Two weeks before the Big Day, our favorite urban cowboy rock star had to cancel. He was technically the third musician we had booked to play a live set before and during the ceremony. So, I handled the dissappointing change in plans as I had the two times before: I laid facedown on the floor and wept-sang the lyrics to “All By Myself”. It seemed like the exactly right thing to do at the time, although three days later I realized I’d only succeeded in giving myself carpet-induced asthma and I still didn’t have some musical talent to light up Music City’s night sky come wedding time.
With our last hope of jam session booked on tour dates states away, we were sent the name of a guy that might be able to help us out. And we shall call him Garry Wood, Acoustic Jam Lord & Banjo Savior. So, mostly he just goes by Garry and leaves out the whole holy surname, but he was a saving grace nonetheless. Garry, the boy part of Nashville’s boy/girl duo The Bird & The Bear, swooped in just days ahead of time to fill the twangy shoes of our beloved and busy Dakota Jay. Garry took care of it all, assuring us that he could handle the strange set list and stranger setting. With that, I made a plea to Johnny Cash and also Mick Jagger that this Garry Wood of Bird & Bear fame would be the fourth and final and most awesome answer to our prayers .
For those keeping count, Garry would be the second person in attendance who I never met ahead of time. He was, much like the first stranger friend, better than I could have ever hoped for.
Garry set up a guitar and banjo set with his friend and co-vocalist before guests arrived. As they trickled in the boys started a sweet rooftop concert to keep the masses entertained while waiting for the whole marriage part to get underway. We picked a host of ridiculously random songs and from what I’m told, Garry performed each perfectly, even including a surprising beat-box solo amid banjo plucks on Ben Harper’s “Steal My Kisses“. To cue the ceremony’s start, Garry played a Spring rendition of the Avett Brother’s “January Wedding“. The groomsmen walked in to M. Ward’s “Here Comes The Sun Again“, and the ladies followed to the whistle-happy tune of Brandi Carlile’s “If There Was No You“. The grand finale, for me, was when Garry, in all his infinite whiteness, got straight up and downright funky to Matt Kearney’s “Hey Mama” for our exit.
It was a far fall from Cloud 9 when I realized I’d only asked Garry and his string-busting talent to play a pre-ceremony concert. Apparently, (I suspect this is written in small print in some really second-rate bridal guide) you’re supposed to treat guests to music all night. Apparently, (who knew?) people don’t like to party in absolute and awkward silence. Ah, small details. To handle the Quiet Mouse Reception issue, I did what every bride does and looked on-line for a DJ. It went like this:
“And just a little Celine,” this gel-haired psycho insists.
“No. Like I said before, none of that,” I reply.
“Trust me. You’ll want a little Celine. And probably some club remixes. I’ve got mad club beats,” he persuades.
I couldn’t shake the sudden horrific image of the young dude fist-pumping, sweat dripping down his open-chested sequin shirt, a Lady Killer in his eye-watering cologne inappropriately called Hot Bod. He flipped through several standard oldies, then onto hip-hop ruckus, and slipped in, yes, three Celine Dion ballads before I run from the coffee shop. My ear drums were barfing.
So, there we were, just a few weeks before our Music City Wedding without a clue as to how to bring the music to the party. With our somewhat strange personal favorites too indie or obscure for most DJs to get pumped about, and with our all-consuming fear of said DJs actually getting pumped and accidentally turning the low-key event into a Ladies’ Night at the local Pop’N’Grind nightclub, we finally settled on a less traditional approach. Less traditional? I know you can hardly believe it.
With an iPod already packed full of our weird and wonderful favorites, venue staff arranged for a couple of heavy-duty speaker things, I sorted the songs into separate playlists for first dance music, cocktail music, and barefoot & brave-after-many-cocktails music, and we all called it a wedding day. It was the least thought I’d put into any wedding decision, and being as such, it was probably the most sound decision made. And speaking of sound, my personal Apple DJ was a hit. He didn’t have gel hair or a sequin shirt and – by the grace of God and Garry Wood- the iPod never met a Celine Dion semi-French/ full-sap track it liked.
Guests wined and whiskey-ed and dined to the harmonies of The Civil Wars (“I’ve Got This Friend“), acoustic blues/ hit with the toddlers “You Are My Sunshine“, a little Citizen Cope, “If There’s Love“, and some Canadian for good measure (“Mushaboom” by Feist). As odd as the line-up, each song had a relaxed, Americana feel that somehow, sans strobe lights and fist-pumping, totally worked. By totally worked, I mean kids fed a nutritious supper of rock candy and soda will dance to just about anything.
Of course, the real entertainment starts when the grown fools kick off their shoes and get hit with the funky bug. We amped up the music after dinner to include random pop hits like Bruno Mars’ “Marry You” and Hanson’s “Give A Little“. Then we said sorry to the music gods for playing such generic candy pop by throwing in some Rolling Stones “Start Me Up” and Etta James “My Dearest Darling“. Perhaps the most inexplicable is that Tom and I don’t really listen to country music. At least we haven’t listened to country music from the last 30 years. To keep things a little retro and southern, we did include some of our country back when country, you know, sounded like country: Everly Brothers “‘Til I Kissed You” and any and everything from Johnny Cash. Newer bands like The Lumineers, The Weepies, and Augustana got in some cool songs, with the remainder of the evening playing a steady flow of strangeness: G.Love, Kings of Leon, Coldplay, Brandi Carlile, Chuck Berry, Buddy Holly, Ben Harper, The Avett Brothers, and some Roy Orbison to boot. Proving that age ain’t nothing but a number, adults fed a nutritious supper of beer and wine will also dance to just about anything.
This is the part where I shock you with my hypocritical choice of Celine’s Titanic theme song as our first dance soundtrack. Kidding (and, again, ear drums barfing). Tom and I took the floor as Mr. and Mr.’s Legitimate Baby Mama Under The Eyes of Law & Such to Patty Griffin’s “Heavenly Day”. It was a sweet few minutes alone with my favorite dude…. until someone let my dad loose. The White-Haired Wonder stormed the checkered dance floor ready to rip open a can of funk. Technically, we danced to Otis Redding’s “That’s How Strong My Love Is”. Some suspect the happy-toed Father of The Bride was in fact dancing to some version of “Jungle Boogie” playing in his very, very groove-tastic head.
ENOUGH OF THAT SWEET STUFF. GRANDPA SAYS JAM.
In the end, Shakespeare had it right when he said “Shake what yer mama gave ya! Hollaaaaaa!” and also “If music be the food of love, play on”. From our fourth friend, Garry and his last-minute talents to the freebie DJ services of one Mr. Apple I. Pod, the soundtrack to our night in Music City was just weird enough to sound right.
What is your favorite, funky wedding song?
The weirder the better, so get to cyber-singing in the comment section!
LIKE The Bird & The Bear’s Facebook page… because Garry probably would definitely like you back.