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Norfolk wedding band Avenue Acoustic Duo playing dance music at a wedding

Tips for wedding and party music to get guests dancing

Is an acoustic duo the right choice for party music?

When we started Avenue in 2009 we expected to be asked to play specially-requested songs for ceremonies and laid-back music for drinks receptions. After all, at many weddings and parties guests haven’t seen each other for ages, and we certainly wouldn’t want to drown them out while they catch up with a good old chinwag.

However, as things have evolved, we’ve found ourselves playing more and more dance music too. Perhaps it’s our own ages, but we’ve found this approach particularly resonates with audiences not just at weddings, but at birthday parties from 30 to 90, for silver and ruby wedding parties and at club functions. Many people are surprised at what can be achieved with just a guitar and a couple of voices.

At a glance

  • Give people an opportunity to mingle early on
  • Acoustic covers are different (and fun)
  • Include dance music that will appeal to all ages
  • Have a mix of up-tempo and slow dances
  • Make sure the venue’s the right size for the audience
  • Use an iPod later in the evening for modern dance music
  • As hosts, make sure everyone’s invited up to dance

Starting the dancing

At a typical wedding, evening guests arrive from, say, 7.00pm onwards. They need an opportunity to get a drink and to mingle with friends and relatives; it’s also their time to greet the bride and groom. They want to chat, not have their conversation drowned out by a band or an insensitive DJ. It’s the same for most evening parties; trying to start the dancing too early can intrude on this important phase.

But when it’s time for the dancing itself? The short answer is that acoustic acts have advantages and disadvantages. Whether we’re right for you depends on what kind of party you’re expecting. It’s not just a question of volume (we can be pretty loud if we have to – although we don’t try to compete with DJs with state-of-the-art subwoofers), but also a question of the kind of atmosphere you want to create.

If you’re starting off with a slow dance, it’s a good idea to have two numbers lined up so that guests get a chance to watch before taking the plunge and joining in with you. Then it’s time for the upbeat songs!

Familiar music sounds different when played acoustically

Let’s face it, if you want songs to sound as they do ‘on the record’ it’s easy enough to set up your iPod playlist and run it through the PA (in fact a number of our clients choose to do this for later in the evening). Part of the point of having an act like Avenue perform at your party is because hearing different versions can create a sense of fun.

If you look at our playlist you’ll see some titles that may be unexpected. I Predict A Riot? Teenage Kicks? They’re certainly a contrast to our mellow Eva Cassidy and Adele numbers. But the way we play them can surprise most guests and helps keep things relaxed, informal and danceable.

Making sure there’s something for everyone

For parties where there is a predominantly younger age group, an act like Avenue might not be right. It’s not that we don’t play modern dance music (we’re probably one of a handful of acoustic acts to perform songs by Rudimental, for example), but we really come into our own when the generations are gathered together.

If you want to get the grandparents on the dancefloor we have a playlist that includes 1950s and 1960s hits. We play many black tie functions and special wedding anniversary parties where there can be an older age profile, and we tailor our music selections accordingly to keep everyone involved. For a mixed audience, perhaps the last hour might be a good opportunity to switch over to the iPod for more current music.

In practice there are plenty of songs that seem to span all tastes – and they’re only cheesy in the right way. We find numbers like Blondie’s Call Me, T Rex’s Hot Love and Mud’s Tiger Feet work magic  and can get just about any audience on their feet. Spirit In The Sky is particularly popular, whether you’re familiar with the version by Norman Greenbaum, Doctor And The Medics or Gareth Gates!

We don’t just play up-tempo songs, though. We make sure they’re interspersed with good old-fashioned slow dances, which can be a great way of encouraging your more reluctant guests onto the dancefloor.

One of the real advantages of the way we play is that it’s easy for us to change a set list as we go, making sure it reflects the songs that are entertaining the audience. If you want guests to get dancing, our aim is to keep them dancing – unless it’s essential to give them a breather! That’s why we always advise people hiring us to name a handful of songs we must play and a handful we should avoid – and then leave the rest to us.

Consider the size of the venue

Something else you might want to think about when deciding if an acoustic band is right for your party is the size of your venue and how it’s set up. We’re used to playing for functions from stages in very large barns, but they tend to be sit-down meals. To encourage dancing, smaller barns and hotels work best with an acoustic act.

Again, this isn’t about volume. If you picture the average dancefloor it’s not that big when compared with the size of some rooms. But however many guests you’re expecting, too few in too large a space always makes it difficult to create the best atmosphere. We work well in the thick of the action, not on a remote stage. If you can see the whites of our eyes, we can engage better with you and your guests to keep the dancing going.

Lead from the front

If you want a party with dancing, there’s no better way than showing everyone else how it’s done. Guests dance when there are already people on the dancefloor (and if you’re the bride there’s even more reason for them to get up and join you).

Between you, your friends and family, make sure you ask everyone to dance; don’t just expect them to follow you up. It doesn’t matter if people are shy about it, or claim to have two left feet.

Whether you’ve decided to hire a DJ, a full party band or an acoustic duo, it’s a party – your party – and what you say goes!

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