I'm With the Band
When punk rockers grow up and get married in their forties, the celebration is bound to be a little different. The wedding reception was held upon the stage of a grand old theater in Buffalo, New York. Stylishly set tables with crisp white clothes and bright crystal were scattered across the wooden floor, with its stage markings and piles of ropes and velvet curtains swagged casually aside. We, the wedding guests, ate our wedding banquet up on that stage and looked out at hundreds of plush empty seats; we were a show with no audience.
On the stage full of tables there was a smaller stage for the wedding band. This was a revolving door of musicians who would get up from their guest tables at the appropriate song and wander up to join the band, for one number or maybe two. In between, one guitarist might hand her instrument to another, or a drummer might stand to make room for drummer number four of the evening. The lead singers changed as different wedding guests took their turn at the mic. Two decades of friendship and musical history crossed the stage that night, as musical memories drew us into a wedding banquet like no other.
Thankfully, this was not a karaoke affair, where amateurs torture one another with spur of the moment song choices and alcohol induced confidence, nearly always misplaced. No, this was a carefully choreographed set list that took experienced and gifted musicians from many bands and pulled them together in odd combinations.
Some of the musicians were former band mates now moved on to be lawyers and mothers and business people. But many of these wedding guests were still in the music business and playing in bands that record and play shows. Some had been in bands together that were now broken up and gathered into new combinations and adventures. But all of them wandered forward to perform and to celebrate the wedding of the bride, a singer, songwriter, guitar player, and punk rock music activist; and the groom, a journalist who loves music, thank God.
Ghost of Identity Past
As a minister, I have learned that wedding receptions reflect the best and worst of people's pasts. Here the past and the present of the gathered community—the couple and their friends—was present in the venue itself, a huge theater. These were people who were comfortable on stages: either on them as performers, or in front of them as fans, or behind them, as crew, sound, and support. So to have the wedding celebration there was only natural. As natural as the bride taking her turn at the mic to sing a few numbers at her own wedding reception.
The Christian wedding ceremony had taken place in the theater's lobby. That lobby was ornate, with nooks and crannies where guests sat on gilt chairs beautifully restored, as so many old American theaters have been in recent decades. The bride and groom had processed up a winding stair case to a high alcove where they could look down to see all their guests, who looked like elegantly dressed theater patrons frozen in the middle of intermission to look upwards at something remarkable—in this case the wedding.