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.
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.
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)
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;
Casino Royale/James Bond
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
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.
Here Are Some Recently “Thank You” Letters We Have Received
This age old question has haunted humans since the dawn of time. Many have made conclusions. Here’s mine.
The meaning of life is…
To serve others.
I have been a singer and musician for longer than I care to admit. I have seriously played a lot of gigs. I calculate that I’ve performed at easily over two thousand functions. A large proportion of these have been weddings, but also in the mix are Balls, birthday parties, corporate events, Christmas Parties, house parties, and even a hand-full of Bar Mitzvahs.
The older and wiser I become, the clearer the picture becomes. The more I focus on serving the people who have hired the band, the more fulfilled I am at the end of the event. When the room is buzzing and the dance floor is packed, people are happy and my ambitions have been realised.
“It’s not about me, it’s all about them”.
This sounds like a cliche, but from my experience this resonates with more and more truth. These days, my goal is to serve with humility. From what I’ve seen and read of successful people, this objective appears to be universal.
My repertoire of songs is enormous and the band covers so many different musical styles. It is common for me to be asked, “but, what do you like playing the most”? My answer is always, “whatever the people want to hear”.
After playing at an event, I frequently hear the comment, “you guys just never stopped”! The way I look at it, we are only there at that function for five or six hours, therefore sitting around taking band-breaks defeats the purpose of us being there. The client has been planning their celebration for months. It would be contemptuous of the band if we did not give 110% to creating the most memorable night possible.
Other successful people seem to endorse my view about the meaning of life being about serving others. Take for example the richest man in the world, Bill Gates. According to an article, “The 50 Most Generous Americans” from the magazine Business Week, as of 2007 Bill and Melinda Gates were the second-most generous philanthropists in America, having given over US$28 billion to charity. This would indicate that despite having more money than anyone, giving it away is more fulfilling than keeping it. Helping and serving others creates contentment.
On a simpler level, anyone who has ever prepared a meal for others will know that it’s difficult to find anything more satisfying than sitting at a table with people who are close and dear to you and enjoying a meal together that you have cooked. The joy comes from the giving.
This week I took a band booking for a wedding next March. The bride-to-be was the person who called and booked us.
This is a second-time wedding for this bride-to-be, which means she has already experienced the joys and woes of wedding planning. One of the regrets from her previous wedding (besides marrying the wrong guy) was that she didn’t hire a live band, but rather went with a DJ.
The following quote is taken from the Australian Wedding Blog, mamamia.com.au
Considering organisation isn’t one of my strongest skills, I only have one wedding regret. The music. We had a beautiful string quartet playing something beautiful that I can’t recall right now, during the ceremony but our reception music was truly awful.
Mistake number one: We choose a wedding DJ. Mistake number two: We thought he got the memo about our mix of old and new classic dance hits without the cheese. He didn’t.
The dance floor was drained faster than the raspberry cocktails we served once he started down his cheesy 80s medley rabbit hole. He couldn’t be stopped. No matter how many song suggestions my family and friends came up with, he just kept on playing his Worst of the 80s/90s remix.
A band was about three times as much money, but if I could do it all over again, I would definitely ditch the DJ and go for a band. And give them a set list.
Another (happier) story also comes to mind.
A couple of years ago, we played at a wedding at Gunners Barracks on a Monday night. Monday night weddings are unusual, so I quizzed the groom on why?
The bride and groom were both from Melbourne. They wanted a destination wedding. Initially, they researched getting married in Bali and Fiji, but they decided that it was too much to ask of their family and friends. So they thought, “what about a destination wedding in Sydney”!
For Melbournians, Melbourne Cup Day is a public holiday. Therefore, if they had their wedding on the day before the Melbourne Cup, all their wedding guests could fly up to Sydney on Friday or Saturday, have a four-day weekend and only have to take one day off work. Great planning!
Another part of their planning was that the groom researched “post-wedding regrets” on as many wedding blogs as he could. He discovered that the common post-wedding regret (particularly with grooms) was that they had opted for a DJ ahead of hiring a band. He therefore made hiring the best wedding band available his number two priority (second to hiring the best venue).
I should re-locate the band to Melbourne, because Melbourne people appreciate what we do so much more than Sydney folk. We LOVE playing for Melbournians!
One of the most common post-wedding regrets that grooms have is…
…they didn’t hire a live band for their wedding reception
This is understandable, mostly because it is a natural thing to make mistakes at our first attempt at things.
I have personally played at around two thousand weddings, and in my lifetime as a Wedding Singer, I’ve seen and heard it all. Occasionally something new and different happens, like the recent aeronautical display I witnessed during pre-dinner drinks at a wedding at Jonah’s, Whale Beach. Or, the nude wedding ceremony on the secluded beach. Or, the end of night punch up that didn’t end until the police riot squad arrived.
Here’s the source of the problem with wedding planning.
The budget versus the fantasy.
Weddings are like going to restaurants. You can go to a really expensive restaurant, spend lots of money and have a lousy time. Alternatively, you can go to a real “cheapie”and have a wonderful experience. Naturally, there are a whole range of experience in between. You can spend a lot of money and have an amazing time, just as you can have a cheap meal that’s totally awful. But, ultimately, it all comes down to the quality of the experience.
These days, when I go to a restaurant, what impresses me is the quality of ingredients. If you have a cut of meat that’s from an animal that’s been grass feed and has led a stress free life, you know you are going to be in for a treat. If this is served with organically grown vegetable that have only been picked a few hours earlier in the day, then you know you are going to experience something special. Not much more has to be done, because of the supreme quality of the ingredients.
Dessert could be custard make with fresh, free range farm eggs, organic unpasturised milk, sugar and a fresh vanilla pod. It’s not how many ingredients, it’s the quality of those ingredients.
A wedding reception is the same, and there are really only four important ingredients.
1. A great location.
This could be a hired restaurant or venue, a relative’s house, or a marquee in the backyard.
2. Superb Food.
This could range from fine dining at a restaurant, to your Aunty’s home cooking, to perfectly roasted lamb on a spit in your back garden.
3. Plenty to drink
We I was a boy, my father always used to say, “the sign that you’ve had a good party is plenty of alcohol the following morning”. This never made sense with me until I got old enough to understand this pearl of wisdom!
4. Outstanding Entertainment
Never underestimate the value of a really good band. They are the final layer in making your wedding reception a stand out event that you will cherish the memories from for the rest of your lives together.
If you have the above four elements covered, you’ll be in for a totally memorable event, and I would recommend hiring a photographer to capture these memories in images that you’ll be able to look back over for many years afterwards.
On Saturday, 1st August, 2015, we played at Andrew and Helen’s wedding ceremony, followed by their reception at The Hughenden, Woollahra.
Helen and Andrew had seen us perform last December at their friends’ wedding in Berry. They actually based their whole wedding date around our availability, which is a wonderful endorsement.
The ceremony was in Centennial Park, and was performed by the Marriage Celebrant, Melissa Soncini. The weather was sublime for the first day of August, and Melissa led a relaxed ceremony. We played at the ceremony in our un-amplified roving acoustic format.
Here’s a photo (below) of Melissa with Blake (from the band).
After the ceremony and photos in the park, guests walked the short distance to The Hughenden Boutique Hotel on Queen Street, Woollahra.
The Hughenden, Woollahra
The Hughenden is a classic “old world” styled private hotel, that oozes decadence and charm. The band band set up in a function room they have at the rear of the hotel. Dinner was from a couple of pieces of meat that were roasted over the spit, which keep the guests (who chose to spend time outdoors) salivating in anticipation.
What I loved about Helen and Andrew’s wedding reception was the format. It was a stand-up/cocktail styled event. This type of function is so simple and relaxed. There were chairs for those who wanted to sit down, but then nobody was stuck sitting between two people for hours on end, trying to make conversation. The stand-up style event is also more conducive to dancing. Many guests are already on their feet, so transitioning into dancing is easy.
And (best of all), Helen and Andrew were staying overnight in one of the hotel rooms, so at the end of the function all they had to do was shuffle up upstairs to their room.
Last Saturday night we played at a post wedding celebration for Daniel and Damon. There wedding was in New York, U.S.A. last year. Obviously, the wedding was wasn’t in Australia, because that can’t happen here, yet.
Damon (one of the grooms) is from America. Daniel (the other groom) is Australian. The party was at Icebergs at Bondi Beach. It was a cocktail styled function (a particular format of which I am a big fan). Cocktail style styled functions are wonderful because guests aren’t stuck sitting between two people for half the night. They are free to mingle and move around. The ambiance is far more relaxed. Also, generally people tend to dance more at this type of function.
While we have never played at a same sex “wedding“, we have played at three same sex “commitment ceremonies”. These have been exactly like weddings, except that Australian Law doesn’t recognise the marriage as being legal.
I am mostly extremely proud to be Australian, but I must admit a little embarrassment that Australia is so far behind so many other countries around the world when it comes to marriage equality. Hopefully, our country’s leaders with cease stalling on this matter.
In an era where marriage has moved away from the old notion of “until death do us part”, and become more like a “legal partnership”, the current government’s procrastination on this matter is antiquated to say the least.
For your information, here is a list of countries that recognise same sex marriages;
Argentina, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Iceland, Ireland, Luxembourg, Malta, Mexico, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, United Kingdom, U.S.A., Uruguay
To read more about same sex marriages, you might like to click on these links;