Hey, Mr DJ, Put A Record On!
Well, as lead vocalist of Pretty Vegas and a DJ for 17 years, one way or another I’m out most weekends. I love it. That feeling when you’re loading up ready to drive to a gig. The anticipation of a good night, when the crowd will sway and dance and fool around, and spill beer and steam will rise from the dance-floor; it gets me going. Setting up the gear is never fun, especially with a work-shy lead guitarist, but I love getting it right; the sound-check; putting on the background music and watching the guests appear; the lights illuminating the stage; the spurt of dry ice as the music surges and the band kicks off. I love it.
Fitting the Bill
We at Pretty Vegas know our music. We all have our ideas about what should be playing when we’re not. Pretty Vegas is, at heart, a rock band; it’s what we grew up on. That’s not to say we don't play with feeling and soul, but we’re never happier than when we’re rocking out with the crowd on the dance-floor, Ritchie on a chair, groin in the air, me and Leighton on the stage and a random lady in the audience banging our tambourine out of time. That had to mean we would end up being a rocking wedding band.
As resident DJ at a successful country hotel for 17 years I know that rock is only part of the solution. I do a little set of Bryan Adams, Bon Jovi, The Killers and Kings of Leon and it always goes down a storm, but I also recognise the young ladies who want some Rihanna or LMFAO, the mum, dad, grandma or granddad who wants some ‘proper rock n’ roll’ and the 80s fans, revving up for Frankie, Duran Duran or Dexy’s Midnight Runners. I love all music. Various members of Pretty Vegas have been in various different configurations, playing all kinds of music from punk to REM to Metallica to grunge to Britney Spears to Tracey Chapman, since we were just old enough to hold a guitar! We love it all and I pride myself, in terms of being a wedding DJ, on being able to judge a crowd; to look at the spread of people in a room and to establish what they want to listen to.
As writer of this blog, I get to talk about the new toys we’ve just bought. Pretty Vegas has just invested in a pair of RCF powered speakers. When coupled with our previous investment of a Mackie sub-woofer, we now sound, as I believe the kids say, unbelievably awesome!
As my colleagues have said in previous blogs, we try to put on a show. We were concerned when we first started out as Pretty Vegas that we didn’t have a light show. We now have a kick-ass light show! We pay out for the little things all the time - a set of guitar strings here, a £2000 Taylor guitar there! We could get by on some bargain basement second hand gear, but we want to sound good. People sometimes seem incredulous that bands would like to be paid what sometimes amounts to £10 per hour each for a gig. They don’t see what money goes in behind the scenes to get a band to sound like that. To give you a clue, when we go out, because we want to be the best sounding wedding band, we generally have around £10,000 of equipment with us.
I tend to use a combination of iPods and laptops to run my DJ show these days. I’m always a bit suspicious of electronic technology though. I still carry my faithful CDJs and two big cases of discs to every show, just in case. My biggest enduring fear is playing the Bride and Grooms’ first dance and the laptop crashes! Accordingly I now cue the track up simultaneously on iPod, laptop and disc, so there are two failsafes!
There’s no doubt that technology yields results and as well as the recent upgrades to our PA rig and lights, we at Pretty Vegas take pride in using the best tech and equipment we can.
Dance My Pretties
As a DJ I love nothing more than to make people dance (I think it was Don McLean said that). As I’ve mentioned, I play little sets as a DJ. Unless specified by the Client, I would play a fairly broad range of genres from dance/chart to funk/soul to motown to rock to party to jive to swing to disco to house. If people aren’t dancing then I’ll change the vibe until they do. Often Clients will supply a play list. I will make suggestions about order and what will get people dancing etc. but, at the end of the day, it’s the Client’s evening and usually when a customer supplies a play list it’s because they care about the music they’re going to listen to and the selection is usually pretty much on the money. I’ll play anything! One of my best nights as a DJ was when the Bride and Groom (and all the guests) were into heavy metal and rock. I had a ball playing Foo Fighters, Nirvana, Metallica and the Chilli Peppers. Pretty Vegas may be a pop soul and rock wedding band, but at heart we know what we love!
To tell the truth I just love to play what makes people happy. I know that sounds really cheesy, and I try to stay away from extreme cheese like The Birdy Song and Agadoo, but it’s true. Sometimes you get a play list of tunes you’ve never heard of. You spend hours and pounds on iTunes downloading obscure sounding tracks, never expecting anyone to be into it. But it often works! If enough people are prepared to get up and cut a rug, then it’s a hit and it’s job done-client happy.
Mark Keown - Vocals
Pretty Vegas Wedding Band