Gig Story Part 1: Always bring the trolley

…And be prepared for anything.

This was one of those weekends. I only had two weddings (typical for me for this time of year), but it felt like each one lasted an eternity. They were both in lovely, picturesque locations; well, as lovely as golf courses can be, anyhow. There were lakes and waterfalls and expensive decorations. And each one became its own special little hell for at least some of the time I was there. It wasn’t that the people weren’t nice – in both cases, I’d had nothing but positive communications with the couples up to that point. In one case, I knew the groom-to-be and had even played with him on occasion. They were both just prime examples of all the unexpected things that can happen at weddings, all piling up on top of each other.

The first one seemed like a really neat idea; it was the first time I’d played for a surprise ceremony. The bride-and-groom-to-be had given their entire family the impression they’d eloped to Las Vegas and been married there, and that this was to be a post-wedding reception. They were told to meet in a tent by the lake to see a “wedding movie”. What they got to see instead, was me, and a pretty view of the lake, covered in water lilies. It was the getting there that was the fun part.

To start with, it was one of those elite private golf courses that don’t even have a proper sign out front. I’d actually pulled over to the side of the road, starting to feel that oh crap I’ve missed the turn, but I looked at every single road sign, where the heck is it, kind of feeling. After consulting the map, I decided to go just a bit further before turning around. Of course, there is was, only a few hundred feet away. The turnoff to this very fancy golf-course was marked by a cheap sign on a stick, that seemed to have been printed exclusively for the day. If I’d actually been going highway speed at the time, I probably would have missed it.

But all is well so far. I’m there, I’m still on time. Which reinforces Rule #1 – Always give yourself more time than you need; especially when going to an unfamiliar location. I pull in, park, go in to the reception area, and am told where I’m playing – down a long, windy path that cars are not allowed on. Hmm. This was not covered in any of my conversations with the couple. And of course, having not needed the trolley much at all this summer, it had quite slipped my mind to even think of bringing it. The only alternative was to get driven there by one of the friendly staff – in a golf cart. Now before you think, what fun! Think about how big a golf cart is. Designed to carry, at most, a couple of golf bags, a driver, and a passenger. This one was the kind with a bit of a cargo space in the back, which the harp did not fit in, of course. So I got to sit twisted around, with one arm holding onto the harp case and as many straps as I could reach, all held in a death grip, as we bounced our way down to the tent.

The next part was actually the best part of the whole crazy gig weekend. It was really quite pleasant playing by the lake for that brief period of time. There wasn’t room for me in the tent (it was full of chairs – so much for shelter), but thankfully the sun wasn’t too hot, and there was a breeze. It was fun to watch the guests reactions as they arrived, and as the announcement was made. I had free rein to play whatever I liked, which is always great, and the sound carried well (I had my little Pignose amp). The ceremony was short, with the requisite moments of gentle humour (the groom was so cued up to say “I do,” that when the minister said, “do you know of any reason why you can’t be lawfully married”, he first answered, “I do”.) Then it was over, the recessional music had played most of the people out, and there were no more golf carts to be seen. This, after I’d specifically arranged with the staff that someone be there to bring me back up again. (I still had to play another hour at the reception at this point). It didn’t take long before I was completely alone, with no staff member in sight. I sighed, picked up my gig bags and my little amp, and began the long trek up the hill again. Putting the stuff down at the top, I had to flag down two different staff members before I found one who could bring me back to get the harp; in an even smaller golf cart, without the cargo space in back. This time I got to hug the harp with both arms to keep it from flying off as we made our way back to the main building.

Which brings us back to Rule #2: Always, always bring the trolley. This is a mantra I will sing myself to sleep with from now on. For any new location – especially golf courses.

The hour afterwards was not nearly as nice as the first hour; but at least it was the typical thing I’d grown to expect when playing at a reception – try to track down someone to get chair that should already be there; harried staff are clueless but suggest just randomly taking one from over there; follow their advice. Set up as far away from smokers as possible, but where everyone can still hear me. Play for an hour with amp turned up to highest setting while everyone talks over you. Try to play musically anyhow. Leave after hour is up, as anonymous and quiet as a ghost.

Next time: the harrowing adventures of Gig #2.

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