City Journal: Union Worker

As the Boston wedding band Night Shift tunes up for its summer tour of local ballrooms, we quiz frontman and bassist Bill Garside for a few trade secrets.

1. GET THIS PARTY STARTED. To get people moving, singers can step onto the dance floor or serenade a table. But whatever happens, they avoid shouts like, “C’mon, everybody!” “People want less of that,” Garside says. “They want it to remain sophisticated.”

2. IN WITH THE OLD. It’s important to learn new tunes, but a band should use them sparingly. Even with a young crowd, there’s always more demand for “Brown Eyed Girl” than Black Eyed Peas.

3. SILENCE ISN’T GOLDEN. Nothing murders the vibe like breaks between songs, Garside says. Tunes have to segue into each other to create non-stop music for up to 20 minutes at a time. “As soon as people are standing still for five seconds, they don’t want to be standing on the dance floor and they walk away,” he says.

4. STRAIGHT TO VIDEO. Nightshift doesn’t rely on shaky wedding videos or live reception recordings to market itself. The band drops $50,000 a year in production costs to impress would-be clients with slick, studio-made videos.

5. BORED BANDS ARE BORING. Bands need to keep things entertaining – not just for guests, but for themselves. Night Shift amuses itself by switching arrangements and the way it plays songs. “People ultimately want to see that we’re having a great time,” Garside says.

6. CLOTHES MAKE THE BAND. Fighting the impression that wedding bands are genetically corny, Garside dons classy cool suits. “I always found it difficult to envision a band looking cool and not cheesy in tuxedoes with bowties,” he says.

7. ORIGINAL SIN. People want songs they know, so don’t bust out originals. If the party’s really hopping, though, some crowds will appreciate improv. At one wedding in Braintree, Night Shift created a song called “The Braintree Shuffle.” It brought the house down.