When a groom shops for a band, he doesn’t care what he gets. He is usually on assignment from the bride. I’ve rarely heard a groom say, “Yiddishe Cup is wonderful!” It’s more like “What’s your minimum — minimum hours and minimum rate?”
I gave him a fair price and we made a deal. Bye.
A friend told me to act more alive on the phone. She coached me: “Say, ‘Hel-LOH, this is Bert STRAT-tin!’’ I did it that for one day.
If a groom likes the price, beautiful. But he might call the next day and say, “Man, my fiancée is just totally unwavering! She wants this horrible other band now. If it were up to me, I’d have you. Change of plans, sorry.”
“No problem,” I say. “Marriage is full of compromises. Get used to it.”
Old bandleader advice.
When a bride asks about cool wedding venues, I mention Windows on the River in The Flats, the Cuyahoga National Park (Bath, Ohio), the Shaker Country Club and Manakiki club.
Brides — at least some of them — don’t want the standard wedding mill, aka Landerhaven party center, by the freeway in Mayfield Heights.
On a typical Saturday night at Landerhaven, the place is hopping with four or five parties: there is background jazz in the Michelle Room; in the East Ballroom, an Asian Indian DJ; in the Lander Room, Yiddishe Cup. During breaks, I hop from one party room to another, talking to musicians and sightseeing. At a Sikh wedding, the groom rides through the parking lot on a white horse to meet the bride.
Landerhaven’s food is good, and the help is attentive, but Landerhaven is very faux Fontainebleau — so many mirrors and fountains. Brides often want less.
Yiddishe Cup played a gig where the bride married an American Indian by a creek. It rained the whole time. That wedding moved into a lodge, which held, at most, 50 people. We could barely find room to toot our horns. At Landerhaven, you’re not going to have problems like that. Landerhaven is well-run. No surprises at Landerhaven, except maybe the guy on the white horse.
Another option: rent a tent. Some Jews love to worry and the tent is perfect for that. At one tent gig, in Dayton, Ohio, the caterers used 30-gallon wastebaskets to catch the rain pouring in.
Yiddishe Cup played a wedding for an anthropology professor and a German professor.
Here’s how it went down, anthropologically speaking:
a) In the Midwest, the band often works Ohio State and Michigan into the repertoire. The anthro prof’s mother was a Michigan grad, and the groom’s dad was from Ohio State. We played “Hang on Sloopy” for Ohio State and “Hail to the Victors” for Michigan.
b) Yiddishe Cup’s bassist sang “Du, Du Liegst Mir In Herzen.” This bombed. The German guests — real Germans from Germany — didn’t like it. Apparently, Germans don’t show much outward pride in their folk culture. And at a Jewish wedding, who can blame them. (Yiddishe Cup has played “Alouette” for French Canadians and “Guantanamera” for Hispanics, and they like hearing from us.) The Germans were no funt.
c) When Yiddishe Cup had a wedding guest sing with us, I said, “Attention, anthropologists, please welcome one of the stars of Jewish pop. He has appeared all over the world . . . Yehuda Cik!” Yehuda is a former neo-Hasidic Ortho pop star. Yehuda sang the last verse of L’Cha Dodi, the Sabbath welcoming prayer. Big hit.
Sometimes the bride and groom are starry-eyed; sometimes, not.
Years later I run into the moms of the brides. The moms tells me the “kids” are now divorced — the starry-eyed kids.
I run into an old groom. He says, “Isabel and Isaac, this is Mr. Stratton. He played Mommy and Daddy’s wedding.” Was the groom starry-eyed at his wedding? Give me a break. I can’t remember. I play a lot of weddings.
The groom is still married after 12 years. He says his daughter’s bat mitzvah is coming up. “She’s a popular kid,” he says.
“That’s bad. Popular kids usually want DJs,” I say.
Two add-ons . . .
1. Dave Brubeck vid
2. On the CoolCleveland.com website, 12/6/12. “Keep the Plain Dealer Dealin’.”