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
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.
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.
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;
Our lives are made up of memories. The more amazing they are, the better our lives have been.
Last week I drove past The Albion Park Aerodrome (just south of Wollongong). I had a flash back to the only time in my life that I have ever been up in a small four-seater light aeroplane.
A family friend (who I used to call Uncle John) had a passion for flying and had a licence to fly light aircraft. As a treat one day, he took his his son, my brother and me up for about an hour flying over the Illawarra District. I must have been around 11 or 12 years of age, yet the memory is still strong in my mind. And, every time I drive south along Princes Highway and go past the little Albion Park Aerodrome, I recall the experience. That was a long times ago, but it’s a memory that I always remember and cherish. ‘Uncle John’ died about twenty years ago, and his son has also recently passed away, yet the memory of that hour long flight remains with me.
Similarly, whenever I play with my band at a function, whether it be a wedding, birthday party or ball, I am aware of how significant these special events are in people’s lives. These are occasions and milestones that always stay with us, so it’s important to make sure you remember them as exceptional experiences and not as regrets.
At almost every function we play at, the organiser has employed a photographer. They are there to capture the ‘memories’ in photographs. We (the band) are there to create the memories. The guys in my band are sick of hearing me say this, as it’s become my mantra whenever playing at private functions…
On Saturday, 11th July, 2015 we played at Jacqui and Kieran’s wedding reception at Centennial Park Dining. *(For more information on this venue, please refer to their website – http://www.cpdining.com.au/ )
Jacqui and Kieran are a great couple with heaps of friends and family members who love to dance.
Jacqui is a high school music teacher. One of her close friends is Natalie. She is also a high school music teacher. The two of them met while studying music at University of New South Wales. At the wedding, Natalie was one of Jacqui’s bridesmaids, and as a special treat, Natalie actually sang the song for the bridal dance. The song was “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You”, (originally recorded by Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons). Here’s a short piece of footage of Natalie singing this song with the band, while Kieran and Jacqui dance their bridal dance.
I managed to get an awesome collection of photographs from the evening.
Long Reef Golf Club – What’s The Best Band To Hire?
Maybe you have made a booking to hold your event, function or wedding reception at Long Reef Golf Club and now you are pondering on what’s the best band to hire for this venue. We love playing at Long Reef Golf Club, Collaroy, and these are three reasons that come straight to mind.
1. The people who run the events are so amazing
You can meet “nice, friendly” people every day, but when you encounter “nice, friendly” people who are fantastic at their job and are totally switched on to you needs, then that takes things to a completely different level. Toni, Chantelle and Alex are exceptional at what they do. “Passion” is one thing, but professionalism and attention to detail take things to a completely different level. Follow this link to read more, from the Long Reef Golf Club website – http://longreefgolfclub.com.au/beach-weddings/meet-team/
2. It’s such a cracking location
Going to the Northern Beaches is like visiting a different country. The area offers something unique to the rest of Sydney. It’s a whole “vibe” thing. The sea, the surf and the area’s separation contribute to this, but more than anything, it’s the people. They are relaxed and chilled but also friendly and approachable. In addition, they are also cultured and intelligent. These traits translate through the staff at Long Reef Golf Club. It extends through from the event-sales staff right through to the bar and wait staff.
3. The venue’s layout enables us to demonstrate our full versatility
We (the band) can play in so many different formats, but at Long Reef Golf Club, we can really show off our full versatility. We can play outdoors in our roving acoustic format. We can also play outdoors with amplification which works so well in the summer when the afternoons are so long. When we play inside, it is possible for us to do two separate set-ups. We can play relaxed dinner music with a cut-down version of using amplifiers. We can then crank things up in the annexed room with the wooden dance floor.
We have quite a bit of footage of the band playing at Long Reef Golf Club – some indoors and some outdoors. Please take a look…
Maybe you are wondering, “Who would be the best band to hire for my forthcoming event at Zest, The Spit”? I have had a long association with Zest at the Spit. My band actually played at the opening of this venue. We always relish the opportunity to play there. It’s a superb venue and here are the three things that make it so;
If you hire a band, photographer, videographer or professional MC, it is expected that you supply these people with a “service meal” or “crew meal”. This is typically a main course. Therefore, whenever we play at Zest, we get a sample of the menu. So when I write here that the food at Zest is superb, I am writing from my experiences. In addition to this, anyone who make a comments on Zest always rave about how good the food is.
I have played at pretty much every venue in Sydney, and I have witnessed plenty of substandard service. Some venues will use “agency staff”, which usually equates to backpackers on holiday trying to earn a few dollars before the go scuba diving in Cairns. Needless to say, their attitude and effort leave much to be desired. In complete contract, the staff at Zest are totally professional. They are quick, friendly and attentive and… they actually smile.
The Spit is a gorgeous location, and Zest makes perfect use of this harbour backdrop. Pre-dinner drinks are typically held outside on the balcony. Guests can mingle with the ambiance of water and boats, and with stunning views across to Clontarf. The decor of the room is modern and contemporary.
My band specialises in playing at events for between 50 and 150 people where we set up on the floor and become a focus point for the party. A venue such as Zest, The Spit is perfect for what we do. We can play outside on the balcony (in our roving acoustic format). We can also play in this format in the bar area next door to the dining room. We can play throughout dinner at an intensity where people can still comfortably hold a conversation. After dinner, we can cause a commotion to get your gets into motion and inspire them to dance the rest of the evening away.
For more on Zest at The Spit, check out their website –