Sydney Wedding Bands
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.
Live Band Performance Tips –
How To Compete With Mobile Phones
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
For more details on Dean Dampney and CloudFace, go to http://www.cloudface.com.au
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.
The Grounds, Alexandria
One of Sydney’s Best Wedding Venues
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 –
Moby’s at Whale Beach – Venue Review
Going to the Northern Beaches of Sydney is like leaving Sydney altogether. The “vibe” of the district is nothing like the rest of Sydney. It has a tranquility unmatched. It’s as if such a high proportion of their population meditates and does yoga that the consciousness of the area has been taken to a higher plane.
The drive up to Moby’s at Whale Beach is long and arduous, but once you arrive it’s like the stress simply washes away, out into the Pacific Ocean. It’s as if each set of waves that roll in cleanses your soul, taking your consciousness into that Northern Beaches state of mind.
The staff at Moby’s are all “beautiful people”. It’s as if they have all been conceived by angels. They are friendly and relaxed, and they are tuned into making guests feel totally welcome.
The venue is perched high above Whale Beach. The windows face the ocean and give sweeping, breathtaking views. It’s one of those situations where the outlook is always amazing, regardless of the weather. It’s just the light and colours that vary, whether it be sunny, overcast or stormy.
Food and service at this venue is always of the highest standard. The staff are “chilled” but switched on – a great combination.
As a room to play in (as a band), it’s always a pleasure. It’s a grand, open space with wooden floors. This is particularly good for acoustic based music. The timber floor gives the music an added resonance. A quirky feature is the curved ceiling. This also assists with the acoustics of the room. Parallel surfaces create acoustical problems. The floor and ceiling at Moby’s aren’t parallel, therefore these problems are avoided, giving the room superb acoustic qualities.
Often, when we play at Moby’s, buses are organised to get people back into town. This is a good model to follow, as a taxi fare back into the city would be expensive.
Top 5 Tips To Make Sure Your Party Is A Success
Here are my top 5 tips to ensure that your party is successful.
- Find the right location
- Get the people there
- Give them plenty to eat and drink
- Avoid long speeches
- Provide great entertainment
1. Find The Right Location
There is no right or wrong location when it comes to planning an event or party. It all comes down to what suits your needs. The most important aspect is matching your numbers to the size of your space.
People Create Energy
Energy is an intangible thing, but groups of people definitely emit energy. The most obvious example of this is a large crowd of people at either a concert or a sporting fixture. This group energy often gets described as “the atmosphere” or “the vibe”. It’s unlikely that you’ll have sixty thousand people at your party, but then you won’t be holding your party in a football arena. The important thing is matching your expected numbers to the size of the venue.
Avoid Disjointed Spaces
The best parties are when everybody is all in together. Venues with separate spaces break up the energy flow which can affect the vibe of your party. There is a memorable party scene in the film, “Breakfast At Tiffany’s”. The party is being held in an apartment and the guests are packed in like sardines. It’s a perfect example of how the density of people creates atmosphere inducive of a memorable party.
A Room With A View
A venue with a spectacular outlook will make your party visually memorable, however it’s definitely not an essential element. A lounge room in someone’s house can be totally memorable if the next 4 elements are in order.
2. Get The People There
Pitching Is Everything
We live in a competitive world, and this crosses over into getting people along to your party or event. Depending on the time of year, you may be competing with (i) other events/parties (ii) major sporting events, e.g. Bledisloe Cup (iii) people’s family commitments (iv) conscientiousness regarding work commitments
Saturday night is the most common choice as “party night”, but this can add to the difficulties in getting people to show up. Your potential guests may have invitations to one or more other parties on the same night. This is especially a factor to consider in summer months. To counteract this, you’ll need to sell your party as the superior party or event to attend.
You’ll also need to invite your guests well in advance, and keep reminding them of what an amazing party you’ll be having.
Fridays and Sundays
Choosing Friday and Sunday tend to be second and third choices, but choosing either of these days is a strong strategy to avoid competing with potentially a multitude of other parties. Sundays are particularly underrated for parties. The general view is that most people have to work the next day, but realistically if your party runs from 5pm until 10pm this shouldn’t be a deterrent. Besides, if people are that worried about working, how much much fun will they be at your party, anyway?
Ultimately, any day is a great day for a party if you throw a great party!
3. Give Them Plenty To Eat And Drink
My Dad used to say to me (the day after one of his numerous parties), “the sign of a good party is plenty of alcohol left over the next day”. When I first heard him say this I was puzzled, but as I pondered on this pearl of wisdom I realised the truth in it.
Food Upon Arrival
Drinking alcohol on an empty stomach is something to avoid, so I recommend plenty of food available upon arrival. It’s all about giving your guests the opportunity to pace themselves. If your guests get smashed in the first hour things can turn ugly.
On the topic of food, make sure you provide plenty of gluten free options. It’s becoming more and more common for people to be on restrictive diets. Many people either can’t eat or try to avoid eating bread. Offer options such as sushi or sliced vegetables with dip.
If your guests are well catered for, they won’t want to leave. If they are hungry and sober, they’ll leave quickly.
4. Avoid Long Speeches
The Ultimate Party Killing Story
I once played at a 21st Birthday Party where the father of the girl turning 21 took the microphone and preluded his speech with, “I have 21 pages to get through… one page for each year of my daughter’s life”. His speech lasted for one and a quarter hours, after which everybody left. We then played to an empty room for the rest of the night, (except for the birthday girl and her immediate family).
Well written speeches can be hilarious. Work out what you want to say, and then add some funny bits. Avoid people speaking “off the cuff”. Speakers who are unprepared will ramble. A few drunks will laugh and encourage them, while they proceed will killing the vibe of your party.
If you are having speeches, make three your limit.
5. Provide Great Entertainment
Nothing beats hiring professionals who know what they are doing. If you are hiring professional caterers to feed your guests, then also consider hiring professional entertainers to entertain your guests.
A lot of the time, guests can keep themselves entertained with find people to talk to, or finding someone to talk at. People dread being cornered by a bore. Your guests came to your party to have fun, not to be talked at. Give them an escape… “Yes, that’s really interesting, but I love this song and I really want to dance”!
Great Entertainment Will Make Your Guests Want To Come To Your Next Party Or Event
It’s all about creating a memorable experience for your guests (and yourself). If your guests are having a great time, then you’ll be having a great time.
Examples of entertainment could include;
- Surprise singers
- An engaging and entertaining band
And…if you want a ukulele player in Sydney, try – http://www.sugarmanslim.com/
Bridal Dance –
Top 10 Song Choices
Here is my top 10 list of song choices for the Bridal Dance
- At Last (made famous by Etta James)
- Love Is In The Air (made famous by John Paul Young)
- Let’s Stay Together (made famous by Al Green)
- It Had To Be You (made famous by Harry Connick Jnr)
- Thinking Out Loud (made famous by Ed Sheeran)
- Fly Me To The Moon (made famous by Tony Bennett)
- Crazy Little Thing Called Love (made famous by Queen)
- Can’t Help Falling In Love (made famous by Elvis Presley)
- Is This Love (made famous by Bob Marley)
- Moon River (made famous by Andy Williams)
“At Last” is an old jazz standard that was transformed when Etta James belted out her iconic version of this song. When we play it, we give it a similar ‘bluesy’ treatment. It has a strong 12/8 pulse which makes it ideal for slow dancing.
Love Is In The Air
“Love Is In The Air” is out of the ‘Vander and Young’ songbook and is the archetypal love song. Originally made famous by John Paul Young in the ’70’s, the song made a resurgence after being used in the movie, “Strictly Ballroom”. This is a great choice for a bridal dance if you want something light and fun, but with a strong beat that’s easy to dance to.
Let’s Stay Together
“Let’s Stay Together” is a song that never seems to lose popularity as a choice for the bridal dance. It’s a sophisticated soul classic, made famous by Al Green in 1972. It was brought to the attention of a new generation by it’s inclusion in the movie, “Pulp Fiction”. We play a similar version to Al Green, utilising the same arrangement and brass line.
It Had To Be You
“It Had To Be You” is a very old song dating back to the 1920’s. Harry Connick Jnr gave it a new lease of life when it was included in the romantic comedy blockbuster, “When Harry Met Sally”. This is a timeless classic, regardless of who performs it. The vocals are cool and relaxed to sing, and the melody sits beautifully on the trombone.
Thinking Out Loud
“Thinking Out Loud” is a relatively recent song recorded by the young musical genius, Ed Sheeran. Harmonically simple, the phrasing of the lyrics is what really makes this such a sensational song. It sounds great with the full band, but also works very well with solo ukulele and vocals. If you are looking for something a bit more contemporary, but also something that’s slower and romantic, this song is a superb choice.
Fly Me To The Moon
Some songs just never age, and “Fly Me To The Moon” is truly a timeless classic. I’ll always remember watching Tony Bennett belt this one out unaccompanied and without a microphone in concert in Sydney. Frank Sinatra also did a quintessential version of this song. If your dance style is a swinging foxtrot, this will suit you perfectly.
Crazy Little Thing Called Love
This song was a sensation when released by Queen in the early 1980’s. “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” has been recorded more recently by Michael Buble, who added his swinging, crooning style to the song. The song essentially has a swing feel to it, which can either translate into 1950’s rock’n’roll or else something a bit more ‘jazzy’. Our treatment is the same arrangement as the original Queen version. If you have been learning to jive, this will suit your purposes perfectly.
Can’t Help Falling In Love
“Can’t Help Falling In Love” was originally recorded by Elvis Presley but was given a revamp in the early ’90’s by UB40 with their ska/reggae version. The song actually works well in a variety of styles, whether that be 12/8 (like the original Elvis version), reggae (like the UB40 version) or even with a laid back funk groove. We play the song in all the above mentioned styles depending on the mood, or the taste of the bride and groom.
Is This Love
“Is This Love” is another timeless classic, but this time from the 1970’s. This exemplary love song was originally recorded by Bob Marley and the Wailers and is iconic to this band and to reggae music. The traditional reggae ‘skank’ (i.e. strong accents on the second and fourth beat of each bar) makes this song particularly easy to dance to.
“Moon River” is from the pen of Henry Mancini and was written for the film, “Breakfast At Tiffany’s” which established Audrey Hepburn as a superstar actress. The song is actually in 3/4 and is what is described as a ‘jazz waltz’. The ‘bridal dance’ was originally called, the’ bridal waltz’ and was done to a ‘jazz waltz’. If you are into tradition and would like to do a ‘proper bridal waltz’, then you can’t go past this song. The tempo, phrasing and lyrics all make it perfect for this purpose.
Just Off My Top 10 Songs For The Bridal Dance
These songs just missed my “top 10” list;
- Way You Look Tonight (made famous by Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett and Michael Buble)
- Can’t Take My Eyes Off You (made famous by Frankie Valli and Andy Williams)
- Everything (made famous by Michael Buble)
- How Sweet It Is To Be Loved By You (made famous by James Taylor)
- Save The Last Dance For Me (made famous by Dean Martin and Michael Buble)
- Unforgettable (made famous by Nat ‘King’ Cole)
- Sway (made famous by Dean Martin and Michael Buble)
- Better Together (made famous by Jack Johnson)
- All of Me (made famous by John Legend)
- Perfect (new song from Ed Sheeran)
Slide McBride performing “At Last”
Why Book a Live Band For Your Christmas Party ?
As we approach Christmas, the diary is starting to fill up with Christmas Party bookings. Some are staff parties and some are client parties, but…
Why should you hire a live band to play at your Christmas Party?
The Staff Christmas Party
Here is a typical scenario.
You’ve been working with the same people all year. What is there left to talk about? There will be food to eat and drinks to be drunk, but what then? Do you really want to be standing around talking about work at your Christmas Party? And do you really think that lame DJ is going to make you want to dance in front of your professional peers?
How A Live Band Will Make A Difference
- A live band is a spectacle. If they are at half decent, they will be entertaining so at least you will be able to sit/stand and watch them perform.
- A live band creates an energy and atmosphere that is unique. Energy is an intangible thing, but a live band will create far more than a DJ.
- A quality singer/frontman(or woman) will inspire you to become involved with the music (and… maybe even dance)!
The Client Christmas Party
Nothing adds sophistication to your event better than a quality live band. Your clients will get asked the following day, “So, how was the Christmas Party”? The response will be, “They had this really cool band”!
The important things are;
- Finding a live band that doesn’t play too loud
- Finding a live band with an engaging singer/front-person who will intrigue your guests, but without being a distraction
- Getting a band that will create a point of interest and create conversational opportunities
“If It Ain’t Broke, Don’t Fix It”
The common mistake Christmas Party organisers make each year is that they think;
- It has to be completely different to last year
- It has to be themed
- A DJ is cheap and will leave more money for alcohol and food
We play at many Christmas Parties each year and we frequently get told that we “made” the party, or “it was the best Christmas Party EVER”!
Sadly, when I asked if they want to book us again for next year’s Christmas Party, I usually get told, “we’d love to but, we have to do something different”.
Finally, here’s a list of themes we have successfully adapted to;
- 1920’s/Great Gatsby
- Casino Royale/James Bond
- 1950’s/Early Rock’n’Roll
- 1960’s/Swingin’ 60’s
- Beach Theme/Beach Party
- Colours, for example, “White” Party, or “Red & Black” Party
Call (or text) now and check availabilities for this year’s Christmas Party
Send me an email – email@example.com
Live Band For Wedding, Sydney
Weddings should be one of the most memorable events in people’s lives, yet it’s easier than you think for a wedding to be forgettable and boring.
My perspective of weddings is from the viewpoint of an entertainer, musician and band-leader. Occasionally I also double up as an MC and DJ. I have performed at well over one thousand weddings, so there isn’t much I haven’t seen.
A live band at a wedding is no longer seen as essential, and is considered a luxury in this day and age. A DJ will cost probably about a fifth of what you’d pay for a quality live band, and an ipod is free.
So, Why Hire A Live Band For Your Wedding
Knowing the contribution my band makes to an event such as a wedding is obvious for me. I see it on the night and I get the “thank you” letters to back up what I see on the night. The difference between my band and a DJ is the relationship we forge throughout the event with the guests.
“I Want To Have A Relationship With My Audience”
I once read this quote in a newspaper interview with caberet singer and entertainer, David Campbell. I first I thought the comment was ridiculous, but later I adopted it as my own mantra whenever performing at events such as wedding receptions.
It’s All About The Connection
Ultimately, the difference between a DJ and a great live band is the connection between the entertainer and the guests. I have been honing my skills in connecting with an audience for over twenty years.
Playing At A Function Is Totally Different To Playing A Public Gig
The difference between playing at a public bar and playing at a function is the fact that you have a captive audience for usually a minimum of 5 hours.
“It’s A Bit Like Going On A Date”
If you go on a dinner date, you’re probably not going to be making out before you have dinner. Maybe there’ll be a little bit of kissing if the circumstances are right, but even then that’s merely a prelude for what will come later. There’s going to be conversation over dinner. This is where connection and rapport builds. If this rapport and connection builds slowly and surely, then one thing will lead to another.
That’s What We Do With The Band
I believe that it’s by performing live music throughout pre-dinner drinks and then dinner that builds the foundation for guests to find that dancing is irresistible later in the night. It’s all about slowly increasing the intensity in small increments over an extended.