On Sunday, 4th September we flew up to Port Douglas to play at Tim and Rosy’s wedding.
Guests had flown in from all over Australia to attend this tropical wedding. Most turned Tim and Rosy’s “destination wedding” into an opportunity for a short holiday.
We flew up on Sunday morning. Thankfully, everything ran smoothly and exactly to plan.
The venue was Sugarwharf, which had breathtaking views across the water.
We always fly with Virgin, as they offer superior service for musicians and bands.
Also, the staff are always so friendly and accommodating.
Tim (the groom) played a wonderful version of the Hunters and Collectors’ classic, “Throw Your Arms Around Me”.
We were very fortunate to have Mark Williams from Pacific Music in Cairns provide the PA, lighting, amplifiers and drum kit. If you are ever in the need of backline up in Cairns or Port Douglas, Mark Williams is highly recommended. He is a thorough professional. For more information on Pacific Music, please refer to their website – http://www.pacificmusic.com.au/
Richard and Shona’s Wedding at The Gunners Barracks
On Saturday, 30th July we played at Richard and Shona’s wedding reception. This was held at The Gunners Barracks Tearooms, Georges Heights.
This venue is historic, but quirky in that there are four distinct spaces.
There is the balcony with sublime views to the south, looking across to Rose Bay.
There is the indoor dining room, which seats up to around 90 people
There is a sandstone courtyard.
There is another internal room, which is commonly used as the place where the band will set up.
We seem to work at Gunners Barracks frequently, and this is because of the adaptive and versatile nature of what we can do. Whereas most bands would simple set up in the back room and play for only about 40 – 90 minutes of the entire reception, our ability to play in a roving acoustic format enables us to play throughout the entire reception, from start to finish. The venue has four separate spaces, and we can play in all of them
For more information on The Gunners Barracks, please refer to their website –
Mike (the groom) is originally from U.S.A. His mother, father and siblings all flew out from America to attend the wedding. They all loved the band.
The photographer for the wedding was the talented Emma Hampton. She was kind enough to send me through some of her photographs from the ceremony and the reception. For more information on Emma and her work, please refer to her website – https://emmahamptonphotography.com.au/
Andy and Jessica’s Wedding at Balmoral Bathers Pavilion
We had the pleasure of performing at Andy and Jessica’s wedding at The Balmoral Bathers Pavilion on Saturday, 20th August.
This venue is one of my favourite places to play in Sydney. This renowned restaurant has a function room upstairs with an adjoining balcony. This area is superb for pre-dinner drinks, and is also a sublime place to have a wedding ceremony.
Andy and Jessica utilized the balcony for their ceremony. They made their ceremony unique with their wedding vows. These were personally composed by the bride and groom. They were sincere, personal yet humorous, and many tears were shed by friends and family.
We performed at the ceremony as a duo (i.e. me with Blake, my guitarist). I learned a song for Jessica to walk down the aisle to. The song was, “I’ll Be Seeing You”. A rendition of this song by Michael Buble was used in the film, “The Notebook”.
After the ceremony, the rest of the band joined us to play throughout pre-dinner drinks out on the balcony. The balcony has spectacular views that look straight out across the water through Sydney Heads. In between songs, the guests did a trivia quiz with questions about the bride and groom.
Later on, we played throughout dinner, and then for dancing. Immediately prior to dancing was the bridal dance. Andy and Jessica put an original spin on this, by actually performing a song by themselves. Andy (the groom) is originally from Scotland. He dabbles in playing guitar. Jessica (the bride) is Australian and loves to sing. In reference to Andy being from Scotland, they performed the song “500 Miles”, originally recorded by the Scottish band, “The Proclaimers”. After their “un-plugged” rendition of the song, the band performed the song again with full amplification. Dancing then continued until the end of the night.
For this wedding, I wore my kilt. Considering that the groom was originally from Scotland, I anticipated that there would be plenty of men wearing kilts. Alas, I arrived to find that I was the only person wearing one.
I took up playing trombone way back in 1979. For over 35 years, I’ve been spitting into the narrow end of a long piece of extendable metal pipe. Who would be crazy enough to take on such a humbling pursuit? And, of all the musical instruments available, why the trombone?
The simple reason I took up the trombone was because that’s all they had left.
Was the trombone the best choice of instrument for me to play? I don’t know. The simple reason for taking it up was that it was all that was left in the music department storeroom. I had already developed an interest in music early in high school. Inspired by Norman Gunston, my first musical pursuit was to teach myself to play the harmonica. I saw an advertisement in the ‘New Idea’ with the selling pitch, “become the life of the party”. Excited by this prospect, I posted off my money and a few weeks later received my first harmonica along with a booklet explaining how to play it. Forthwith, I took my first steps along the road to a career in music.
The following year, I bought myself a ukulele. I really wanted to play the guitar, but the ukulele looked easier having only four strings instead of six. In addition, the price of $5.00 made it very accessible. I also purchased a tutor book and I was off again in my next musical quest. Once I could strum a few chords, I bought a neck brace for my harmonica so that I could play both instruments together.
By Year 10, I felt that I was ready to move onto something more serious, so I approached the school’s music teacher and inquired about taking up a ‘proper’ instrument. Being halfway through the year, I was disappointed to discover that all the ‘good’ instrument had already been borrowed. So…what was left?
The music teacher opened the music storeroom, and there were about a dozen trombones. Nothing else. No other instruments. The choice was made for me on that day. We picked out one and I took it home. The following week, I started lessons. I have been playing ever since.
Making The Most Of It
There was never any real love of the trombone. That’s what was available, so that’s what I played. I plodded away and even got accepted into the N.S.W. Conservatorium Of Music. It was there that I picked up the nick-name “Slide”, which I have adopted as my actual name.
Becoming a singer seems to be a natural addition for trombone players. Well known examples are Trombone Shorty (Troy Andrews), Nils Landgren and Fred Wesley.
For information about playing trombone, try these links…
Despite what governments try and tell us, it’s difficult to challenge global warming being a genuine issue facing the world. We’ve just had our hottest April on record. This follows the hottest March on record. Meanwhile, glaciers in arctic areas continue to melt away. It sounds daunting, but there is an upside. It’s great news for people planning weddings. Here’s why.
The Competitiveness Of Wedding Planning
Wedding planning is a competitive affair. Many people have the same ideas as to when they want to get married. The most popular season is Spring, followed by Autumn. To put you in perspective, my Saturday nights in October and March usually book out 12 months in advance, so if you don’t get in early for these months, you miss out.
Why Are Spring and Autumn So Popular?
Spring and Autumn are always the most popular months because they are perceived as being neither too hot nor cold. The aspect of weddings that creates this demand is the clothing typically chosen to be worn by the bride and groom. Brides commonly choose to wear shoulder-less or backless gowns which are better suited for warmer months. In contrast, men customarily wear suits which are more conducive to the cooler months. The simple and common compromise is to pick spring or autumn, when temperatures are moderate.
Winter Is The Wedding Off-Season
Wedding bookings drop off markedly in winter. If you are planning a Saturday night wedding and want to get the venue you want, the photographer you want, the celebrant you want, the florist and the band you want, then winter is the time of year to easily do this. Typically, winter is overlooked as being too cold for brides, but global warming opens up a whole new opportunity.
Winter Is The New Spring/Autumn
Forward thinking brides and grooms will recognise the new opportunity granted to them by the phenomenon of global warming. Anyone planning a Sydney wedding can bypass the dog-eat-dog of vying for the same wedding venue and suppliers by simply electing to get married in the newly created, lovely warm winter months.
Get out your phone, tablet or computer, go to Google and search for “Sydney Wedding Bands”. The result will show page upon page of bands spruiking themselves as being “Sydney’s Premier Wedding Band”. The impression it gives is that every musician and singer wants to play in a wedding band, yet it wasn’t that long ago that bands were embarrassed to categorise themselves as a “wedding band”.
Musicians used to view playing in a wedding band as a sign of failure. A classic thing you would hear musicians say was, “Yeah, I’m just playing a few weddings until my original project takes off”. The focus and ambition used to be to play the music you believed in and thought would make you famous. Nowadays, the ambition seems to be playing cover versions of Ed Sherin and Justin Beiber songs, along with a few classic disco songs from the 70’s.
What Happened To The Dream?
The dream used to be sex and drugs and rock and roll. What happened? Now the dream seems to be white dresses, reception venues and wedding cake.
The dream used to be touring the world and smashing up hotel rooms. Now the dream seems to be keeping the wedding planner happy, getting some free drinks and hopefully a bread roll with your ‘crew meal’.
The dream used to be getting laid by one or more groupies after the gig. Now the dream seems to be exchanging business cards with the photographer, catching up with some musicians you haven’t worked with in a while and maybe getting some of the left over flowers to take home to your wife or girlfriend.
My Personal Wedding Story
Being born with the surname “McBride”, it seems like it’s always been my destiny to play at weddings. I don’t know anyone who has played more weddings than I have. Over the years I’ve seen many changes to what is a typical wedding reception. I’ve also seen venues come and go, photography change from analog to digital and photobooths become a “must have” addition to the night. I’ve seen many changes, but I never anticipated how competitive it would become to get couples to hire you to play at their wedding.
The Wedding “Industry”
About fifteen years ago, I first started seeing the term “wedding industry”. I’ve never been fond of the term, but the harsh reality is that the business of weddings is seen as a recession-proof cash-cow. Young couples are happy to blow tens of thousands of dollars on one day. Wedding industry suppliers are all vying for a piece of this.
Wedding Planning By “Google”
Meanwhile, the inexperienced young couples open up their phone or laptop and put their wedding planning in the hands of Google. Whichever businesses have the biggest budget to spend on Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) will appear on Google’s ‘page one’ and will be front runners for a booking. It’s a sign of the times that Google has such a strong influence on weddings. Consider that I’ve heard hundreds of wedding speeches, and what is very common is hearing, “I wasn’t sure what I should say in my speech, so I went to Google…”. I wouldn’t be surprise if young couples are consulting with Google about consummating their wedding.
The New Dream
The old dream used to be having a top 10 hit with an accompanying video clip. The new dream is about making page one on Google for the search term “Sydney Wedding Band”. My song writing has been replaced by working on and optimising my website.
Yes, I’ve only gotten better at making weddings totally memorable with my band, but without the credibility of Google I have no apparent value.
A couple of months ago I went to see Quentin Tarantino’s masterpiece, “Hateful Eight”. Tarantino’s film is a conceptual experience designed to give the movie-goer an experience similar to seeing a film at the cinema in the late 50’s/early 60’s. Two notable parts of the experience were (i) that the film was in two parts (with an interval in between), and (ii) there was a musical overture prior to each of these two sections.
I had my “cinematic experience” at the Hayden Orpheum in Cremorne. Another notable part of the experience was that there was no advertising or film trailers prior to “Hateful Eight”. Instead, a massive organ came up out of the floor and we were entertained by the masterful musician, Neil Jensen, a true maestro of the organ.
For those who don’t know much about organ playing, the amazing thing is that an organist uses four limbs simultaneously, that is two hands and two feet. The left foot is playing the bass lines. The right foot is controlling volume swells. The left hand is playing chords. The right hand is playing melodies. On top of this, hands are darting up and making changes to instrument and sound selections.
Being a musician, I was mesmerised. This is multi-tasking on steroids! The brain is being split into four parts. It’s like a four musicians coming out of one human brain.
In between being mesmerised by the organist’s performance, I looked around the cinema to see if people were as in awe as I was. I was shocked and dismayed to see that approximately half the cinema’s patrons had their phones out and were (I guess) either texting, checking emails or were on Facebook.
This brought home a very clear message to me. If you are giving a musical performance, you can’t afford to be static. The number one aim must be to be engaging. Also, sitting down during one’s performance is something to avoided at all costs. Something I am wtnessing more and more of is younger singers not only performing seated, but also using an ipad (which has become a replacement for the music stand and song book). I am appalled. How do you expect to engage an audience sitting down and staring at an ipad? This is simply laziness on behalf of the singer, and shows contempt for the audience. We wouldn’t accept going to the theatre and watching the actors walking around with a script in hand, so don’t bring this lame practice to the band-stand unless you want your audience ignoring you and playing on their phones.
No iphones here – These 2 photographs courtesy of Dean Dampney – CloudFace
These two photographs are courtesy of Dean Dampney from CloudFace Photography
The Death Of Live Bands In Sydney – The Hidden Cause
The Sydney live music scene is nothing to what it once was. The scene was once vibrant and thriving, but these days the opportunity to see bands performing live has become rare.
Why is this?
Is it because of…
Poker machines in pubs?
Restrictive licensing laws?
Strict laws for the responsible service of alcohol?
While I agree that these 3 factors have made contributions to the demise of the Sydney live music scene, I will demonstrate in this article that the real reason is Sydney’s addiction to coffee.
Let’s go back in the Slide McBride Time Machine to the 1980’s, when Sydney’s live music scene was in it’s heyday. Band’s careers were fostered from a consistency of being able to play five nights per week. The Angels, The Divinyls, Mental As Anything, Misex, The Hoodoo Gurus and Midnight Oil were all playing gigs from Tuesday through to Sunday. The Sydney Morning Herald’s ‘gig guide’ would list around 70 bands playing around town at the many venues that offered live entertainment. Original bands, cover bands, jazz bands and even bush bands kept Sydney entertained through these Golden Years of Entertainment.
Sydney’s Coffee Addiction
This is hard for today’s generation to fathom, but coffee used to be a late night/evening drink rather than an early morning pick-me-up. If you went to see a band, movie or show you went out for coffee afterwards, at 11pm. For example, back in my student days, I played in a band every Friday night at the Victoria Hotel, Annandale. Typically, friends would come and see the band and then after the gig we’d all go up to Newtown for coffee. We’d sit around drinking coffee until 1am, then go off home to bed (and to sleep).
Oh, how times have changed…
Nowadays, every morning you see the majority of Sydney supping on their caffeine addiction. It’s become the modern day heart-starter, but good luck if you want to get a coffee after 3pm. The barista will look at you like you are a freak and say, “Sorry, we’ve turned the machine off”.
What Goes Up Must Come Down
Coffee is a stimulant. That’s why we all love drinking it so much. In the morning, everyone’s powering along from that buzz they got from their latte, flat white or long black. Subsequently, when the evening comes we’re all feeling a little tired. The majority of people are fading in the evenings because they’re coming down from their morning coffee high. The consequence of all this is that in the mornings, you may be saying, “let’s go out tonight”, but once home from work it becomes, “I’m feeling a bit tired and I have to work again tomorrow”.
This is the real cause of the death of the Sydney live music scene.
My band plays at the Woollahra Hotel one Thursday night each month. The band plays from7:30pm until 10:30pm. You could hardly call this a late finish, yet the common thing I hear from people is, “Oh, it’s a bit late for a week night”.
Come on Sydney!
Get the monkey off your back and start living again. Let’s put pressure on the baristas of this town to keep their espresso machines running into the afternoons and evenings. Use the buzz you get from coffee to energise your social life rather than your working life! No more morning coffees. From now on, only drink coffee AFTER 3pm.
I recently had the pleasure of playing at a wedding at The Grounds of Alexandria. So many times I have driven past this place. Every time I am dumbfounded by the throngs of people streaming in for whatever it is this place has to offer. I was always intrigued by what could be so good about this place.
I did stop by one day for coffee and lunch. The Grounds definitely has a superb ambience, and the actual business ran like a well oiled machine. When a booking came in to play at a wedding reception at The Grounds, I wondered how this venue would translate for this type of celebration.
The wedding ceremony was held on site, although we did not play at this. We were only booked to played for the reception. This took place in a room called “The Atrium”.
I loved playing in this room. Here are three things that made playing in the Atrium a great experience.
1. Friendly, professional staff who understand the meaning of “hospitality”
We play at many venues around Sydney. Something I frequently encounter is “agency staff”. What I am referring to is casual hospitality staff supplied by agencies. Typically, these are people who may work once or twice a week as wait staff. Usually, these are students or back-packers making a bit of money to get them by. They are frequently tuned-out, look like they don’t really want to be there and rarely smile. In comparison, well established restaurants and reception venues hire full time hospitality professionals. These people have chosen hospitality as a career. They want to be there, and they want patrons to have a great experience. The staff at The Grounds all came across with this verve.
2. The theming is already done for you
Something I see more and more of is the use of theming specialists to prepare rooms/venues for wedding receptions. Usually, they hang a whole lot of stuff from the ceiling and on walls to create a “vibe”.
With the Atrium at The Grounds, this is already done for you. The room already looks amazing. Plants hang from the ceiling and the room has a lovely, rustic vibe. Straight away, you’ve saved between $3,000 – $6,000. One lass job to do, and a considerable expense spared.
3. The room has fantastic acoustics
The old wooden floorboards, and the timber walls gives the room sensational acoustics. Add to this all the hanging plants, it’s as if the room has been designed by an acoustic engineer. Some rooms are tough to play in, but The Atrium was a totally joy to work in.
For more information on The Atrium at The Grounds of Alexandria, please refer to their website –