Tag Archives: Event planners

What is Yacht Rock anyway?

I watched a recent Ford TV commercial (November 2019) that showcased the Ford F-150 pickup truck and focused on its trailer towing capacities. The spot portrays a truck deftly launching a decent-size pleasure boat into a harbor. The boat is named Brandy and the music that played through the spot is Brandy by the 1970s band Looking Glass. This is the tail-end of the second decade of this new century, and still this tune, like many others, persists.

Screen capture from a Ford F-150 commercial, featuring a boat named Brandy.

Brandy is a favored staple of the yacht rock genre. But what, many ask, is yacht rock?

Yacht rock refers to tunes that were released mostly in the 1970s or early 1980s that have the following traits in common:

  • They are very catchy, with choruses and hooks that will bury themselves in your brain for weeks.
  • They are more soft-rock than hard. Not really as soft as James Taylor or Carole King, but definitely not as hard as Deep Purple or Aerosmith.
  • Their production values are very high, with lots of exquisite harmonies and layered guitar and piano work.
  • They generally convey good feelings – especially travel, wanderlust and moving toward some new horizon, especially by sea.

The term yacht rock was coined decades later in a mocking way, suggesting that tunes like Brandy, Sail Away by Christopher Cross or Summer Breeze by Seals and Crofts were only listened to by wealthy people as they lazed around on their own yachts.

But the term has been embraced by those who love the music, and it helps to separate it from the dozens of other types of excellent music that people choose to gravitate to. Other members of the yacht rock artists community include Hall & Oates, 10cc, Steely Dan, The Doobie Brothers, Boz Scaggs, and Jimmy Buffett, but there are also many bands who might be considered one-hit wonders, like Diesel (Sausalito Summer Night), Starbuck (Moonlight Feels Right) and Ian Thomas (Painted Ladies). Even if they had more than one hit in their career, these are the tunes people know, love and request.

So, it’s a genre that is unique to the 1970s – an era where tunes were a product of the individual talents and work histories of the musicians who recorded it. A blues-oriented drummer will add a very different spin than a drummer whose roots were in jazz, funk or early rock ‘n’ roll. The 1980s by contrast placed greater focus on electronic enhancements, the 1990s offered up retro-influenced grunge along with new country.

Today’s era of Spotify has essentially removed the idea of album-oriented music, replacing it with individual downloadable tunes, and more often than not, they are composed not on a piano but on a MacBook. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. Music always moves with the times.

Yet 1970s music still captivates people of all ages. If you grew up with this music, then it holds a special place as part of the soundtrack of your life. But younger people who weren’t even born then tend to discover these tunes through other media, especially movie soundtracks, online games, and TV commercials. And in many cases they like it.

Aging rockers, those 70+ performers who are still filling stadiums, are doing so because their original fans are now bringing their kids and grandkids to experience the music. The Desert Trip mega concerts in California featured the Rolling Stones, Paul McCartney, The Who, Neil Young, Bob Dylan, and Roger Waters, and it’s a sure bet that the audiences weren’t 100% in the 60-70-year-old demographic.

This is not to say that 1970s music is better than today’s music. It’s just different. Every generation, and every calendar year showcases amazing acts – artists who both fulfill and exceed the current status quo to deliver musical satisfaction to fans. Its fascinating to think who from this decade’s lineup will be playing a Desert Trip style concert 40 years from now. Taylor Swift? Ed Sheeran? Ariana Grande?

To us at Absolutely Jack, we find yacht rock to be a perfect blend of catchy and familiar tunes that make you tap your toes or even dance and sing along. Personally, these are tunes that I can play a thousand times and never tire of playing them. Each time, it seems, I will hear something new – some extra harmony or acoustic guitar flourish that the group lovingly added during the recording to make the texture just that bit better.

So…if you work at a company based in the Toronto area and are looking for a faithful recreation of the 1970s yacht rock sound, I hope you will consider us. You can follow us on this LinkedIn page as well as on Twitter at @absolutelyjack. Our website, as you might expect, is absolutelyjack.ca. Here is a selection of the yacht rock tunes we play in the ambient sets. Or visit the Spotify playlist here. We also offer danceable sets because, hey, people just love this stuff. And you don’t even have to own a yacht.

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Choosing a band or a DJ: What to do?

Absolutely Jack - Live Music delivers great memoriesWhen you are looking to entertain your guests, one of the primary questions regarding entertainment is whether to hire a live band or a DJ to deliver the music. The choice generally is easy: it comes down to cost, and DJ’s are cheaper. They play the exact tunes that your guests know and love from the radio and YouTube, and given that they are usually a group of one, maybe two, they will likely be more reliable in terms of showing up.

DJs provide a great service, much like Starbucks or Subway do: a consistent packaged product, tweaked for your own preference, at a reasonable price.

However, most event planners and brides that I know do not consider Starbucks or Subway when selecting a caterer. They want a team of people who will deliver excellent food, prepared specifically for the event, in a professional and dignified manner. And that, believe it or not, is what great event bands do. They are not wild rock and rollers; they are focused on delivering a unique excellent multisensory product that generates a sense of event.

A great band generates excitement and feeds it to the audience: live musicians are alive. They see the audience and the audience sees them. There is a personal connection; eye to eye, smile to smile. A live band can see what works, what motivates people to dance, what makes them happy. They deliver music as a gift – carefully created and hand delivered. It is a very personal experience.

A great band knows a lot of tunes and can play what your audience wants. A great band consults with the client; works with the client to determine which tunes and sequences would work best. A great band is responsible enough to rehearse regularly and fully, so that the delivery of the tunes is respectful, to both the audience and to the original artist. Most bands are not tribute acts. They interpret tunes faithfully and assign the singing duties to those who can best deliver. They have a wide range of tunes to pull from, and their experience helps deliver them in the most effective manner.

A great band is a special event :  a sense of occasion. Your guests see people on stage; talented musicians who are ready to give their all for the audience’s enjoyment. This performance will be unique; no other party or bride will have exactly the same collection of tunes, jokes, comments and special memories. Their product is as valuable as the food on the tables and atmosphere of the event itself.

A great band looks great. They dress the part. They dress to impress the audience, to look like something special. They are great-looking people holding great -looking instruments, under great looking lighting. There is a certain wonder to seeing musicians; they hold the key to the magic of an evening. They deliver energy and enjoyment. You only have to look at the air-guitar players that every audience reveals that show just how many people wish it was them up there on that stage, looking cool, delivering the pleasure.  It’s not just the music. It’s a whole look and feel.

A great band means the music does not have to stop. Event planners often worry that the music and momentum stops the moment the musicians take a break. But great bands are already on top of that, ensuring additional music is made available over the PA during the breaks. The momentum never ends, but the excitement always rebuilds when an audience sees a band return to the stage and pick up their instruments.

A great band has passion. Musicians love to play music and it shows. They live to deliver joy to audiences, and audiences pick up on this. It becomes part of the vibe of the moment and of the memories that last long after.

A great band is reliable. Working musicians are craftspeople, not divas or rock stars. They understand the importance of an event, and they understand that the event starts long before its actual date: planning and preparation are essential.  A great band works hard to make its clients’ lives easier and stress-free by removing the worries about hiring a group of musicians. A great band shows up early, sets up and sound checks efficiently and with respect to others who are also setting up. They constantly monitor for satisfaction and take care to craft their performance in an agile way that rides the momentum of the event. Great bands are all about excellence in customer service throughout the entire multi-week life of an event.

Are great bands expensive? Well, they cost more than DJs do. But they deliver more also. A band of three or four or even six musicians represents decades of practice, education and experience in the business of delivering a quality product.  Like a great catering company, chef, emcee or event planner, their value is in their experience and professionalism, and their price reflects that. Great bands need never be prohibitively expensive; but they do deliver above and beyond what they charge. They deliver a very human and very tangible emotional product that is more than just music. It is an integral part of the event itself.

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