Sunday, June 28, 2009

June 27, 2009 - The Carlisle in Lomard

Well, we had ample material for an amusing blog post by the time load-in and set-up was complete, so take that for what its worth! I don't even know where to start with this one, so let's begin with some back story. Last August, we received a fully executed contract and deposit check from a bride I spoke with for no more that 30 seconds on the phone, and the deal was done. The months passed, and soon their big day was just around the corner. We had no contact or phone number, no idea what (if anything) we'd need to play for special dances and such, but we knew the date was good because the fine folks at The Carlisle had their poopy together and called me to talk about load in a few weeks ago. Anyway, I get a somewhat flustered voice mail from the groom-to-be the night before, wanting to confirm that we are coming. I call back and get his voice mail. My only question, I say, is special dances. He leaves me another voice mail and says don't worry, there's a DJ, too, and he's doing all that stuff. Wunderbar. End of 'Back Story'.

Cut to load in. Phil and Vince are first on the scene with the equipment, and are greeted by a DJ who seemed a little perturbed, and was shooting some attitude our way. Vince, who is his normal charming and persuasive self, introduces himself as the band.
dj I didn't even know there was a band until about an hour ago.
vc Oh. Well, there are 18 of us, so we're going to need some of that stage.
dj Well, I'm set as tightly as I can get, so the rest is yours.
vc OK, we'll make do.
dj Who hired you? When did they hire you?
vc We were hired a year ago, and didn't hear from them again until last night.
dj What?? Last night? Well, what parts of the reception are you doing?
vc I have no idea. All I know is we're here from 5:30 to 8:30.
dj You don't know? You just talked to them last night? I've had multiple detail meetings with the couple and the bride's mother. They've programmed me down to every song I play and at what time.
vc Hmmm. Sucks to be you, I guess.
dj Well, we're professionals. We've been doing this for 15 yrs. (editor's note - this will come back to haunt him)
vc Well, we're playing until 8:30, and then we're leaving.

And it sort of went downhill from there, but in an amusing way. We essentially played our first set
behind a giant projection screen that the dj placed directly in front of the stage to "test", before he
disappeared. No one seemed to mind. After 45 minutes, we took a break and watched in the lobby as the dj spent 20 minutes trying to bring order to massive bridal party. When it was time for us to play again, he was still introducing, so we got a front row seat from the stage for the 1st Dance fiasco.

Enter DJ number 2, who crouched in the middle of the dance floor with a dry ice machine and a red coleman cooler, trying frantically to make fog roll thru the couple and their bridal party as they danced. Only the fog didn't cooperate, instead it dissipated. Immediately. So he's scooping dry ice with one gloved hand, and waving with his other.
The smoke failed miserably, but what he did manage to create was a giant puddle in the middle of the dancers. The massive bridal party did their best to step over or around the growing mess, but it was of no use. Here we see the two DJs (left and middle) looking intently at the coleman cooler, with a bus boy in the back starting the clean up with a big tablecloth. The song ended, there was an uncomfortable smattering of applause, and the bus boys rushed out with mops for the clean up. It will certainly be a nice addition to the wedding video keepsake. I hope they got the cooler in the shot.

So three sets turn into two, as we decided to just keep playing to 8:30. Only now, the screen has been moved from out in front of us to in front of the seriously spectacular sweets table (which included an honest to goodness pond), much to the MaƮtre d's chagrin. He wanted it moved, obviously, because nobody could access or admire the table. But the DJ has disapearred again, and there's no way we're touching it.

We finish the set without further incident, and we're breaking down while the DJs bring the screen back to show the standard video montage of the couple's lives. Only the DVD keeps freezing, so there's more uncomfortable silence. It all worked out in the end, though, because they're professionals.

So who played? Well glory be, our old friend Dave Zaworski was on bass! All the way from Sweden, incidently, so that should be a pretty healthy mileage deduction, Dave. And our trumpets? Brass Trax's Tom Fox finally gets invited to a gig, Tom Tumino, and the long lost Bob Lewandowski join Mr Klinger in the back row. We welcomed Robin Lekas in on piano. She performed admirably and with a good sense of humor through a tough night. Meg - if you're reading this, your book was in horrible condition!

Drink of the night was water - in little tiny glasses.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

June 6, 2009 - SFX SummerFest

St Francis Xavier SummerFest in Wilmette. Summer. June. SummerFest. 48 degrees does not a SummerFest make! Since no one brought a camera, here's a simulated view from the stage. Note the churning water and angry skies.

Kudos to Beth Curran Hadley for keeping her sanity and sense of humor as the rain and wind gave way to beautiful gray skies and a mere damp chill. The SFX committee treated us very well. We were under a tent, we had a real stage, there was a professional sound guy and lights, Beth and Greg kept a steady stream of pitchers coming to the bandstand - but it was still 48 degrees.

Herder's Bus-o-Fun carried Chris, Vince, Phil, JR and Byrnes. On the trip North, they were treated to an inpromptu fireworks display as they passed Cellular Field. Apparently, its the only run the Sox have scored in, like, a million innings, so the show caught us all off guard. The rain had just finished as we arrived on site, so Gary the soundman was soaked and chilled. He took care of us righteously, though. We got compliments for being so 'whatEVer' about mics and such. He was very glad not to have to mic each of the 12 horns individually.

Of course, the highlight of the evening was Dan-o and his U2 tribute band, who came on after us. He certainly looked like Bono, although I never realized Bono was..... not a tall fellow. So here's the surreal moment for the gig: We're playing 'And Her Tears Flowed Like Wine', I look to the side of the stage and there's Bono/Danno singing the song word for word. And not the band part, but the girl part ... and in character. He was bouncing around, twisting and gyrating like he was singing 'Vertigo', and he didn't miss a lyric. Even Claudia doesn't know the song with a cheat sheet, and here's Bono singing along like its his favorite song ever (next to 'Sunday, Bloody Sunday').

Sitting in on trumpet, the effervescent Mike Pavlic. On trombone, his excellency Rich Clark. Surprises in the crowd included Ed's brother and sis-in-law Paul and CarolAnn, as well as old band friend Angie.

Drink of the night was pitchers of Spatan, (and red wine in a plastic cup for GK). It was cold, but still a lot of fun. And what's with this whole Church Festival Mojo? Haven't we seen this before?

Set 1
Jumpin at the Woodside, American Patrol, L-O-V-E, Corner Pocket, Straighten Up And Fly Right, Intermission Riff, Opus One, Only You, Fly Me To The Moon, The Very Thought of You, Bandstand Boogie, Beyond The Sea, Is You Is Or Is You Aint…

Set 2
Ain't That A Kick In The Head, Pennsylvania 6-5000, This Cant Be Love, And Her Tears Flowed Like Wine, One Mint Julep, Boogie Blues, Big Noise From Winnetka, Choo Choo Ch' Boogie, It Should've Been Me, Caldonia, Sing, Sing, Sing

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

June 1, 2009 - Hackney's Swing Session

What the hell makes people think they can walk right up and engage us in lengthy conversations in the middle of a set!?? Last night featured a trumpet player hoping to sit in, a retired English teacher looking for former students in the band, and a sharp dressed older gentleman, all striking up conversations with various musicians in mid set - as if the rest of the crowd on the 'dance floor' and at thier tables weren't even there. All three should know better. There - it's off my chest. Man oh man thats annoying.

Where's the music?? The drum book has gone missing. Poor Steve Hawk had to play the night sans music. What a trooper! You'd hardly know he was winging it. Bassist Steve Hashimoto kept him on track with a continous narative of what was coming up. So where is the book? Last seen at the May rehearsal. The books are all scanned, so its not tragic or anything, but it'll be a pain recreating it, thats for sure! Have you seen it?

And look what the cat dragged in - long lost OJ trumpeteer Chuck Clarke. Chuck played with us in the mid to late 80's. He was, like all of us, in high school, and he had an amazing high register. There is a story that lives in OJLore about this prodigious upper register. It was a Mother's Day brunch at the now defunct 'Beverly House' at 103rd and Beverly Ave in Chicago. We were new at the whole big band thing, and therefore had a pretty thin book, so everything got played at least once. It didn't matter that it was a Mother's Day brunch at a nice restaurant, which is why we played the 'Theme to Rocky'. The whole place jumps in unison as we start the song - Chuck is playing the line an octave up - and some poor guy literally keels over clenching his chest. He's down. He's out. We keep playing. I digress. It was good to see Chuck after so many years.

Set 1
Shiny Stockings, Jada, This Can't Be Love, Main Stem, Drum Boogie, Undecided, Travelin Light, Soul Bossa Nova, Come Fly With Me, Cheek to Cheek, Choo Choo ch Boogie

Set 2
It Had To Be You, 9:20 Special, Opus One, A Night In Tunisia, Just In Time,, It Should've Been Me, Cottontail, I'm Beginning To See The Light, Don't Be That Way, Do Nothing (Till You Hear From Me)