Sometimes your own blind hubris bizarrely takes over, and you feel almost invincible. It can happen any time, and without fanfare. You’re flying on top of the world and suddenly it feels like you can say anything, or do anything and it won’t matter.
Like Donald Trump’s infamous stupid line, “I can stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody, and I won’t lose voters.”
That’s where one great Kaju’s Off the Hook military wedding that was gong superbly well until its final moments ran off the rails and took a humiliatingly dark turn.
The night NYC's Most Exciting Party band, within 60 seconds morphed into NYC’s Most Embarrassing laughing stock!
The night I dropped my worst “F” bomb ever, the night I stuck my foot in my mouth.
A Glorious Day’s Drive to a Wedding
It was a glorious spring afternoon in late April. We, the Off the Hook band were all planning to meet to perform for a highly anticipated four hour military wedding reception – meaning the groom was a well decorated military man- at a posh hotel banquet hall in Central New Jersey.
Nothing unusual. The drive from New York City to New Jersey was about 1 hour and 35 minutes without any noticeable traffic and the wedding reception was scheduled to begin at 7:00pm. As usual, I arrived early at 4:30pm for setup carrying a heavy load at around the same time as the keyboard player, who was an early bird like me. In tow, was our full PA system comprised on several speakers, 16 channel mixing board, outboard gear, and a myriad of interconnecting cables which I always transport myself to the big gigs. The keyboard player also had a large load to carry!
By 5:15 pm, the rest of the band – the bass player, drummer, saxophonist, and trumpet player – arrived with their own equipment and in full dress. By this time, I am almost completely setup with the PA system. And we are ready to do our sound check. No problems, by 5:45pm the instrument sound check is done!
The three awesome singers as always were the last ones to show. They all casually sauntered in around 6:15pm with nothing to carry but one microphone, not even one mic stand between them.
As a band leader, their habitual tardiness and the fact I had to constantly cajole them in futile attempts to get them to show up early became my standard protocol and for a long while added to my stress prior to preparing for and attending all big events. Then I eventually adapted to accept the new status quo learning to shrug it off to keep my sanity, so long as the gig started on time.
After all, how many people could I fire!
When I grow up, I want to be a great “entitled” singer - what a racket and a bunch of spoiled babies!
We “hit” exactly at 7:00pm, with a rousing opener while the party of 200+ guests all beautifully dressed entered the Gala room. This was soon followed by the introductions to the wedding procession which I emceed and conducted over the continuous background of live band’s musical accompaniment.
7:05 pm – I commence the bridal party introductions. First couple out, the groom’s parents. Second, the matron of honor and best friend, the flower girl, the bride’s parents, and so on…..the music plays on.
7:10pm – We announce the best man, followed by you guessed it the main attraction– the bride and groom. The bride looks absolutely exquisite wearing her haute couture Vera Wang contoured white weding dress, on the arm of her military man groom who is so tall and handsome decked out in his well-decorated navy blue military regalia!
This was soon followed by the bride and groom’s First Dance, which was to Elvis Presley’s “The Wonder of You.” Wow, they both look so stunning and the parents are crying!
Since this is a “Jersey wedding”, both parents’ dances followed immediately after the bride and groom’s first dance which were to Van Morrison’s “Brown-Eyed Girl: and Louis Armstrong’s “What a Wonderful World.” Isn’t it funny how trends and rituals become stereotypes only for particular regions of the country!
Then the band kicked it into second gear with our Motown dance sub-set, going into “Signed Sealed Delivered”, “September”, and other classics prior to the first salad course, where we toned things down a bit with some Frank Sinatra and light jazz.
There were typical speeches and toasts by family members and friends that followed. I passed the microphone along. There were gorgeous floral arrangements interspersed all around the banquet room.
So far so good. Such a beautiful and yet simple wedding!
Mad Party Time after the Speeches
After the speeches and light background music, the band kicked it into high gear with a rousing pulsating dance set. Most of the guests had finished the main course of their delicious meal, which consisted of their choice of chateaubriand, asparagus, wild salmon, escargot, shallots, and delectable Hors D’Oeuvres.
By now, the crowd was in full party mode, and wouldn’t be leaving the dance floor. So we continued to keep the flow going with non-stop contemporary dance club R&B, top 40, rock, and reggae music. Everyone I could see to the rafters was having an incredible time.
Meanwhile, the handsome groom was tossing his beautiful new bride around like a top, and I could see both parents were all smiles. The energy of the band was dominant and contagious, and the rest of the crowd was loving every minute of it. Was this a wedding reception or a wild concert event? Every one of all ages were having the time of their lives!
During the relentless dance set, the banquet manager walked briskly over to me during “I Will Survive” and shouted in my ear, “We’re bringing out the wedding cake in 3 minutes, tell the band to stop playing.” I signaled to the band on the bandstand we were taking a break “in 5” for the cake cutting ceremony.
Cake Cutting Ceremony
There was a brief pause in the flow as it was now time to cut the wedding cake. An unusual but very large and impressive four-tier tall white lemon meringue wedding cake was rolled out while we immediately started playing “How Sweet It Is.” by James Taylor. In the background the bride and groom were led by the banquet manager to the wedding cake table, where we watched each cutting a generous slice of the delicious lemon meringue cake and symbolically feeding the other.
Within minutes, three large desert carts were wheeled out by the staff boasting a multi-colored assortment of cakes, pies, gelatos, and fondues. Transfixed on the lavish edible display while having an incorrigible sweet tooth, I could hardly contain myself.
As this was all happening, the rest of the band took a brief fifteen minute break and ate dinner, while the keyboardist and I began playing light background music. Work never ends for the band leader.
The Grand Finale
Where did the time go? Only 30 minutes remaining and there is no way I am eating dinner now! All the other band members ate, and quite frankly my empty stomach and the lack of nutrition in my system was making me feel very cranky. Oh well, it’s time to finish this baby off with a HUGE ending, so let’s get to the Grand Finale!
That’s when the band unleashed a full court press assault on the crowd, going into their lively irresistible 80s and 90s set, and the crowd went unbelievably wild! The best man had his arms raised and pointing toward me, saying “You da man!”
A large section of entire crowd came up toward the edge of the stage all holding hands in a continuous line, led by the bride and the groom, and they were all goading the sweat-soaked matron of honor to join us on stage to sing “You Ought a Know.” They finally coaxed her with the assistance of yours truly and she reluctantly obliged.
The moment she seductively stammered out the first 5 mercurial syllables of this wicked anthem, I knew this diabolical “matron of honor” was surprisingly adept vocally and could tell this was going to be a good one. By the time she belted out the last chorus and the song was over, she totally knocked the song out of the park!
So following this adrenaline-charged impromptu performance, the crowd of well-dressed sweaty guests went absolutely nuts and were all chanting in unison,
“One more song! One more song!”
“F” is for Foot in My Mouth
Time was ticking down, I glanced at my watch there was only 5 minutes remaining and the crowd was in a mad fury. The bride and groom were cheering along with them, ostensibly wanting a lot more.
As much as I was enjoying all the loving adoration for the band, I was overworked, tired, and famished. And paradoxically feeling smugly overconfident while definitely not being in the most coherent state of mind.
That’s when it happened. It’s the time when this surge of blind idiotic hubris overcame me.
Brazenly, I walk up to the microphone and shout out,
“So guys do you want to hear 10 more songs?
The crowd cheers wildly “YES!!”
“If you do, then kindly tell this beautiful bride and groom you’d like to extend the band’s time by one hour.”
Suddenly I turned my head and saw this look of grave mortification on the face of the bride and groom. As if they just looked into the eyes of a ghost. Then I turned to my left and witnessed the father of the bride’s blood boiling over.
Within 15 seconds, a joyful wonderful wedding reception turned into a tension-filled mood that enveloped the entire room. OMG, what did I say?
Feeling numb and too bewildered to realize what happened, I cued the band to begin playing the final song of the night “Sweet Caroline,” a typical ending crowd-pleaser which all of a sudden fell upon anticlimactic and unenthusiastic ears. That terrible sinking feeling that the band was playing the last song for the gold-leaf trim and expressionist paintings on the walls.
WTF! What had I done? As soon as “Sweet Caroline” ended and the clock struck exactly at 11:00pm, the wedding reception was over. We had fulfilled our contractual obligation. I told the band to immediately pack up and leave as fast as they could. There would not be any overtime.
Well, excuse the pun, but I deservedly was not going to be left “off the hook” for the incomprehensible deed I had committed. I felt this sinking feeling. Yet I still wasn’t exactly sure what I HAD done.
While I was quickly packing, the stoic father of the groom walked over to me and said the following words,
” You were doing SO WELL, and then you had to ruin it! How dare you say that and embarrass my son and daughter-in-law! How dare you put them on the spot! Don’t you know they cannot afford the over time.”
Before I could say a word or even think of apologizing, he turned around and briskly walked away. This was the most alienated and loneliest feeling I had ever felt at a wedding. Ever. And deservedly so.
Wow. No words. This never happened before However, the father was absolutely right. What a wakeup call and valuable lesson I learned that evening. Never again would I commit such an egregious faux pas, lessons in life and business can sometimes be a very hard pill to swallow.
Needless to say, I never heard from this client again despite later sending them a formal apology. Nor did I ever receive a referral from this client. Keep in mind, this was a client that was highly recommended.
The moral of the story here is this:
Ask privately if you think there is an opportunity for an upsell. Don’t risk embarrassing the client. You will pay the price dearly by losing the client and all potential referrals from that client forever.
Regardless how well you think a job is going, never assume you have succeeded until the “fat lady sings.” Hence, that is when you have absolutely completed the job!.
Finally, never assume no matter how lavish your client’s surroundings may be, the client can spend the extra money.
Please feel free to make any comments about this article. Thank you for reading and I would love to hear your feedback.