A crowd of people, arms in the air, singing along to the band without a care in the world. These people are not at a packed out concert for their favourite band; nope, they are attending a wedding with a great atmosphere.
The beauty of this image is that it could just as easily be taken at a staff Christmas party, charity event or a closing dinner at a conference. An engaged crowd and a great atmosphere at an event is a sign the event organiser has made a great choice when selecting the music.
Here at Event Birdie we LOVE live bands. We recently sat down with Slide McBride, one of Sydney’s best party bands, to discuss how a successful band can set and guide the mood of an event and ensure the dance floor is packed.
So here it is, Slide McBride’s top ten tips for packing the dance floor and keeping it pumping all night long:
1. Band versus DJ
A live band provides a point of focus and a good band puts on a performance. This provides a visual connection between the guests and the music. For example, we recently played at a wedding reception where the groom and many of the guests were profoundly deaf. The visual side of what we did, in addition to the fact that they can still feel the beat, had them dancing and involved with all the other guests on the dance floor.
Being able to go from song to song without stopping, much like a DJ, is a vital part of what we do. It means that there is no point where guests are left standing around for ten seconds waiting for the next song to start, which is enough time for them to think about sitting down or going to the bar.
3. Diverse repertoire
The thing with functions is that the age range is always so Diverse. Therefore, it is important to have songs that will connect with 20 year olds and also with 60 year olds. As a general rule of thumb, older people are less inhibited when it comes to dancing (believe it or not), especially ‘baby-boomers’. Older songs, for example 60’s, 70’s and 80’s is great for getting this demographic dancing. As they tire, we switch into contemporary songs and by this stage the younger people are less inhibited and are ready to go.
4. Early connection with the audience
I once read an interview with the singer David Campbell, where he said, “I want to have a relationship with my audience”. We try and do the same. This starts with pre-dinner drinks and then extends through dinner. This is a fantastic way in which to create a bond between us and the audience, which always extends into maximising the number of people who later get up and dance.
5. Changing the tempo when required
Just as many people like to dance to a slow song as dance to something upbeat. There are so many different genres of dance music, why stick to one style? People love dancing to funk, but people also love dancing to reggae, rock’n’roll or even swing. That’s why we love to mix it up.
6. Audience involvement
A great band always has the attitude, “it’s about them, not about us”. So, getting up a guest to sing or getting guests to sing along with the chorus is always a fun thing to do. Similarly, forming a conga line or getting everyone to put their hands in the air also extend that bond between them and us.
7. Having flexibility to extend a song (or kill it early)
Sometimes I’ll gamble on calling a song and it doesn’t work out. It is vital to be able to ditch and switch to another song as soon as possible. Similarly, if a song is really rocking and the dance floor is pumping, it’s great to be able to extend it.
8. Reading the audience
Once again, it is not about us (the band), it is all about them (the guests) and playing songs that they want to dance to. After playing at more than two thousand functions, I’ve developed a “sixth sense” for what will and what will not get people dancing at a certain time. Ultimately, it’s all about timing, or in other words, playing the right song at the right time.
When I was a teenager and I used to play football, I had a coach who used to say, “Put your mark on the game”. In other words, do something exceptional. I approach every function I play at with this as my mantra. The classic showbiz saying is, “You are only as good as your last gig”. Every time I play, I consider my reputation to be at stake, so I give every performance all I’ve got.
10. Having fun within the band
If we (the band) are having a good time, the audience picks up on it. So, as much as we are there to serve the people, it is vital that we enjoy ourselves. This, naturally, comes across in the music. I am fortunate enough to have a great team (band), and we all get along exceptionally well. We love sharing a laugh, whether on or off the band stand.
Header image: John Benavente Photography