An Original Soundtrack
However obscure your tastes may be—nineties Pavement tracks, twenties jazz standards—eight hyperspecific wedding bands are up for the challenge.
Its full name (“Mixtape: A Cover Band For Hipsters”) may feel straight out of a Portlandia script, but it corners a neglected market: clients who don’t want their wedding parties to sound like a pop station. Founder Melanie Flannery makes sure her well-rehearsed band is ready to play a crowd-pleasing range of cross-generational hits that lead straight up to today, whether that means a couple decades of college radio (Pavement, Depeche Mode), midstream smashes from last year (Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Janelle Monae, Passion Pit), or welcome 180s like Hall & Oates or G N’ R with note-for-note Slash solos. Rates start at $5,000; mixtapecoverband.com.
For the first dance: “Strangers,” by The Kinks
“It’s simple and classic without being too schmaltzy.” —Melanie Flannery, founder and singer
The eleven instrument swappers who crowd the Engagements’ stage can do straight-up hits, but they’d rather be rocking “This Charming Man.” Not to mention choice cuts from the seventies (“Tiny Dancer”) and nineties (“Common People”). The only thing these industry vets don’t do is trace over today’s Top 40 tracks, since they often rely on synthetic loops rather than live-session players. Rates start at $9,000; theengagements.com.
For the father-daughter dance: “All You Need Is Love,” by The Beatles
“There aren’t many songs that are appropriate for a parent-child dance, but this is classic, and has interesting twists and turns for the band.” —Aaron Thurston, bandleader and drummer
Balkan Brass Breaks:
Slavic Soul Party!
The exclamation point in Slavic Soul Party! is not superfluous. It’s hammered home with a collision of classic Eastern European influences (heated horns, button-mashed accordions) and North American strains of funk and jazz. Its wedding set is dominated by more than a decade of original material—globe-trotting grooves that have landed the local favorites gigs with Arcade Fire and the Warped Tour—but the Brooklyn band’s also been known to spike the occasional cover (“I Only Have Eyes For You,” “Harvest Moon”) with its signature brand of Balkan brass music. Rates start at $4,000; slavicsoulparty.com.
For a full-on dance-party-starter: “Never Gonna Let You Go,” traditional gospel song
“If a brass band playing this doesn’t make you dance, see a doctor.” —Matt Moran, bandleader
Custom Tribute Tracks:
The Loser’s Lounge
Most wedding performers have a lengthy list of passable covers to pull from. The Loser’s Lounge takes things to another level by being one of the city’s most versatile tribute acts, extending its love of singular songwriters like Serge Gainsbourg and Lee Hazlewood to an entire evening. Led by former Psychedelic Furs keyboardist Joe McGinty, the band can feature as many as twelve players. Couples looking for a night of nothing but David Bowie or Donna Summer need look no further, although a best-of-the-best revue is also very doable. Rates upon request; loserslounge.com.
For the hora: An original arrangement inspired by Dick Dale “It morphs between surf rock, prog, and the traditional hora. It whips the guests up to a frenzy.” —Joe McGinty, bandleader
Michael Arenella and his Dreamland Orchestra
Anyone who prefers being way behind the times will find a kindred spirit in Michael Arenella, a pied piper for Roaring Twenties revivalists known for his annual Jazz Age Lawn Party. His Dreamland Orchestra can mold its Great American Songbook sets to all sorts of weddings, from intimate affairs that require just a soloist, duo, or trio to lusher settings that benefit from the full twelve-piece band. Arenella, for his part, can wail his way through a time-machine tour that starts in Tin Pan Alley and winds down in the Rat Pack era. Rates upon request; dreamlandorchestra.com.
For the cocktail hour: “Cocktails For Two,” by Arthur Johnston and Sam Coslow
“It is a quintessential romance song of the post-Prohibition era, when things were somehow simpler and sexier.” —Michael Arenella, bandleader
No pies have been harmed at a Stifler’s Mom show (yet), but there are still a lot of costume changes, props, and audio clips that go into the American Pie–inspired group’s spot-on recreations of nineties grunge and gangsta rap and the Spice Girls. Or as they put it in a promo video, “Remember that song that wore out your Discman back in 1996? Yeah, we play that one, too.” And by that, they mean everything from “Semi-Charmed Life” to “O.P.P.” Rates upon request; 866-970-9339.
For the bride walking down the aisle: “I’ll Be” by Edwin McCain
“It’s a staple nineties song with a beautiful message.” —Matt DePalma, lead singer
From the Summer 2014 New York Wedding Guide