A swing band leader’s function is not just to turn up and play music, that’s only one part of the equation.
Managing logistics on a wedding day are really important. When and where best to set up in the room, set lengths and timings, liaising with the other wedding suppliers (e.g. with the photographer to get the best 1st dance shot of bride and groom, band and guests) and many other things behind the scenes.
Professional wedding entertainers know what works, and can respond to the mood keep things moving. I place a lot of importance on getting a feel for the room and audience. There are different kinds of wedding crowds, for example “full on dancing” crowds, some “dance and the sit and listen” crowds, guests who want to listen and chill, and so on. E each person has their own way of having a good time, so it’s important to keep tuned in and to know what’s needed.
I constantly check the room to gauge the reaction, to feel the energy of the room and monitor the mood constantly. I keep checking with the organisers or hosts to make sure everything is to their expectations and make sure that whatever the band does is tailored to best suit the program. Some have more energy than others, so it’s important to know when and how to schedule wedding music to get the best results.
One of the most important ingredients for any wedding band is the setlist. Not just the style of music, but which particular songs to play at different times, based on reading the audience and the mood. Whether it’s swing, jazz, soul or Motown, it’s important to be able to switch styles at a moment’s notice, rearrange the order of songs, or change the setlist timings so that the music fits in smoothly with other things going on (e.g. the evening buffet) at the event.
You should expect your bandleader to be a musical event planner.