rich’s wedding.

Rich and me, sharing a shot before taking the stage. Rich is on the right.

Rich, my very best friend and the most smug, cynical, judgemental guy I knew, called me up one day in 1994 or so and told me he had met a girl at the mall.  She was selling balloons at a kiosk.  The first thing I said to him was “You’re getting married.”

I was right.

In 1997, he proposed to Lissette and she accepted, and he began planning a wedding.

Being one of the most incredible musicians I had ever met, Rich wanted to actually perform at the wedding reception.  Not for the whole thing, mind you, but one brief set.  He had, in his mind, a list of songs he’d like to play, and a group of people he’d like to play with.

Rich on bass.  Me on keyboards.  Mike Senkovich, guitarist for the Minneapolis band Atomic Flea on guitar and vocals.  Matt Mendres, Rich’s best friend (and a close friend of mine as well) and amazing percussionist on drums.  We called ourselves The Groomsmen (since we were all in the wedding), and we rehearsed in my basement.

It was a fucking blast.  We didn’t want to play anything weird or avant-garde or alternative; we just wanted to play freaky versions of traditional wedding reception songs.  So we worked up a kickass version of “Play That Funky Music, White Boy,” a straightforward version of “Blister In The Sun” (no keyboards in that song, so we agreed that I would sit onstage and read a newspaper while the rest of the band played that one), a knockoff of Brave Combo’s version of the Hokey Pokey, a funkified version of John Lennon’s “Imagine,” one or two others.

Rehearsing in my basement was fun.  I dragged out my old Korg DW8000 that my buddy Paulie had stolen for me while we were in high school, and the rest of the guys came over with their instruments and we played for a few hours once or twice, until we felt confident with our little set list.  We were all fairly adept, musically (realistically, the three of them ran rings around me, but I could hang with them for at least a couple of songs, and they needed a keyboard player).

Matt was Rich’s best man.  Rich had to choose a best man, and as much as I’d hoped he’d choose me, it only made sense for him to choose the guy he was closest with, the guy he’d been with all his life, the guy who knew everything about him and who’d been with him through all his toughest times.  Matt was that guy.

And to Matt’s credit, when it came time to plan Rich’s bachelor party, he called me up and asked me for help.

Matt is another one of those guys who’s always been there, who’s always been a friend, and who I’ve never really acknowledged.  This blog is great that way.

The morning of his wedding, we all met at the church in our tuxedos and shared a weird sort of male bonding that happens when one of you is getting married.  The ceremony itself was magnificent – funny and fun and beautiful and memorable in all the sorts of ways you want your wedding to be; a church filled with friends and family and lots of knowing glances and warm embraces.  It was a good wedding.

The reception was held at a place that everyone in northern New Jersey has driven past at one point or another; I’d driven past it literally hundreds of times but never been inside.

I had just bought a new car – an Isuzu Rodeo SUV.  To me, it was a gorgeous car; a 5-speed manual transmission that was muscular-looking on the outside and big on the inside.  It wasn’t loaded with features or anything; it was the bare-bones model, but I’d had a 6-CD changer installed under the passenger seat, and the engine was tight and fast, and it was the first brand new car I’d ever owned.  When I picked it up at the showroom it had 18 miles on it.  Ryan came to the showroom with me as I traded in what he called my “red racing car” in exchange for my “green monster truck” and we drove right out of the showroom up to Sandy’s family’s house on Cape Cod for some sort of gathering.  On the Tappan Zee Bridge, the source of incredible anxiety for me over the years, a rock flew out of the back of a dumptruck and pegged my windshield – I had a crack in my glass before I had put 50 miles on the car.

Rich, of course, shit on my parade the first chance he got; riding in it for the first time, he declared “It’s just a station wagon.”

I drove it to his wedding anyway, carrying his gear along with mine in the back of the station wagon so that he wouldn’t have to worry about his thousand dollar Rickenbacker on his wedding day.

At the reception, we set up quickly so that we could mingle, and as we got closer to the time we were supposed to get onstage, we all started getting a little nervous.  It was, after all, silly – these four guys in tuxedos, getting onstage to perform a bunch of wacked-out cover songs.  How dumb.

We cured the jitters with shots, sitting together at the bar and downing Southern Comfort shots that we bought each other, or that were bought by Rich’s friends.  Rich was never much of a drinker; he’d have a few beers but for the most part didn’t like to indulge the way I did.  At his wedding, though, it seemed like he suddenly felt the need to get loose, and when the emcee approached him and said “It’s time,” we ordered one more shot of SoCo for the road, shook hands, and jumped up on stage.

What fun.  I have no idea what we sounded like; the only comment I remember was Rich’s friend Chris, making fun of the “cheesy clav sound” on my keyboard (hey, what do you want for a stolen, 10-year-old synth?).  While we were playing, though, the dance floor was jumping with the younger crowd, and I managed to take a second to enjoy the irony of these indie rock guys, dressed in tuxedoes, performing John Lennon songs in a New Jersey reception hall.

It was a beautiful day.

~ by Al on November 29, 2009.

7 Responses to “rich’s wedding.”

  1. what? no video?

  2. I wish.

  3. Was it Wayne Manor?

  4. I think it’s called Fiesta Banquets, on Route 17 in, like, Paramus.

  5. Ah, okay. I once went to this place called Wayne Manor around that area (where I grew up) and went crazy that it had the same name as Bruce Wayne’s house.

    Looks like it’s called “Greek Fest” now.

  6. On of my high school proms was at Wayne Manor, I think. So was the Christmas party at the first company where I worked.

  7. […] remaining members of The Groomsmen and their families are doing very well.  Rich’s wife Lissette eventually remarried a guy […]

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