging my feet on making decisions about all the smaller stuff that I'd been looking forward to as the fun part. I think it's because each decision closes off potential.

So, I need help figuring out the save-the-dates. My friend Amy very kindly put together some mocks for me, and I'd like you to vote/comment on them to help me decide what will be the least annoying when put on someone's fridge for 5 months:

In the postcards to be printed at Vistaprint category:

Option 1, by Amy (would have to be tweaked to fit in an address/stamp area somewhere)

Option 2, by Amy (would have to be tweaked to fit in an address/stamp area somewhere). Also Dan would want to remove the "OMG" bit.
Option 3, thrown together by me. The back would be your typical postcard split. Photo subject to change.
In the "other" category, these Polaroid postcards from Photojojo, the idea of which I'm kind of in love with:

which would look something like this, if I had the Scrabble photo printed up at CVS and round circle stickers made at Zazzle:

Option 4, by Amy (Option 5, the same thing but switch out Scrabble photo for something else)
We have about 40 households that we need to send these save-the-dates to, so with that as the estimate, getting postcards printed up at Vistaprint will have an end result of around $2.77/card, while the Polaroid postcards would be around $1.62. That doesn't seem like much of a difference but it amounts to around $50, with many fewer spares of the Polaroid postcards and much more assembly required. The difference is around $25 without the Zazzle circle stickers. And I don't know if I or the people receiving these will even like the Polaroid postcards more.

Ok, so, time to vote! Likely actual recipients should de-lurk and express their opinion as well. "I don't really care about having a photo of yours on my fridge for the next few months, no thanks" is fine to express too.

Picking the Music, Part 1

Hello! I figure I'll start with a brief introduction: my name is Dan. I am the lucky guy that Katherine has decided to marry; for whatever reason, she hasn't quite yet realized the scope of her mistake, so we're still going through with this wedding thing. As it is, I tend to get referenced here quite often, usually while Katherine is emphasizing my uncommon skill in rejecting things.

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, MyĆ” 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:


I've decided to put Dan wholly in charge of the music, with the stipulation that I do want there to be dancing. My mom has also weighed in that if we're going to be serving simple food, there should be a band for live music rather than just the iPod (this input is more than okay because she's willing to contribute to this), so Dan's also going to be in charge of figuring that out. He did already put together a playlist of about 2 hours but will figure out some way to mix together everything. Still, some links:
More clearing out of my links backlog to come.