Having played at hundreds of weddings, I have learned at least one vital lesson: never give the bride, groom, best man, father of the bride or tearful sister the microphone; never allow anyone to get up on stage; never give in to the incessant demand to be able to sing along whilst you play Angels, or assume you can all suddenly play A Whole New World from Aladdin whilst the bride’s maids of honour wail away: don’t give them the mic.
Firstly, they often aren’t in any kind of sober enough position to be able to perform, even if they do know the lyrics. Drunks tend to concentrate more, which gives them that false sense of security, and as their friends are also drunk there’s this camaraderie of distorted plaudits, a wicked domain of self-congratulatory, peer confidence building. The confidence is bullshit, but they’re not really aware of it.
Secondly, they concentrate so hard on getting it right that they sometimes forget why they’re up there in the first place. Seriously, I’ve had people wake-up mid-song/rant/declaration of love for the groom’s new wife. And then they freeze and it’s not funny at all, just embarrassing.
Thirdly, most people don’t have the technical skills to do what they want. Many people play guitar a little, a surprising amount of party-goers tend to think that drumming is actually quite easy, and nearly everyone thinks they can sing once a few vodka-and-cokes have been downed.
Finally, they often don’t know the words. Actually, they do, but not necessarily as well as think they do. They also think they know the tune, in a kind of ‘singing-in-the-car’ way as opposed to a highly-skilled performance way: they know the melody but not the acciaccaturas and appoggiaturas, the grace notes which have been written especially to not be noticed by the casual listener. They know a little, and to many people a little is enough, especially since we don’t need experts anymore. But they don’t know enough.
Now, I’ve had challenges thrown at me on stage. Once I was told that we were playing the first dance as the couple were walking to the floor. We’d never played the song. Luckily, we all knew the song to some extent (“Tobes, the solo just follows the vocal line, alright?” “Er, okay ..”), we were all sober, we’d been in loads of these situations before, and were all technically proficient and experienced musicians. If there was one thing we were missing, which would be the most insurmountable?
It simply has to be knowing the song, right? I mean, when the audience say, “Can you play something funky?” we can, because we know lots of funk tunes; when they ask if we can play the ‘B’ side to My Sharona we can’t because we simply don’t know it – we could if we did, and probably could work it out (badly) if we had a couple of listens in the van, but if we just don’t know the song then we’re stuffed.
I wouldn’t give myself the mic if I didn’t know the song. Knowledge has to be the starting point.