Playing Your Song

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By David Malitz
washingtonpost.com Staff Writer
Friday, June 15, 2007; 12:21 PM

Living in an age of wedding planners who take care of every last detail can almost ensure that your guests have a blast at your wedding. But music is a very important aspect that should be left to people who actually know music, not to folks who consider it just another element along with invitations, floral arrangements and cake. So instead of making your guests suffer through yet another horrible version of "Celebrate Good Times Come On!" or "The Electric Slide," consider some bands that just might make your guests recall your special day as fondly as you will.

Swing Along

Big Joe and the Dynaflows
Big Joe is one of those rarest of breeds -- the drummer/bandleader. He and the Dynaflows excel in jump blues but also hold their own in New Orleans swing and old time rock 'n' roll. It's key to make sure your guests have the option of dancing whenever they want to dance, and Big Joe is sure to keep people out of their seats and on the dance floor.

The Boilermakers
The Boilermakers are regulars at Glen Echo's swing dance nights and always get the crowd moving at full speed. The band specializes in hot jazz and swing but the top-notch musicians can also slow it down for that all important first dance, offering up a classic ballad or standard. After that, though, be ready to get those comfortable dancing shoes on.

Radio King Orchestra
If swing's your thing, then it's hard to go wrong with the Radio King Orchestra. The 10-piece group goes all out, dressing in outfits that evoke the style of the Rat Pack days, while running through the songbooks of legends such as Frank Sinatra, Bobby Darin, Glenn Miller and Ella Fitzgerald. The group's professionalism is unquestioned, as it has played such high-profile gigs in venues such as the Kennedy Center's Concert Hall and Carter Barron Amphitheatre.

Get Funky

Daryl Davis
The only problem with getting the standout local boogie pianist to play at your wedding is that people might remember the day as "that phenomenal Daryl Davis concert that those two folks got married at" instead of the most important day of your lives. But hey, at least they'll always remember it, right? Davis has shared the stage with the likes of the Muddy Waters Blues Band, Bo Diddley and Chuck Berry -- Berry won't play in D.C. unless he's accompanied by Davis on the piano. Endorsements don't come much stronger than that.

Chopteeth
The area's (Afro)funkiest band doesn't make a habit of playing weddings, but if you can convince them to play at your affair, it will be well worth it, even if you take on the extra catering costs that come with booking a 14-person band. The group has one of the most unique sounds of any band in the area and even the most stoic guests won't be able to resist getting down to its mix of African funk, classic ska and even a James Brown classic or two.

Junkyard Saints
If you want your wedding party to be a serious party, seven-piece New Orleans-style funksters the Junkyard Saints will make that happen. But this is another group whose diverse sound is perfectly fit for a wedding party -- while the group will get down with classic zydeco, R&B and everything else that grooves, a few band members can also serve as a more serene light jazz group for a pre-reception cocktail hour. (301-891-1134)

Cover Your Tracks

The Fabulettes
For the bride and groom who just can't get enough of Phil Spector (his artistic achievements, not his personal actions, of course), local trio the Fabulettes would serve as a wonderful post-nuptials soundtrack. Decked out in beehives and bouffants, the girls faithfully recreate the girl group sounds of the '60s, complete with saucy, synchronized stage moves. You're unlikely to find a band that will make staples such as "Dancing in the Street" and "Chain of Fools" sound so good.

The Legwarmers
Certain songs from the '80s have become so ubiquitous that you can't have a wedding without those songs being played at the party. So if that's the case, why not get a band that plays those hits of the '80s better than anyone? And we do mean anyone -- in many cases, including the original artists. The Legwarmers have become a local phenomenon over the past few years with high-energy, hit-packed shows, mostly at the State Theatre. It's gotten to the point where the band's shows are selling out weeks in advance, which is unheard of for a cover band. So if your wedding just won't be complete without "Dancing With Myself," "Don't Stop Believin'" and "In Your Eyes," this is who you want.

The Reflex
They may not be at the level of the Legwarmers, but this '80s tribute act has started filling area clubs on a regular basis on the strength of it's nylon-friendly sets that span Prince, George Michael, Whitesnake and the B-52's. And bonus points need to be handed out for naming themselves after one of Duran Duran's most sorely underrated hits.

Gonzo's Nose
The last of the mighty trio of local '80s cover bands, the Nose recently started playing weddings a few years ago, although it is somewhat selective about which ones it chooses. The band doesn't just stick to material from the Reagan era and is constantly updating and tweaking its repertoire. With more than 200 songs to choose from, an appropriate setlist can be crafted for most occasions.

Twang's the Thang

Mary Ann Redmond
Singer-songwriter Redmond is one of the area's most consistent and versatile performers, racking up more Washington Area Music Association awards than you have fingers. Her distinctive, soulful voice gained her recognition across the country and the ability of her and her band to shift from romantic classics to up-tempo rockers makes her an ideal fit for weddings that have to please the young and old and everyone in between.

Backroads Band
Karen Collins leads this twangy outfit which regularly appears at country-friendly joints such as JVs and Sweetheart's. If you're looking for more than just a rundown of country classics, the Backroads Band is a solid choice as the group's repertoire features a number of excellent retro-country originals found on recent album "Tail Light Blues." Instantly recognizable hits from Patsy Cline, Dolly Parton and Hank Williams are also on the song menu, though, making for a well-rounded mix.

Honky Tonk Confidential
Book these guys for your big day and you never know, CBS News chief Bob Schieffer might show up. OK, that's not going to happen but the local roots rockers did collaborate with the veteran newsman on their most recent album, "Road Kill Stew." That album also netted them three WAMMIES in 2007, including for Country Recording of the Year and Song of the Year. Few groups in the area do danceable country rock, ranging from honky tonk (obviously) to western swing, as well as this quintet.


© 2007 The Washington Post Company

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