Just as we were leaving to yesterday’s wedding, more than an hour away from home, my DJ partner, Bengi, noticed that the a tire on the truck was flat. Not trusting the spare, we got creative and managed to load all of our equipment into my Subaru Outback. It was crowded and a little precarious, but we managed.
This is my biggest fear when it comes to working as a DJ:
Failing to arrive at a wedding on-time because of car trouble.
And it’s almost happened once before. Had we not noticed this flattening tire and made it ten miles from home before it ran out of air, things would have been dicey indeed.
We got lucky.
In the spirit of near-disasters, I spent the rest of the day making a list of the ten most potentially disastrous moments in the fifteen year history of our company. We’ve performed at more than 300 weddings over the years and have managed to avoid any serious problems on a wedding day, but we still have a decent list of blunders and tribulations. Here’s what I think is our top-ten, in chronological order:
Equipment failure created serious sound issues: At our second wedding, brand new audio cables reeked havoc with our sound system. We were never able to get the volume to acceptable levels and songs recorded on two separate tracks (like Twist and Shout) dropped their lyrics entirely, transforming them into karaoke versions of themselves. Thankfully, the guests were under the impression that the missing lyrics was intentional and simply replaced the words with their own singing. Unfortunately, we did not diagnose the source of the problem until after the wedding and were asked several times throughout the night to “Turn up the music!” to no avail.
Stopped a parent dance mid-song: At our fourth wedding, Bengi accidentally stopped a father-daughter dance mid-song. To his credit, there was less than a ten second gap in the music, but ten seconds in a moment like that can feel like ten years. Since that night, neither one of us has ever made a mistake like that again.
Asked a man in a wheelchair to rise: A year or two into our careers, Bengi introduced a grandparent from his seat, asking the man to rise and be recognized. The man was in a wheelchair. After four of five requests, I finally informed Bengi of the man’s infirmity and he moved on. We no longer ask anyone to rise unless it’s a group request.
Backed truck into a sink: After scoffing at Bengi’s ability to back up his own truck, I took the wheel of the Durango and promptly backed into an outdoor sink at Saint Clements’s Castle.
Offered to beat up four Chicago guys: Four large, thirty-something men began repeatedly requesting songs from the band Chicago at a wedding.
Chicago, mind you. Hardly considered manly rock-and-roll.
We played three of their requests, which was a lot considering the number of requests and songs that still needed to be played for the bride and groom. Unsatisfied, these men, who were probably drunk at the time, threatened to beat me up if I refused to play another Chicago song. “We’re going to drag you out to the parking lot and kick your ass if you don’t play our song,” one of them shouted.
“No,” I said, stepping from behind my equipment. “I’m going to walk out to the parking lot right now, kick your asses, and then I’ll come back inside and still not play another Chicago song. Let’s go!”
“Whoa!” the man cried. “Take it easy. What’s your problem?”
They left us alone for the duration of the night, but boy do I wish he had taken me up on his offer.
Client failed to pay us: Our policy is to collect payment prior to a wedding, but through a series of purported mistakes and miscommunications, a bride and groom did not pay us prior to a wedding but assured us that the check was in the mail. It was not. A month after the wedding, the groom left for a tour of duty in Iraq and we were left threatening to sue a woman whose husband of thirty days was now halfway around the world in harm’s way. Eventually, we did, and when she was served the papers indicating that we were taking legal action, she immediately came up with the money.
Threatened by a Polish uncle when he was told to stop playing music: Occasionally Bengi and I are asked to play alongside a band. On this occasion, the groom asked his uncle’s band to play thirty minutes of Polish music before giving way to us for the rest of the night. We took over at the appropriate time, but the uncle was under the impression that his band would take a fifteen minute break and then resume playing. When we explained that we had been asked to play music for the duration of the wedding, he threatened to beat us up and toss us out of the wedding. Rather than allowing me to offer to fight him in the parking lot, Bengi got the best man, the father of the groom, and eventually the groom involved. Within ten minutes, the groom was physically removing his uncle from the premises as we played on.
Forgot my tuxedo at home: Bengi and I arrived at a wedding on the shore, more than an hour from home, and were nearly set up and ready to go when I realized that I had left my garment bag on a bush beside his driveway. Though I momentarily considered hiding behind the equipment for the night in my shorts and tee-shirt, I instead drove fifteen minutes down the road to an outlet, ran into a men’s clothing store, and told the first salesperson I met to “Hook me up with a suit and shoes as fast as you can!” Three salespeople went into overdrive, tossing clothing of all kinds over the changing room door to me as I frantically tried on sports coats, shirts, pants, shoes and even socks. I made it back to the wedding just as the cocktail hour was ending, just in time for the bride and groom’s introductions.
Overheated Durango: On the way to a wedding on the shore, the Durango began to overheat, forcing us to pull into a gas station to allow it to cool. We added antifreeze, gave it fifteen minutes to cool, and drove at excessively slow speeds to the wedding, stopping every fifteen minutes to allow it to cool again. We were thirty minutes late but still managed to be set up and playing music on-time.
Forgot my laptop: Just last year, we had arrived at a wedding at a country club about thirty minutes from home when I realized that the backpack containing my laptop and all the CDs that had been burned for the wedding were still sitting in my car at home. I drove home at the speed of light and arrived just as the cocktail hour was ending.