Last Saturday I went to two weddings, only one of which I was invited to.
The first wedding, celebrating my husband’s childhood friend and his beautiful bride, was wonderful, and I had a table card with my name on it and everything. The food was tasty, the champagne was bubbly, and the live band piqued my appetite for grooving. Like all great weddings, it ended too soon. It’s strange how when you fill a room with steak, cake, booze, and music, time is warped and five hours feels like five minutes.
After the reception, we left the hall and continued the party back at the hotel bar. This hotel also happened to be hosting another wedding. And their band sounded really good. My boogie hunger growled.
I was able to suppress my freshly tantalized cravings until the band broke out into a romping rendition of perennial wedding favorite, “Shout.” To fully understand why I couldn’t possibly resist this Isley Brother hit, kindly join me on this tangent. You probably won’t be sorry.
::Wind chimes to cue flashback::
Phil and I landed a kick ass band for our wedding. They called themselves, “No Big Deal,” but it was an ironic name because they knew they were at least kind of a big deal. We sat in on one of their practices before we hired them, to ensure that they were as good as their online sound bites suggested. Their Gigmasters profile didn’t do justice to their live performance. As they crooned through reception favorites such as, “At Last,” “The Way You Look Tonight,” and “You Give Love A Bad Name,” my eyes watered.
“Do you play any Neil Diamond?” I asked.
“We do,” they answered.
“This is the band,” I said, my voice cracking. “This is the band.”
On the big day, No Big Deal was phenomenal. They flawlessly transformed their sound testing into a premature cocktail hour jazz session when all of the guests arrived an hour early because I screwed up the timing of the ceremony. Sure the lead singer mispronounced my name when introducing us, but who doesn’t mispronounce my name? The vowels are tossed in their so arbitrarily, sometimes I even get confused.
The band owned the crowd that night. As per our request, they avoided pretty much any “song” released after the turn of the millennium (with the exceptions of John Mayer and early Maroon 5, before they lost their way mingling with the likes of Christina Aguilera). My use of quotations there is obvious but, for fans of auto-tune, I think we use the word “song” a little fast and loose when referring to the machine generated compositions on the radio today.
I jumped around so fervently to artists like Bon Jovi and The Rolling Stones that I stretched out my ivory satin wedding dress and had to be wary of rocking it right to the floor. I knew my guests were having a great time too when the band tried to slow it down with “What A Wonderful World,” and they booed. I’d judge everybody for being so rude, except that I was their leader.
Then, out of nowhere, it was over. Damn the curse of the wedding time warp.
“Last song!” the singer announced. We responded in not-so-kind with more wild boos.
My younger brother, who was dripping with sweat that was mostly top-shelf vodka and wearing sunglasses with only one lens, grabbed my shoulder.
“It better be ‘Shout,’” Ryan said. For months leading up to the wedding, Ryan had been advocating that “Shout” is the ultimate wedding song, and declaring it a mandatory feature during our celebration.
It wasn’t. It was Led Zeppelin’s “Rock n’ Roll.” And we pumped our fists until the final note.
“Thank you everybody. You’ve been a great crowd!” The singer said.
“One more song, one more song,” we chanted, as is customary, certain there was an encore coming. She couldn’t just cut us off when we were so obviously in want of more jams. But when she put her mic down and turned to gather her things, we realized that, apparently, she could.
It was hard to believe that, after all this anticipation, the night was over. But I had to accept reality. I turned to say goodbye to one of my guests when–
“Now wa-a-a-a-a-it a minute!”
This was not the lead singer of No Big Deal. This was a male voice. I spun around. It was my little brother. On the band’s microphone.
This may not have been an issue except that the band made us sign a contract promising that none of our guests would touch their equipment. At the time, the idea of it made us giggle. We imagined our friends storming the stage, grabbing their instruments in a musical coup d’etat. “You know that must have happened at one of their other wedding gigs. Some wasted guest must have thought he was a rock star,” we’d said, laughing heartily, and then signed the contract without hesitation, assuming it was a meaningless formality.
“You know you make me want to shout!” Ryan sang.
The band stared at Ryan, surely not knowing how to react. But the crowd knew what to do. We jumped. We pumped. And, by god, we shouted.
“Throw your hands up and shout, throw your head back and shout. Come on now!”
This is when Ryan realized that he knew the beginning of the song, and he knew the end of the song, but there was a chunk in the middle that escaped him. No matter. He wasn’t going to let such an insignificant detail as lyrics dull his spotlight. He skipped on to the end.
“A little bit softer now, a little bit softer now, a little bit softer now,” Ryan commanded, and we all obeyed, our voices softening, twisting low until we were crouching near the ground.
“A little bit louder now, a little bit louder now,” Ryan continued. At this point, the band just looked silly standing by, idly doing nothing, so the guitarists picked up their instruments and joined in. Ryan got so excited by this new development in his act that he lost his rhythm, and we all had to coach him back on track until–
For the last chorus, the lead singer reclaimed her microphone and shooed Ryan off the stage. But it was because of him that we had that extra final moment, and I think he’d want me to share that, for his courage, some have called him The Party Hero.
::Wind chimes to signal transition back into last weekend’s wedding(s)::
So, in the hotel bar, the first few notes of “Shout” triggered a precious memory, and I could not ignore the call to action. I cinched up my floor length dress (my high heels had long been discarded) and sprinted toward the source of nostalgia. Phil, a devoted fan of 60′s R&B and of yours truly, didn’t miss a beat. We even inspired one of Phil’s childhood friends to join the cause. We all ran down the hall, into the reception room, possessed by Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson characters, and didn’t stop until we were on the dance floor, amidst the other guests, throwing our heads back and Shout!
Nobody said anything. I may have noticed a strange look from a bridesmaid in a bright red dress (Phil was in his friend’s bridal party and wearing a tuxedo ensemble of blue and gray), but then again, maybe she just caught a bad smell. Nobody else seemed to be aware of an intrusion. They just smiled at us and nodded an appreciation for our “Shout” fervor. And we were fervent. Our hands waved like African priests seized by spirits.
Perhaps we should have left when the song ended. Or the one after. Or the one after that. Perhaps I shouldn’t have made my way to the front of the dance floor to mirror the very soulful lead singer. Perhaps we shouldn’t have stayed for the rest of the wedding, including the heartwarming number, Sister Sledge’s “We Are Family,” in which we sang along and spread our arms out to address the entire room of strangers. Perhaps we shouldn’t have kissed the bride on the lips. But we did. Okay, not the last one, but the rest are true.
But we didn’t drink of their booze, or eat of their cake. We just shared in their joy, and maybe added a little of our own. So perhaps it’s they that should thank us, for doing our part to make their celebration as special as it was.