How Swede It Is
In which our roving sound-smithachieves his lofty ideals
THIS SUMMER TOOK on a decidedly Scandinavian slant, as I flew out to Newport, Rhode Island to play at the wedding of a dear friend from London. Originally a native New Yorker of Irish-Italian descent, the bride was to marry her beau, who hails from Sweden.
I arrived in Boston the day before the wedding, but we soon left the city behind and meandered through the beautiful countryside en route to the venue: the magnificent Gray Craig, a 12-hectare stately home, surrounded by the most beautiful landscape and overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. Until recently it was one of the many residences of Hollywood actor Nicolas Cage, and the estate now hosts numerous events.
It seemed my arrival was keenly anticipated by the many guests, who gave me a warm welcome along with the requisite list of song requests for the toastmasters, the first dances and various other tunes that, I was assured, would find favour among the Swedes and thus ignite the dance floor. Naturally, the list included tracks by the world-renowned Swedish House Mafia and their various cohorts, but there were also a number of Swedish-language tracks that I’d naturally never heard of.
Now, anyone who knows Swedish folk will agree that they’re a very patriotic bunch and with the correct conditions – i.e. music and plenty of vodka – they need little encouragement not only to get onto the dance floor, but also to keep going till dawn. I therefore got straight down to the task of pillaging their various iTunes libraries so that I could be sure I had all the right ingredients as and when they were needed. Satisfied that I had the task in hand, I left in order to familiarise myself with this new genre of music before the rehearsal dinner later that evening.
By the time the morning rolled around, I felt confident that I had everything under control and that the guests were in for a long night. Anticipation was high and it seemed that everyone was in the mood for an all-night danceathon.
Once the ceremony and reception cocktails were over, the guests filtered their way into the exquisitely decorated marquee, which looked out across the estate. As it happened, the bride works in the PR and events industry in London and had gone to great lengths to ensure that every last detail was perfect.
The dinner included a number of highly entertaining speeches, all of which were introduced by a quirky little musical number, each relevant to the various speakers. Once the last speech was concluded, it was over to the bride and groom to take to the dance floor. The guests flocked to join them as I warmed them up with a couple of slow, gentle classics to keep the seniors happy, before I upped the tempo and launched into the more contemporary fare.
As anticipated, the Swedes immediately got down to business and were tearing up the dance floor along with the other guests. It was obvious that everyone was having a blast, so you can imagine my horror when the organisers told me that the neighbours had been complaining and the police were coming to shut us down unless we turned down the volume. It seemed that even 12 hectares were insufficient to diminish the sound blasting from the speakers. I politely explained that if I took the sound down by half as they’d asked, it would mean the end of the party, which would no doubt result in a riot by the assembled revellers. Nonetheless, my hands were tied. Clearly I had to take evasive action and determined that the guests would not go home disappointed, I formulated a plan.
Earlier that day I’d been given a tour of the house and been shown its vast attic. I quickly grabbed the microphone, cut the sound completely, and then explained the unfortunate situation to our guests, telling them that it was no longer possible to continue outdoors.
However, if all the able-bodied men on the dance floor were willing to pitch in and help, then between us we’d be able to move the concert-sized sound rig to the attic where we would be able to continue till the last man dropped.
Within minutes, all the guests were ferrying speakers, cables and other equipment (as well as the entire contents of the bar) upstairs, where we quickly set up and prepared for phase two. The only drawback was that there were neither windows nor air-conditioning, and since it was summer, the space was like a furnace – not that this in any way deterred the party people who, despite being drenched in perspiration, kept dancing for hours.
I always say that my job involves a large degree of improvisation, but even this was a first for me. Having said that, it all worked out perfectly in the end and everybody got their fill. As the old saying goes, the show must go on!