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.
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…
One of my favourite venues in Sydney has just been rebranded. It is now called “View By Sydney”.
I have had a long association with this venue under various names and incarnations. Initially the venue was Ottoman Cuisine. It was an exceptional Turkish restaurant owned by chef, Serif Kaya. He was commuting from Canberra but tired from the long drive to work.
Next, it became The Wharf at Pier 2. This was a re-location of the Wharf Restaurant from it’s original location at the end of piers 4 & 5 (The Sydney Theatre Company). Their lease came up for renewal and the people on the board of the Sydney Theatre Company wanted their space back. The end of their lease coincided with Serif Kaya wanting to stay in Canberra, so Serif leased out the restaurant space and it became The Wharf at Pier 2.
Unfortunately, things didn’t work out. The Wharf at Pier 2 went into receivership and the lease was taken over by The Dede’s Group. They have a few restaurants around Sydney’s waterfront, including Dede’s (at The Sydney Rowing Club, Abbotsford) and Deckhouse (in Woolwich). Originally, the restaurant was called Dedes On The Wharf, but Dede’s Group has now re-branded the restaurant as ‘View By Sydney’.
Enough on history, what about the space?
The restaurant is in a great part of town. Situated at Dawe’s Point near the based of the Harbour Bridge, it’s close to the CBD, has exquisite views of the harbour yet there is plenty of parking. The room will comfortably sit 150 for dinner. Naturally, they can accommodate larger and small groups, but 150 people is comfortable.
For pre-dinner drinks, they have an outdoor area that looks across the harbour to Lavender Bay and the Harbour Bridge. There are wharves adjacent, so you have the option of using a ferry or water taxi as your means of transport. If you use this outdoor space for your pre-dinner drinks, the band can start off in our roving acoustic mode.
The space for the band to set up inside is small but completely adequate for my four piece band. The venue will lay a dance floor in front of where the band sets up, which is usually the northern corner of the room.
If there’s one venue in Sydney that suits the band better than anywhere else in Sydney, it’s got to be Athol Hall, AND… if there’s one venue that we have played at more than any other venue in Sydney, it’s got to be Athol Hall.
Set in Sydney Harbour National Park, Athol Hall is just down from Taronga Zoo off Bradley’s Head Road in Mosman on Sydney’s lower North Shore. It has views across to the Sydney CBD.
There are four things that I love about Athol Hall;
The outdoor space
The indoor space
The owner of the business
The native wildlife
The Outdoor Space
Athol Hall boasts an expansive lawn, surrounded by native Australian bushland. This is a perfect setting for the band to perform in our “roving acoustic” format, but rather than trying to describe this using words, these film clips will show this better.
The Indoor Space
The hall itself is wooden and approximately a hundred years old and has loads of rustic charm. Old wood enhances the quality of resonance. Much the same as an old violin or double bass having a superior sound, when the band plays acoustically inside the hall, the sound is amazing.
The hall is the perfect size for weddings and parties. We recently played at a wedding there for 30 people. We have also played there for a capacity crowd of around 160.
Here’s the band rocking out at Athol Hall (later in the evening).
The Owners Of The Business (Athol Hall)
In this day and age, a function-venue actually being run by a husband and wife partnership is a rarity. I would estimate 95% of function-venues in Sydney are run by corporations with vast networks of managers and staff. What is so refreshing about playing at Athol Hall is that every time we turn up there to play, the business owner, Susan Hewitt is there setting things up and liaising with other suppliers. We have a chat and a catch up before we get on with things. It’s so refreshing!
The Native Wildlife
This is a superb venue if you are going to have guests coming from overseas. The wildlife is surprisingly tame. They help create that ‘uniquely Australian’ vibe. There are kookaburras, possums, bush turkeys and lizards. Check out the cheeky possum in this clip (below).
Should you accept a “throw-together” band just because the gig is your wedding?
What actually makes a band “a band” is when the same group of musicians do hundreds of gigs together as one unit. It’s the combination. This can’t be replicated easily. Think of what happened to INXS after Michael Hutchence died? The band has kept going, but it’s never been as good. Similarly, think of it like a great football team. If you can keep the same combination going out onto the field unchanged for a whole season, they will run rings around an “all star” team thrown together for one game. Do you want your wedding to be a well paid band rehearsal or would you prefer a well oiled machine? Is it actually a band or has it been “tailor-made” (in other words “thrown-together”) to accommodate your budget.
Tip 1 – Beware of fake bands.
Tip # 2
How long will the band actually play for?
I went to a wedding as a guest earlier this year. The bride and groom booked a 1950’s style rock and roll band to play. Being a musician, I was intrigued to watch how long they played for. The reception went for five hours, during which they played two sets – a 45 minute set and a 35 minute set. That’s an hour and twenty minutes out of five hours. The rest of the time they just sat around. When I told the guys in my band about it, they couldn’t believe how little they played. We normally aim to play 5 X 45 minutes or the equivalent there of. I didn’t become a musician to sit around on breaks. Do you want your band to actually work, or do you want them sitting around drinking up your bar tab?
Tip 2 – Find out how long the band intends to play for.
Tip # 3
A Wedding Band Specialises in playing at Wedding
What makes playing at a wedding different to other types of gigs?
The first consideration with a wedding is the diversity in the ages of guests. Generally, ages can range from 18 to 80. In addition to friends, there’ll be parents, grand-parents, uncles, aunties, cousins and maybe some work colleagues. A diverse audience needs a band with a diverse repertoire.
The second consideration is that wedding receptions are usually a minimum of five hours long. The reception will usually unfold in stages. Guests arrive sober and typically want to talk and catch up with friends and family while partaking in pre-dinner drinks. It’s great to have the band playing as guests arrive. It adds atmosphere and can be lots of fun but it can’t be obtrusive. If it’s a ‘sit-down’ dinner style reception, can the band create ambience without intruding upon guests’ conversations? When it comes to dancing, how many different age groups will be enticed into dancing? The appeal of the band needs to be inclusive of a broad range of ages.
Tip 3 – Book a band that will appeal to multiple age groups
Tip # 4
I’ll Be There For You
Who are you dealing with?
When you talk to the person representing the band, are you dealing with someone who will actually be there at the wedding? Often, the person you’ll be dealing with will be an agent or professional salesperson who won’t be there. If you can cut out the ‘middle-man’ you’ll be far better off. Talking to and building a rapport with the band leader will lead to a better performance by the band. It’s all about relationships. If the band feel like they know you, they’ll do a better job for you. It’s as simple as that. If there’s no relationship, your wedding will be merely a pay-packet. No relationship equals no vibe.
Tip 4 – It’s a genuine advantage to be dealing directly with the band-leader.
Tip # 5
Reputation and Referrals
How many weddings have you been to?
If you haven’t been to many weddings, a great idea is to let your friends and acquaintances (and even other suppliers) do your leg work for you. Good, strong, credible referrals are ten times better than well constructed websites. Chances are that your photographer has been to hundreds of weddings. Ask him/her for their ideas on the best bands going around town. Venues will often have a “preferred suppliers” list, but you need to be wary as to whether the band is on the list due to their merits, or because they have paid to be on the list. Ask around your friends, colleagues and acquaintances. If the name of a band comes up two or three times, chances are you are onto something.
Tip 5 – Nothing beats a great referral or recommendation.
Final Word On Booking A Wedding Band.
The whole wedding scene has changed a so much since I first started playing at them. The fact that people refer to it as an “industry” is something I find disturbing. I find the whole concept of businesses maximising their profits out of a “couple’s special day” as totally off, but so typical of the era in which we live. If you feel the same way, and want a band that’s real, passionate and a bit “old school” about what they do, I can assure you we will run rings around any other bands.
I believe in finding purpose. When I find purpose then I have all I need to drive me to make something useful of myself. One of the things that I’ve worked out for myself is the value of serving other people. This is what then gives me a purpose, makes me feel useful and then leads to fulfillment.
I have one of those “dream” jobs that people fantasize about. I am a singer in a band, and have made my living from this for the last twenty-five years. It’s a job that sounds great and can be loads of fun, but has many pitfalls and a never ending list of challenges.
An example of one of the pitfalls is alcohol. What other jobs are there where you are encouraged and expected to drink alcohol. As a singer, it’s always available and always free and constantly being offered, but it’s the worst thing for your voice. I learned very early in the game that this has to be avoided, despite the temptation always being there.
I have worked with plenty of musicians who drink when they work, and I’ve never seen it make someone play better. Sadly, I’ve heard it make many musicians sound a whole lot worse. I’ve had some highly embarrassing moments on the bandstand surrounded by drunks while I’ve been totally sober. The audience look perplexed while the guys in the band think they sound amazing.
One of the major challenges of being a singer is getting older. Our culture is preoccupied with youth, and the music business takes this further than any other occupation. I have the experience of performing on somewhere around three thousand gigs, but the person hiring the band will generally prefer a singer with little or no experience but with the right look, that is, young and sexy. In contrast, imagine needing an operation or surgery but opting for a young, good looking doctor rather than an older, experience one. Another example might be that you are facing jail, but rather than employing the most experienced lawyer available, you prefer to hire a young sexy lawyer.
Another challenge that is hard to take is part time singers and musicians who happily play for free because they want to live out a fantasy of being a “rock star” for the night. Sometimes I fantasize about being a banker and buying and selling companies in foreign lands, but I don’t anticipate that anyone is going to let me do that for even one hour.
Getting back to my original statement of finding purpose, the older I get the more I value “serving” other people. I work harder now on a gig than I have ever worked because I can see my role more clearly than ever before. I generally get employed to perform at occasions in people’s live that are highly significant to them, such as their wedding or their birthday party, where primarily my role is to make the night as memorable as possible. So, this is what I try to do. It’s all about them, and not about me. It sounds like a cliche, but that’s where my journey as a singer has taken me.
On New Year’s Eve we played at Tom and Louisa’s wedding reception at Gunners Barracks, Georges Heights (Mosman).
The bride and I.
Tom (the groom) in the centre with a couple of his mates.
Guests dancing on the terrace.
If you are looking to hire a band for your Sydney wedding, then you have come to the right place. Slide McBride has Sydney’s best reputation for providing entertainment that will make your wedding truly memorable and talked about for many years.