Maybe if I concentrate…

Life as a working musician

Speechless. She was just speechless.

What’s the easiest way to get the crowd back up for the final set at a wedding reception (at least in New England)?  We rely on our old friend Neil Diamond, and his “Sweet Caroline” symphony.  Last Saturday was no exception, and as we neared the last chorus I did what I frequently do: went to the bride and groom to cajole them into singing with me.  It makes for great pictures, especially if they’re horrified by the idea.
“Ladies and Gentlemen,” I shouted, “everyone gather around for our big finale. Let’s get Richard and Patricia to sing it for us!”
Patricia leaned in to me and whispered, “I can’t sing.”
“Sure you can,” I crooned (into the mic.)   Really, all you have to do is yell ‘doo, doo, doo, or dah, dah dah,’ or any old nonsense, really.  Can we get someone with a camera over here?”
She looked at me again and mouthed, “I CAN’T SING.”
“I think Pat might need some help here!”  Let’s get everyone in the room singing along, too! DC, kick it in!”
Pat grabbed me by the shoulder and whispered, “I can’t sing because I LOST MY VOICE.  Aren’t you wondering why I’m whispering in a room full of people?”

October 5, 2010 Posted by | Wedding reception | | Leave a comment

‘kiss this guy’, Catholic edition

A quick one for the liturgical musicians:
You hear kids mis-speak or mis-sing lots of songs, hymns, and prayers. However, I’d never had one sing the end of the Sanctus as “O-bam-a in the high-est!” before this past Sunday.

Conservatives can keep their political snark to themselves. I just thought it was cute.

September 23, 2010 Posted by | Church music | | Leave a comment

…and they called it ‘puppy love’

“It Was A Wedding That Went To The Dogs!”
No, how about:  “Hope They Weren’t Dog-Tired By The Time They Got Married!”
Or this:  “Forecast For Tonight’s Nuptials:  No Cats, but Raining Dogs!”

I’d be a great headline writer for a crappy Sunday newspaper magazine.

Recently, we had an event in southeastern RI, the part of the state that makes you wonder why everyone makes such a big fuss about Martha’s Vineyard.  It was a picture-perfect summer evening. H and I drove down a long driveway which skirted a rundown barn then turned toward the water and headed through a cornfield.  On the other side, in a clearing on the outskirts of the ceremony area, several dogs were tied up.  They looked like pets but were acting like sentinels, which was a bit creepy in a Stephen King fashion.  The ceremony was in progress, so we sneaked over quietly (sentinel-dogs watching our every move) to watch the vows.
The ring-bearer was a greyhound.
I finished setting up my equipment during cocktail hour and there were at least a half-dozen other dogs running around, which we assumed belonged to the guests.  Those I met personally (in other words, the ones that came up to the bandstand looking for food) were a St. Bernard, a beagle, twin spaniels, and the one we came to refer to as  “Hot Dog dog.”  This was a chihuahua wearing a costume like the old Oscar Meyer wiener car, whose owner kept throwing him up in the air as if he were some kind of yippy beach ball.  I kept expecting him to look at me and announce, “Yo quiero Free Bird”.

“A Reception Fit For The ‘Dog Days’ Of Summer!”
Or, “All Dogs Go To …Weddings!”

At one point the St. Bernard passed behind the band, very deliberately stopped and looked at DC, then peed on a tent pole.  We were hoping that one of the demon-sentinels would reprimand him, but they were oddly preoccupied with the band.  The twin spaniels spent most of the night by the buffet table, probably wishing in vain that someone would let them climb inside the roasted pig.  The rest of the unleashed dogs camped out on the dance floor, but somehow the guests all escaped serious injury.

On our way out we passed a couple of rusted-out cars, half-buried in the weeds.  H remarked that one could easily dispose of a body in such a place, just as we saw one of the sentinels disappear into the cornfield.

September 8, 2010 Posted by | Wedding reception | , , | Leave a comment

“Here I Am, Lord” the way it was meant to be played

This is mostly for my church musician friends, but anyone else that suffers this song should check it out as well. Google “Here I Am Lord” and play the song that Lala suggests (if it doesn’t work, try this.) From this point forward, I intend to use this version of this song every chance I get.

These guys also recorded a song named “The Day Farrah Fawcett Died” a good ten years before she actually did. I have no idea if that means anything.

March 14, 2010 Posted by | Church music, Other gigs | | 2 Comments

I can see for miles, if I wear bifocals

Was it Halloween on Sunday?  I could swear I saw the reanimated corpse of Pete Townsend at the Super Bowl.

I was once a fan of The Who for many reasons:  “The Who Sell Out” was an ahead-of-its-time look at the confluence of art and marketing; “Who’s Next” was a collection of songs so breathtaking that I grew up thinking it was a greatest hits collection; Rock opera is an absurd concept on its face, but they went for it anyway; and, not least, they had an attitude so aggressive that they were the only classic rock band the punk movement embraced.  But unlike the Stones, who at least make an attempt at relevance by putting out a new cd each time they tour (a terrible cd, to be sure, but new) the Who haven’t been a functioning band since 1982, at best.  Trotting out the oldies as a ‘safe’ choice for the entertainment at the halftime show would likely have made young Townsend want to smash something, a guitar probably.

Of course, we’re the morons for even allowing them to call this “The Who”.  Why are people so desperate in their nostalgia that they will pay obscene ticket prices to see a few (or a couple) of the musicians from a band they loved when they were kids pretend to play the same old songs, while the musicians in the back carry them?  (See Eagles, CSN, Billy Joel, et al.)  It would have been GREAT if they had played “My Generation”.  By embracing the irony they could have flipped us off, hilariously, something that band was the best at once upon a time.  “I hope I die before I get old,” Daltry would have sung, thinking, “Moon and Entwistle DID die, and none of you idiots even noticed.  Here we are shoving crap in your ears, letting our kids do the actual playing, and you all cheer because you remember how ‘Teenage Wasteland’ made you feel thirty-five years ago.  And that’s NOT EVEN THE NAME OF THE SONG.” Instead, the crowd just sang along to the other hits, unthinkingly, and Pete sold a ton of “Pinball Wizard” downloads on iTunes today.  Would “The Who Sell Out” refer to artistic integrity today, or just to the fact that there’s never an empty seat?

February 9, 2010 Posted by | Life | , | 4 Comments

Free Christmas song!

Back in 2006, I recorded a Christmas cd with my choir at St. Luke’s Church entitled “Rejoice Tonight.”  For a limited time (!) I’ve made the opening track “Angels We Have Heard On High” available here.  Totally free, and it rocks.  If you like the track, check out the whole cd at, or head straight to iTunes.

December 23, 2009 Posted by | Other gigs | , | Leave a comment

The bucket list

“Hi guys, I’m Melanie!  Janie’s best friend, yknow?!!  We’ve known each other, like forever, and I know everything about her.  I mean it!  I wanted to tell everyone what a great girl she is, and what a total BEST Stephen is, and I thought of the funniest story ever!

“So.  You all know they live together, right?   Sorry Father Joe!!!  Didn’t mean to be the one to tell you they were living in sin and all!!!  Anyway, the house they bought is like this total mess, and the bathroom is disgusto.  Steve was like, ‘I can fix it!’ and Jane was like, ‘OK!’  So he did that thing where you rip all the walls down, and it was unbelievable!  Like, there was nothing there not even a sink or a toilet or a shower or a towel rack or a box of tissues.  Or a ceiling.  He did SUCH a great job–except for the part where you have to put the new stuff in, ’cause it stayed empty–and everyone was ‘how do you go to the bathroom’? and they wouldn’t tell because it was all mysterious!!  But it was really simple!  They had a bucket.

“Ya gotta go, ya gotta go, y’know?  I always had questions about it, though.  Like, did they have two different buckets for number one and number two?  Or his and hers?  Who emptied it?  Was it a household chore?  ‘Honey, don’t forget the milk tonight!  And empty the poop bucket on your out!  WHERE DID THEY EMPTY IT?  Did they bring it to work and flush it there, or do the neighbors have a lot more fertilizer than they bargained for?  I sure hope they kept it separate from everything else in the house!  ‘Hey, where did you marinate those steaks?’

“So, as maid of honor I’m supposed to toast the newlyweds!  I love them!  I thought of something they might need though, so here’s a little present to send them on their way.  JOE GO GET IT.  A new bucket!  OK, it’s more of a Tupperware container, but it’s only symbolic since you guys called that contractor!  Aw, Janie, don’t look so pissed!  That’s what the bucket is for!”

December 13, 2009 Posted by | Wedding reception | , | 1 Comment

No bedtime story if you stay up too late, young man

There’s a function facility in South County that we’ve done a few weddings at over the past year and a half, and it’s a beautiful, unique location right on the water.  (Of course, there is no such thing as ‘South’ county in Rhode Island but we are not even slowed by cartographic misnomers.)  Two little old ladies work there; they watch the door, greet visitors and point to the elevators to show them where to go.  I’m not sure that they do anything else, actually, but they seem very nice in a grandmotherly way.  Also, they consistently attempt to cut us off early so they can go home.

The first time it happened, we thought there was some sort of mixup with scheduling.  It can happen, since sometimes there are three different time lines going:  ours, the function coordinator’s, and the caterers.  And so when they came to us during a wedding with an 11:00PM end and told us that we were supposed to be done at 10:30, we panicked.  There was a lot of back and forth with the caterer and the father of the bride before it was resolved, and I think we did in fact end that night at 10:45.  We were there again recently and hadn’t even started playing before one of them tottered over to the band (we had no idea they ever left their posts by the door) and started in.

“Now, you know you’re supposed to be finished at 10:30, young man.  Make sure you time the last dance so that we can put the lights up and start letting people out!”

“Our contract says 11:00 ma’am,” said C.  He was ready this time, and was already pulling the contract when she replied, “Oh, now that sounds like a mistake to me,” and sauntered away, audibly clicking her tongue.  We were finishing our soundcheck a few minutes later when the photographer came over, visibly upset, and asked, “why wasn’t I informed that we’re ending at 10:30?”  Sneaky little sweet-looking grandma was trying to undercut us.   We had to bring in the father of the bride, the mother of the bride, the groom, the bride, the photographer and the caterer to sort it through.  At the end of the night we did the last dance and then, right as they put the lights up, C shouted “let’s do one more song!”  I’m not really certain what it says about us that we wanted to stick it to the old ladies, but I’m sure it’s an unrelated coincidence that the van had a flat tire the next day.

October 16, 2009 Posted by | Wedding reception | | Leave a comment

Every girl crazy for a sharp-dressed man

Recently, our drummer stopped at a Dunkin’ Donuts on the way to a gig for a little pick-me-up (drummers, as a rule, need large amounts of caffeine and sugar.  It’s like having a large toddler around, especially because they’re always hitting things.)  He was running late, and so was already wearing his tux to save time once he got to the gig.  (Yes, he was running late –but still stopping for coffee.  See toddler comment, above.)  There was a teenage girl behind the counter who stared at him for a second, then instead of asking for his order said,  “So.  Which is it?”

Confused, M answered, “excuse me?”

She replied, “dressed like that, you’re either going to a funeral or to a wedding that NOBODY wants to see happen.”

Momentarily stunned, he finally answered, “Actually, for a funeral I might spring for dry-cleaning…”

August 23, 2009 Posted by | Wedding reception | | Leave a comment

DJLB live at CBGB

My old drummer (and great friend) John Andrade Jr posted a compilation of the D.J. Lauria Band performing live at the late, lamented CBGB.  I think this was in 1997, when we were in NYC (what seemed like) every other week.  Obviously this predates the wedding band, since few brides would consider a song called “(How Does It Feel) To Be A National Joke” appropriate for their reception.

I’ll try not to take it as an editorial comment that he cut out all of the guitar solos.

July 24, 2009 Posted by | Other gigs | | Leave a comment

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