Tag Archives: brad strouse

ECE Agent Life: Behind the Scenes with InsideOut Band

As an ECE entertainment consultant, I spend my days wading through emails, making phone calls, and networking with other industry professionals. We guide our clients through the process of booking a band, help them as they prepare for their big event, and then as the date gets closer the bandleader takes the reins through completion of an unforgettable experience.

Occasionally I sneak into the back of a ballroom to see one of our artists perform but never before had I seen the amount of on-site work that goes into an “effortless” performance by one of our bands. I recently tagged along with InsideOut, an 11-piece party band out of Richmond, on a wedding that I booked and I’m still trying to catch up on sleep!

Here is what the day looked like (make sure to check out the Instagram Story footage at the end of the recap):

12:00 PM:  The band and I arrived at a Home Depot parking lot to meet the van. Many of the band members had taken half days or entire days off their regular day jobs in order to play this Friday wedding. They loaded up their instruments and stage attire and then we hit the road for a 3-hour drive to Purcellville VA.

The energy in the van on the drive up was subdued. Members either slept, joked with/on each other, or listened to the night’s song list on their phones quietly practicing notes or words. Brent, trombone player for the band, controlled the music with a well-curated and eclectic mix of jazz, show tunes, world music, and pop hits. Everything from Les Miserables to John Mayer!

3:00 PM:  We arrived at Shadow Creek Weddings and Events and slowly spilled out of the van into the sunlight. Barry, bandleader for InsideOut, and the production crew had been on-site for several hours already unloading and setting up the basic elements of the sound/light system. We carried in the instrument cases and the members began plugging into amps and tuning guitars/horns.

After a quick full band soundcheck, the members headed off to change clothes and rest before guests arrived. They could be found throughout the venue tying ties, donning heels, and loosening up.

4:00 PM: Outside the guests began to arrive by shuttle and were greeted by the gentle classical arrangements of String Poets and a surprise guest (it was a horse). Alexa and Peyton opted for a trio which consisted of violin, upright bass, and keys.

The bride entered to “A Thousand Years” and several classic hymns like “How Great Thou Art” were played between readings.

5:00 PM: After the vows were exchanged along with a romantic kiss, the bridal party headed into the barn and the guests moved to the patio for cocktail hour. String Poets continued their sweet serenade with pop classics ranging from the Beatles to Bon Jovi.

While guests enjoyed signature cocktails outside, the band began doing last minute mic checks, ran through the bridal party names with the planner, and discussed a change in plans for the first few songs. The timeline had been pushed back a bit due to a late shuttle arrival so instead of going straight into first dances, the band planned to kick in with some light jazz as guests wandered in and took their seats. Victoria, one of the lead female vocalists, is a trained jazz singer and it’s always a pleasure to see her in her element.

6:45 PM: After a few light jazz tunes, with the bridal party lined up outside, the band kicked into “You Make My Dreams Come True” as the hilarious cast of characters made their grand entrance with dance moves and big smiles.

The bride and the groom were the last through the door and after a big round of applause they started their first dance to “Die a Happy Man” followed by the father/daughter and mother/son dances. InsideOut learned three new songs for the special dances in addition to another four new songs for later in the evening. Seven new songs on a weekend they were booked Friday, Saturday, and Sunday! That is the true definition of musicianship.

7:15 PM: The band flipped over to an iPod playlist and headed outside for a quick dinner break. Typically bands eat vendor meals with a sandwich, chips, apple, and a soda but tonight they dined like kings! The buffet consisted of BBQ, mac n cheese, jalapeno cornbread, green beans, cole slaw, and more. They found some empty seats on the patio, ate quickly, and rested up for what was ahead. A two hour+ non-stop dance set!

8:00 PM: Now it’s time for the party to truly begin… InsideOut took the stage in their gold tuxes/elegant gowns, struck the first chord, and immediately the dance floor filled.

The band typically starts with some older classics like “Superstition” and “Ain’t Too Proud to Beg” and as the night goes on the songs become more modern. They specialize in the latest club hits so in addition to “24k Magic” and “Can’t Stop the Feeling” they also busted out “Despacito” (a huge hit for the Spanish-speaking bride’s family) and “Strip That Down”.

They ended the night with a special request specifically learned for the bride – “Everybody” by the Backstreet Boys (likely now stuck in your head)! Not a single guest was seated and after the song was over they begged for one song. InsideOut ended up playing two encores!

10:15 PM: Alexa and Peyton exited the barn to a shower of sparks and the band immediately began breaking down their gear. Set up usually takes several hours, but teardown happens in a matter of minutes. Despite having just finished a high-energy dance set, the band all pitched in to help the crew pack up the gear and load the truck. Sweaty clothes were swapped out for casual attire and the band loaded into the van after final goodbyes to the venue staff, planner, and parents of the bride/groom.

11:30 PM – 2:00 AM: Very little talking was done on the way home. For the first few minutes of the ride the band exchanged funny moments from the night and re-hydrated, but within 30 minutes of leaving the venue, every single member was asleep (including myself). We pulled into the parking lot at 2:00 AM, sleepily stumbled to our vehicles and headed home to bed. I planned to sleep in as long as my 16-month old would allow me, but the band had to be back in this exact location less than 10 hours from now to repeat the entire process!

I have an immense respect for the musicianship and talent of our artists, but see them in a new light after observing the amount of sweat equity that goes into making these events happen every week. While most people are home resting from a long week of work these guys and girls were bringing their A-game to create a once in a lifetime experience for the bride, groom, and guests of this wedding.

Working as an entertainment consultant there is no “off the clock”, but I’m thankful for Friday nights at home and Saturday chores. Thank you to the artists like InsideOut who make it look easy and provide unforgettable experiences to thousands of clients each year.

 

Brad Strouse
ECE Richmond agent, Brad Strouse, began his music industry career touring the country with seven smelly metalheads. He left the road and spent time working on the record label side of the business before transitioning to his current booking agent role. Brad is an avid vinyl collector, music listener, endurance athlete and Auburn Fan.

ECE Agent Life: Executing a Multi-Day Corporate Event at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

There are many meccas in this world, but, to music-lovers like myself, none is more important than the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. I’ve dreamed about walking the halls, experiencing the formation and progression of modern music, and being a mere glass pane width away from inanimate objects that were present at pivotal moments in history. I recently got that chance to make my dreams a reality thanks to a corporate client who planned their annual sales awards banquet in those very hallowed halls. Following is a recap of my epic pilgrimage.

DAY ONE
After several months of collaborating with dynamite event planners, Crystal and Caitlin, at Amazae Events, researching entertainment options, hustling and long hours, it was finally time to put boots on the ground for this annual corporate event. I hit the ground running for an early morning flight from Richmond to Dulles to Cleveland. After scooping up a rental car, I headed for my downtown Cleveland hotel. I’m mostly oblivious to pro basketball or football, but it was hard to miss the multi-story banners touting the accomplishments of Lebron and his boys. I checked into my hotel and was excited to find a 180-degree view of the riverfront and FirstEnergy Stadium – home of the Browns! There was little time for rest as I headed over to Vault, a century-old bank vault beneath the Cleveland Trust Rotunda that has been restored and converted into a speakeasy-style cocktail lounge.

Later that evening as guests exited their awards dinner, they were greeted by two models in 1920’s flapper attire and two cigar girls passing out signature cocktails. They were shown down into the vault where they enjoyed hors d’oeuvres, drinks and an atmosphere like none other! As they made their way through the vault, they discovered a quartet playing upbeat jazz/swing. The female vocalist was decked out in a Gatsby-era headdress and pearls with the guys looking sharp in black tuxes. At the end of their tour, guests were met with brick wall – both literally and figuratively. Guarding the only closed door in the place was a Capone-era gangster who required a password for entry into the speakeasy room. The flappers had been dropping hints all night and the guests who were smart enough to put it all together were granted access to Vegas-quality blackjack and roulette tables complete with green visor wearing dealers and a private bar. Fingers were crossed that the party didn’t get raided by the men in blue!

As the laughter died down and the desserts dwindled, we called it a night and I headed back to the room for some much need sleep. The next day’s events were at the Hall of Fame. It was almost like Christmas Eve!

DAY TWO
The big day arrived! I sprung out of bed and raced to the valet to get my rental car. After a small hiccup where the valet couldn’t find my car (for 45+ minutes!), I drove a few short blocks to the gleaming, all glass Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. I entered through the “VIP” entrance and began my solo walking tour. I passed under the CBGB awning and strolled past historic stage outfits, artist contracts from events like Woodstock, a motorcycle owned by Elvis, and so much more. I spent close to 30 minutes soaking in the energy from the Beatles exhibit. One of my favorite bands!

Soon enough, it was time to get down to business. I watched as Simply Irresistible’ s bus pulled into the parking lot. There couldn’t be a match more made in heaven than a tour bus full of eleven musicians and crew unloading in front of the memorial to all that is rock ‘n roll. We shared warm greetings and high fives as they loaded in, set up and sound checked.

In addition to Simply Irresistible, the evening’s entertainment featured a surprise special guest vocalist to join the band in the middle of the set to sing three hit songs. Who was this mystery guest? None other than Mark McGrath of the massively successful 90’s rock band, Sugar Ray. When he popped on stage during sound check, the entire museum lit up. A crowd of quiet strollers and school-aged children were treated to a living rock legend in the flesh! Only in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame could an unexpected surprise like that be possible.

While Simply Irresistible finished setting up, I headed outside as attendees arrived to find a heated tent with a bar, four food trucks and local musician, Nate Jones, on acoustic guitar. He mixed hits of every decade with hometown hero songs from bands like the Black Keys. Just as the attendees’ hands started to turn numb, we opened the doors to the Hall of Fame and Simply Irresistible kicked in.

Inside, attendees were treated to two floors of food, multiple bars, Hall of Fame exhibits and one of the top party bands in the nation! Simply Irresistible played three hours of continuous Motown, R&B, classic rock, and Top 40 hits. Vocalists moved constantly across the stage and the band put everything they had into the performance. Their trumpet player blew notes until he passed out! That’s commitment.

Midway through the night, the band paused to announce the surprise special guest. As Mark McGrath bounded on stage, the crowd went wild! People who were resting their sore dancing feet streamed to the stage from all corners of the venue. Simply Irresistible performed like they had been playing with Mark McGrath for years despite meeting him only hours before! The rock star belted out favorites “Fly,” Someday,” and “Every Morning” to a roaring crowd.

Around 11pm, the band announced their final song. Once wrapped, tired attendees headed for their shuttles. I hugged the members of Simply Irresistible and gave Mark McGrath a ride back to his hotel. I passed out in my bed around midnight.

This event was truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience for me. I have absolute respect for the ballrooms of the world, but a chance to produce an event in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame with one of the nation’s most elite party bands, a true rock legend, and a client who trusted me to create an unforgettable entertainment experience was mind-blowing!

Rock on, fellow music lovers!

Brad Strouse
ECE Richmond agent, Brad Strouse, began his music industry career touring the country with seven smelly metalheads. He left the road and spent time working on the record label side of the business before transitioning to his current booking agent role. Brad is an avid vinyl collector, music listener, endurance athlete and Auburn Fan.

Real Wedding: MC + David | Virginia Museum of Fine Arts | Richmond, VA

Art aficionados rejoice!  Today’s Real Wedding is nothing short of a masterpiece. Held in the Marble Hall at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond, MC and David’s reception was full of color, class and fun. Named after its signature Italian pink marble walls, the Marble Hall is located in the heart of the museum where guests enjoyed stunning architecture along with private access to some of the museum’s most impressive galleries.

MC and David chose Black & Blue Experience to bring a party atmosphere to their reception. With over 100 songs in their repertoire, this 12-piece group had guests from old to young firing up the dance floor.

We are grateful to Imani Fine Art Photography for sharing the incredible images from the day.

VENDOR DREAM TEAM
Band: Black & Blue Experience | ECE Agent: Brad Strouse | Photography: Imani Fine Art Photography | Reception Venue : Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (Marble Hall) | Event Planner: Colleen Cook with CCS Events | Cupcakes: Pearl’s | Hair: Circle Square | Florals: Petals & Twigs | Make-Up: Richmond MakeUp Artist