Our Approach to Weddings and Private Functions
When the Johnson Brothers play weddings/corporate events, they take their crazed, do-anything-to-win-an-audience attitude and cheeky insouciance and temper it with a healthy dose of appropriate professionalism. The Johnson Brothers react to each crowd they play for, sensing what they want to hear and keeping it coming for as long as possible. Whether it’s a subdued, buttoned-down affair or a drunken orgy, the Johnson Brothers adapt to their surroundings, not the other way around. It’s typical for them to play 1-1/2 to 2 hours straight without a pause, much like a D.J. would. Anyone who’s seen the band will attest: when the dance floor is full, the Johnson Brothers don’t even stop between songs, let alone take a break. They do this by calling the next song before the current one ends, and seamlessly segueing between them. This turn-on-a-dime responsiveness to the crowd is what sets the Johnson Brothers apart from virtually every other band out there. It’s no coincidence that our initials are the JB’s because we are the hardest working band in New England!
Instead of taking requests as in a club setting, the Johnson Bros. usually start with some quiet jazz instrumentals (In a Sentimental Mood, ‘Round Midnight, All The Things You Are, Song For My Father), followed by some slow ballads from the 40’s through the 80’s (everything from the 40-50’s Sinatra / Nat King Cole / Tony Bennett Summer Wind / The Way You Look Tonight / It Had to Be You / I Left My Heart in San Francisco school to 60’s ballads like You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’, Everybody’s Talking, Ferry ‘Cross the Mersey and In My Life to 70’s chestnuts like Easy, Oh Girl, I’ll be There, Sara Smile, This Masquerade and Wildflower, all the way to slightly tongue-in-cheek versions of 80’s power ballads like Sister Christian, Total Eclipse of the Heart and True, etc.) into some mid-tempo material (My Girl, Let’s Stay Together, Dancin’ in the Moonlight), perhaps followed by some swing (such as In the Mood) and 50’s rock & roll like Good Rockin’ at Midnight, Evangeline, Beyond the Sea, Shake Rattle and Roll, Teddy Bear / Don’t Be Cruel, Tossin’ and Turnin’, The Wanderer, and into some funk/disco (September, I Wish, Livin’ in America, I Believe In Miracles, You Make Me Feel Like Dancin’, Oh What A Night, I Want You Back).
From there, they might play some calypso/socca (Save the Last Dance for Me, Me and Julio, Late in the Evening, Call Me Al, Copacabana) or rock and roll (Black Betty, You Shook Me [All Night Long], Walk This Way, All Right Now, Saw Her Standing There, Shout), and then possibly some over-the-top 80’s rock like Footlose, (I Don’t Want to Lose) Your Love, Don’t Stop Believing, Livin’ on a Prayer, Sweet Child or Mine, and Laid.
The key is that the band has so much material at its disposal that we can always react to each crowd and pick the appropriate songs, as well as honor any request from the clients to concentrate more on one particular style while perhaps avoiding another. While the average wedding band plays the same set-list night after night (often due to their bloated horn section needing charts for everything), we are truly in the moment when on stage, adapting to each night’s crowd in real time.
The idea is to keep the dance floor filled ALL NIGHT. For most weddings,this means playing slower, more elegant tunes for awhile, gradually working things up to a fever pitch which lasts untill the party’s over. However, we’re more than happy to play crazy, over-the-top dance music right from the start. (We’ll just need a note from your Mom and Dad — just kidding. Seriously, it’s your party and we want you to be happy.)
Q: We’ve seen the band live in a club setting. We loved them, but are worried about how their performance would differ at or translate to our wedding reception.
A: When we play in the clubs, we act the part, i.e. we swear, jump around, joke with and berate our audience, and often try songs we don’t really know or have any business playing. This spontaneous, on-the-edge performance style is what endears us to our regular club following, who 1) wouldn’t want us to play the same set list every night, and 2) enjoy the spectacle of a crazy rock and roll band who are in-the-moment and not afraid to fall on our faces (both literally and figuratively).
When we play weddings, our M.O. is quite different. Receptions are all about playing the appropriate dance music at the appropriate time at an appropriate volume. Unlike our typical bar gigs, we: 1) wear nice suits, 2) don’t swear or use off-color language, 3) do not actively solicit requests from the audience (although we do welcome them from our clients ahead of time), 4) don’t play any music that doesn’t keep the dance floor full. We start off with some quiet jazz instrumentals, then seque into the classic American Songbook type stuff (Sinatra, Bennett etc.), then gradually transition into the over-the-top dance material as the audience begins to loosen up (i.e. get drunk). The idea is to have the evening unfold in a natural manner that allows 1) quiet conversation early, 2) a chance for everyone to slow and mid-tempo dance after awhile, and 3) then go crazy to the rock and roll, swing, disco, funk, etc. for the last couple of hours.
We understand your concern about hiring a crazy rock and roll band for your reception, but rest assured we didn’t get as busy as we are without doing a great job consistently, and making it a point to please all segments of the audiences, young and old.
Q: Can the band provide us with any references to speak to?
A: The band has performed over 700 weddings over the last 14 years, from Montreal to Virginia. We have a list of hundreds of clients we can call upon to speak on our behalf. If you are in any way unsure about the band and its reputation, please do not hesitate to request a list of our references and their contact info. These clients are grateful for the effort we put into making their reception a success, and are more than happy to speak with potential clients on our behalf. Unilke other bands that put “quotes” from “satisfied” clients on their website, we provide you with actual contact info from clients who are willing to take the time to speak with you about the band.
Q: When should we book the band for our private party/reception?
A: The band usually books weddings about 12-18 months ahead of time, especially for the most in-demand peak-season dates (Saturday evenings, May to October). Fridays, Sundays and afternoon availablity is usually better. If you want to have us play at your reception, please contact us ASAP to be sure that we’re available. A $500 deposit is all that is needed to hold the date.
Q: What do the band members wear when they play weddings?
A: The Johnson Brothers typically wear upscale, dark suits and ties; but for a small charge, we will wear tuxes for more formal engagements.
Q: Are members of the band available for the cocktail hour?
A: The keyboardist and/or saxophonist are often called upon to play quiet jazz during the cocktail hour. Most times, however, clients will opt for just the keyboardist, who will come to the cocktail area and play on the venue’s grand piano.
Q: Suppose we want the band to play an extra hour — do we have to give advance notice, and how much will they charge?
A: The price can be negotiated months before the date or ten minutes before the end of the show, except when we have another engagement scheduled. The overtime rate is always cheaper than a pro-rated rate.
Q: Will the JB’s learn a special song or two for the occasion?
A: We’d be more than happy to learn that special song of yours for the occasion, no matter how cheesy, overblown or saccharin-sweet it may be. (Just kidding; usually it’s a good excuse for us to learn another song, often one that will come up again in similar situation.)
Q: How many breaks does the band take, how long are they, and do they provide background music during the breaks?
A: During the course of a four-hour reception, the average wedding band would take two or three breaks totaling about an hour. Depending on how quickly the band gets fed, the Johnson Brothers usually take two breaks totaling less than 45 minutes. Keep in mind that the JB’s segueway one song into the next (even during the slow numbers), so while the average band will play, say, 10-12 songs in an hour, the JB’s typically will squeeze 15-18. More importantly, this keeps people on the dance floor. And the JB’s always bring a CD player and an iPod, through which they play background music during these breaks. (You are always welcome to bring your own iPod or CD’s if you’d like to play DJ during breaks, dinner, etc.)
Q: Do you have a smaller PA we can rent for the ceremony and/or the cocktail hour?
A: Yes. After receiving countless requests, we have now put together an amazing, state-of-the-art second, smaller PA complete with a lavalier mic (clip-on type worn by newscasters etc), a headset mic, and a wireless handheld mic for clients to rent if needed for the ceremony (lots of folks having the ceremony outside or for a large number of guests want the ceremony to be unobtrusively amplified). We now have the capability to discretely mic up everyone involved in the ceremony and project their voices so everyone can hear what’s being said. The system can also be used to amplify background music and/or speeches for the cocktail hour if desired. Please inquire about pricing if interested.
The Johnson Brothers performed at a wedding recently featured in the Boston magazine The Knot. You can download a PDF of the full article. Since the article didn’t really say much about us, the couple, Alison and Patrick, were kind enough to send this quote for us to put on our website. Thanks guys!
The Johnson Brothers did a great job keeping our dance floor packed all night long! They knew how to read our guests and kept playing exactly what the crowd was looking for in order to keep everyone dancing. They played a great mix of music, so all generations of guests were able to hear some of their favorite songs. We still receive compliments about them over a year later!— Alison & Patrick
We also recently played at a wedding at the Gamble Mansion in downtown Boston. The wedding is featured in Brides.com. Here’s what the couple had to say:
The band was awesome – aside from being great musicians, they simply know how to throw a party…we’ve recommended them to everyone!
— Krista & Ethan