Each week, Lizzy Goodman guides you through the dirty streets of rock and roll.
The end of August is a particularly slow period for rock and roll. Unless you’re in Europe enjoying the tail end of the summer festival season, it’s all bar bands and open mic nights back home. Over the next two weeks, we’re going to change things up a bit, explore the world of modern music consumption from new and unusual angles. Up first? Wedding music culture.
Weddings are a problem for me. They usually feature some of my most loathed experiences: mediocre food, talking to people I don’t know, group activities and simpering music. So, as I hauled my roll-aboard into a waiting Supershuttle bound for Newark at 4 in the morning a few days ago, on my way to my friend Carrie’s wedding in Hawaii, I was already concerned. What if I hate everyone? What if I’m forced to play board games with strangers? What if the DJ calls for the Electric Slide?
Twelve hours of flying later — buffered by Tylenol PM-induced sleep and three movies check out Grizzly Expedition, this documentary about a tame Grizzly called Brutus, that I swear wasn’t awesome just because I was on drugs — I landed in Honolulu, and stumbled out into the tropical garden-type waiting area. Island breezes told me everything was going to be okay. In the backseat of a cool bridesmaid’s newly rented silver Jeep, we drove further and further away from the comical urbanness, and out to the house I was staying in on the North Shore. We got a tour from Todd, Iggy Pop’s surfer doppelgänger, a wiry super-tan local who handed us a few extra rolls of toilet paper, showed us how to work the outdoor shower and explained that none of the doors really locked. Ten minutes later, we were all in the ocean. How bad could this be?
A few days later, I showed up at the beachfront polo fields where the wedding would take place, and had a chat with Troy Michael, the DJ. By this time, I was fully seduced by the island, which means I hadn’t checked email, been on Facebook or even taken a real shower in several days. I was concerned Troy might bring me back to reality with some ill-timed Bryan Adams, or wedding DJ faux pas of all faux pas — mistaking the Police’s “Every Breath You Take” for a wedding-appropriate testament to the beauty of commitment, and not the stalker manifesto it really is. I’d been in brief consultation with Carrie and her fiancé Ezra re: song selection, and knew they’d picked a bunch of good stuff, but was still concerned Troy would take matters into his own hands. “I have a must play and play-if-possible list from the bride and groom, and I basically pick songs that complement those,” he assured me. “A triumph for me is when people say it was the best wedding ever, not the best wedding DJ ever. It’s about the wedding as a whole, not just the DJ.”
So the guy knows his place. But what about the secondary qualities of any good wedding DJ/singer? The de facto hype man/event MC/ bouncer? I kept imaging the opening scene of Wedding Singer, in which Adam Sandler benches Steve Buscemi for telling a story about Mexican prostitutes, gives the best man speech himself, then consoles Drew Barrymore, as she laments her boy problems. Was Troy up for all this? “I did an outdoor wedding two weeks ago where the sprinklers actually turned on during the wedding, soaking half the guests, which was a total nightmare,” he said when I asked about his conflict resolution skills. “But the worst thing to deal with is family drama.” He declined to elaborate. Apparently wedding DJs follow a code of confidentiality similar to priests and shrinks.
Turns out we had nothing to worry about: Troy ruled. He had the right blend of slow jams (providing much needed opportunities for groomsmen to hit on bridesmaids), upbeat dance tracks and a healthy backlog of timeless soul tunes, which everyone from grandparents to toddlers can dance to. And if Troy is to be judged by the extent to which people embarrassed themselves on the dance floor, he wins. I saw magnificent examples of the Running Man, the Sprinkler and the Ed Lover.