In lieu of the wedding march, disembodied children's voices come out of a nearby speaker, the kinds of voices sound-edited into horror films before super bad shit goes down in the cornfield. "She's going to march to creepy kid voices?" I ask my mom. "Really?"
"No," my mom says. "I know they picked a song that means a lot to them. By a band called...Phish?"
And thus two institutions I have always been inherently suspicious of, holy matrimony and The Jam Band, collide in one fell swoop. I sit back in my chair and wait to see who is going to be the first to utter the phrase, "May you make beautiful music together" while marrying or toasting the couple.
During the ceremony the rabbi, who clearly wants his own radio show, details the couple's love of live music ("live music" will be the two words I hear most often over the course of the evening, topping even "mazel tov") by listing various concerts they've attended, complete with dates, and I puzzle over this shared love of live music, the pleasure of the experience having always eluded me. (With one notable exception: for my sixteenth birthday I went to see Nine Inch Nails at the L.A. Forum, and I was in heaven for the entire length of the set, but this had more to do with the fact that Trent Reznor's microphone shimmying is basically porn for a dour teen, and I was lost inside each song, trying to figure out how I could sleep with him before I died.)
We move into the ballroom where the tables are concert venue themed. I am at the "Warfield" among the group the bride says she put me with because they are the "fun singles." Boy, am I fun. As I take my seat, I overhear the two guys to my right discussing favorite live music shows from past years. I quickly realize that "live music" is going to be "the van down by the river" of the night, so I begin to supply it any time I ask a table-mate, "So how do you know the groom?" because this is inevitably the answer.
The wedding band is a local jam band whose name is fucking crazy but now escapes me because it's so fucking crazy, and they play a jammy song as the couple enters the room for their first dance. All of a sudden I know what those famed Grateful Dead love-ins looked like because friends are joining the couple on the floor, and there is lots of "Casey Jones" head nodding and air drumming and hallucinatory swaying.
The lead singer/guitarist of the band has twisted his dreadlocks into a low pony, which I recently saw advocated in Teen Vogue as a hip style for prom, except minus the dreads, and the bassist (you'll only get this reference if a fan of Howard Stern) has Richard Christy's hair from before his Beth O. makeover. He is also wearing the flannel that went missing from my closet in eighth grade and which I've wanted back ever since.
Next the band launches into a lengthy rendition of Hava Nagila that would make The String Cheese Incident jealous, and a young man who needs his space steps off of the main dance area, proceeding to rock out as if listening to Hendrix solo from the beyond the grave. He becomes significantly happier when he discovers he can utilize a dinner napkin as an interpretive scarf.
One of the guys at my table works with Yanni, and I try to scrounge up some gossip about Yanni's alleged girlfriend-beating, but the friend of the groom can provide no additional details.
And whaddayouknow? There's Andy Dick, whose sudden appearance in the room is strangely unsurprising because he seems so at home crashing a Jewish wedding while totally wasted. After paying a visit to the open bar, Andy is accosted by a few of the Hotel Roosevelt's earpieced security guards, summoned by the neurotic wedding coordinator, and he is asked to leave the room. I watch, entranced, as he tries to keep his head from falling off his neck.
I notice my side of the room empty considerably, having been formerly abuzz with the groom's "jovial" friends, and one of the guys at my table informs me that they are taking Andy up to their room to drop acid with him. Will I read tomorrow that tonight was the night Andy finally suffocated on his own vomit? Maybe...
Over salmon I have a conversation with the best friend of the groom about the crystal (as in "shiny, decorative rocks," not as in "crystal meth") shop he owned until recently, when something happened with his partner and a pretty girl and some cocaine, necessitating the end of the business. We have a moment of shared peace over Gem Auction TV, which I always return to watching late nights while I'm working on a new novel. The band picks up again, and I say, "Ooooh, xylophone." The crystal guy corrects me saying, "No, marimba."
Toward the end of the evening the lead singer pulls out a cowbell, to which I exuberantly exclaim "Cowbell!" knowing that this time, I'm on top of my shit.
I eat the delightful red velvet cake, then book it.