Keep up to date with all the latest news from The Session Band HQ. Our blog explains a little bit about the history of band, and how we’ve have developed into the multi award-winning Welsh wedding and corporate event party band that you see today. We also explore the important decisions you might face when booking live entertainment for your party, corporate event or wedding. Our ‘knowledge is power’ post discusses the hidden world of backing tracks and ‘pick up’ wedding bands who creatively exploit multiple bands hidden under one musical identity. If you see a Blue Lion, you know it’s time to run!
We hope you enjoy our wedding and events blog. Please contact us if you have any questions about your wedding and corporate event music in South Wales, the South West, across the UK or international. We are always happy to pick up the phone and have a chat!
Cam, Ceri, Izzy, Andy, Aled & Maddie x
Another Award for The Session Band
Thank you to all the couples who voted for us in the category of Best Wedding Entertainment at the Welsh Wedding Awards, held at the Exchange Hotel in Cardiff. It was a fantastic event and thoroughly enjoyable to spend time rubbing shoulders with some of the best wedding and event suppliers Wales has to offer.
With so many wedding and party bands claiming to be the ‘best’, it makes standing out from the crowd all the more difficult and the recognition all that bit more special. The Session Band have been performing together for almost 20 years and we’re feeling as fresh, energised and excited as ever to keep flying the flag for high quality professional live wedding and party entertainment in Wales!
See you on the dance floor!
The Wedding Guild of Wales – Approved Suppliers
When Session (as we were known then) formed in St Cyres School in Penarth, we never dreamt that the name we came up with that day would become recognised as one of the leading wedding and event bands in Wales and across the UK. As musicians and friends, we have now performed at over 1000 weddings together across the world constantly evolving and developing the band year-on-year to become bigger, better and more versatile.
What started as a humble 4-piece rock and pop band is now a multi-award winning 5-piece luxury event band. Session added the charismatic vocalist Isabel Stead to the lineup in 2020, allowing the band to offer both world-class male and female lead vocals. The repertoire was big before, now it is huge! We cover all genres and musical styles ranging from soul to pop, funk to rock and everything in between. We are also well known for throwing in some ‘guilty-pleasures’ to keep the dance floor moving! We’ll leave you to ‘Google’ the interesting fact regarding Cameron and every Welshman’s favourite Fireman from Pontypandy!…
The Session Band perform, and always will do, 100% live. We love the energy of a one-off performance and will never follow the trend of playing ‘live’ to pre-recorded backing tracks. We’re real people, who care deeply about the band’s reputation and quality of our performances. We always promise to give our guests every excuse to enjoy a night they won’t forget!
As well as offering top class live entertainment as a full 5-piece band, The Session Band also perform as a live acoustic trio to cater for a variety of events, weddings and parties. The Session Acoustic Trio features the male and female vocals of Cameron, Izzy and Ceri supported by their two acoustic guitars and piano – the perfect vibe for the more relaxed wedding, party or event.
The Session Band were hugely honoured to be accepted as members of the Wedding Guild of Wales in June 2020. The ethos, vision and reputation of the Guild aligns perfectly with that of the band. We unreservedly support our fellow suppliers who offer quality, professional and reliable wedding services. After many years of working with many of the best in Wales, we are delighted to be recommended by our fellow suppliers to join the Guild.
We feel passionately about providing customers with honest and reliable information to make the most informed choices. The ‘Instagram’ culture of “we love…” and “we recommend…” is waring and actively misleading to both brides, grooms and their families. We have not joined the Guild looking to gain additional advertising or bookings. We have joined because, after 20 successful years in an industry full of swanky websites and bought ‘likes’ we enjoy, more than ever, surrounding ourselves with suppliers, venues and couples who share our passion for high-quality customer care and professional service.
You can find out more information about The Session Band and the Guild’s other wonderful suppliers at The Wedding Guild of Wales. We are also very active on both Instagram and Facebook (@Session.UK) – give us a ‘like’ and see what all the fuss is about!
Fireman Sam – Did You Know?…
Here’a a good bit of pub quiz trivia for you…
Did you know that The Session Band’s founder and vocalist, Cameron Stewart, is also the voice of the current Fireman Sam theme tune?
Cameron recorded the theme tune back in 2008 replacing the legendary original version by Mal Pope from 1987 (Cameron was a baby himself at this time!). Cameron’s version of the theme tune has currently amassed a staggering 10 million views on YouTube!!
The song has featured multiple times on children’s TV, toys, radio & children’s live productions ever since – if you have children, it’s very likely you’ve already had a performance from Cameron in your front room many times!! As a versatile and experienced vocalist Cameron now records vocals for radio and TV in between helping to fill dance floors across Wales and the UK with his professional wedding and party band, The Session Band.
Check out the Media page to hear some of The Session Band’s live performances!
Knowledge Is Power
As William Cowper said back in 1785, variety is the spice of life. No more so it seems than in 2018 in the world of wedding and function bands. We live in an era where a plethora of options and choice are so readily available it is easy to become accustomed to getting exactly what we want. Or at the very least, what we expect. If you want a 10 piece wedding band playing the theme from Star Wars, you’d probably find one online! And you’d likely get a disco thrown in for free at the same time
Developing a strong online presence and image is easier than it has ever been. I feel daunted for couples when they look online to book a live band for their big day. It must be a mindfield of ‘rock-star good looks’ and swanky looking promotional videos.
The purpose of this blog is not to criticise or compare other acts. The quality of bands in South Wales is exceptionally high in 2018, with some outstanding musicians – many of which we are proud to call friends.
Therefore, the only agenda here is to inform. As Sir Francis Bacon famously said as far back as the 16th century; knowledge is power. I have many friends and family who love music, but I realise they don’t know the intricacies of how it is made and how it is performed. And why would they? Music is something to be enjoyed, danced to, sung along with – I get it. How it ends up in their ears is of no significance to them.
That is of course until they are looking to spend in excess of £1,000 of their hard earned cash on a live band… then, suddenly, the more you know, the more informed are your decisions – right?
Do you know that an increasing number of function bands are now performing to backing tracks? That is, they play their instruments over pre-recorded music to convince the audience that the band sound ‘fuller’? “Nothing wrong with that, many successful and famous acts do it”, I hear you say!
Absolutely right. But what if that is just not your cup of tea? What if you like a band to interact with the audience on a whim, and make each performance entirely unique? How about adding in an extra chorus when your friend decides he wants to get his ‘worm’ dance-move out (no innuendo intended) at your wedding?! It happens. A lot! These moments just cannot happen when a band is locked into a backing track. I remember joining a dancefloor limbo at a wedding back in 2016 mid song – guitar and all! The guests loved it. It was fun, it was impromptu, it was real, it was honest.
In my experience at least, bands aren’t always upfront with clients about this matter. If they are, and you make the informed decision based on that prior knowledge – I can’t see how anyone could possibly ever have a problem. But surely it’s best to be armed with that knowledge in the first place, right?
In 2013 we added a keyboard to our line-up. It took years for Ceri to learn and master an additional instrument, notwithstanding the high cost associated with purchasing a high-end instrument and lessons. But do you know what? It was the best thing we ever did. We can now add authentic modern pop songs to the set, along with many classics that just didn’t sound ‘right’ before. And to top it all off, it’s played LIVE. By a real person, right in front of you.
It’s got to be worth asking bands the question at least, surely?
If you’re still with me (sorry for the long post!), there’s one final thing I’d like to discuss before I put down my virtual pen… and that’s a band’s line-up. Or should I say increasingly, a band’s lineups…
I recently came across a new band online that appeared to be based within South Wales. They looked very good and I wondered if I knew any of the performers. After a little while browsing online, something just didn’t quite feel ‘right’. I think it was the multiple gigs on one night that got my alarm bells ringing, all at very different ends of the county. To my amazement, the band appears to have in excess of 10 lineups and advertises all over the UK! Again, great idea – not knocking it. But, wouldn’t you like to know the band that you’ve booked are actually the same band that are going to turn up on the day? Same singer, same drummer etc? I wasn’t even aware this was a thing, so if I wasn’t, I thought you might not be either?
Remember the ongoing message here; knowledge is power. Ask the questions, challenge what you see. It will mean there are no surprises come the day of your wedding or event.
I genuinely hope you find YOUR perfect party band – you certainly have a fabulous choice to choose from!
How do I choose my wedding entertainment?
Firstly, congratulations on your engagement! The chances are, if you’re reading this, you’re probably looking to choose your perfect wedding band or live entertainment – and what an excellent choice live music is!
As a recently engaged couple, who are also wedding party band members, it’s been a real eye-opener looking for and booking the entertainment for our wedding. Being ‘in the trade’ obviously has its advantages, but we’ve found it a really time-consuming and challenging (but fun!) decision to make. Of course, you want your day to be special and to your own taste, but you also want to keep your guests happy (from kid cousins to Granny), as well as having the usual ‘are they reliable/how will they sound/will they play the songs I want?’ worries!
So, with that in mind, here’s our guide to choosing the right entertainment for your special day, whether that be DJ, live band, acoustic duo or string quartet!
Firstly, think about what it is you really want from your evening entertainment; do you want a band that will blow your guests’ socks off? Or would you rather something a bit more low-key? How much are you prepared to spend on entertainment? All these things will help you to narrow-down your choices once you’ve obtained quotes.
Do judge a book by its cover; if the entertainment company/band/DJ have put a lot into their website, it’s likely that they take pride in what they do, and are keen to show-off what a great service they have to offer. Check-out their audio and video samples; do they appear professional and organised? How do they look on stage?
Ask around; can your friends/family recommend any bands or DJ’s that they’ve seen at other weddings? Ask your venue if they’ve had bands/musicians/DJ’s perform there before and, if so, who they’d recommend. Word of mouth is the best way to really get to hear the truth about an act.
Get quotes from as many acts as possible, and compare what each have to offer. If one is more expensive than the other, consider why that is – and remember, the cheapest will not always be the best value for money! It’s your special day, and perhaps spending a little extra will mean you receive a more personal and professional service.
Make sure your chosen wedding entertainment company corresponds and communicates well with you; if you’re having to chase them for information regarding their quote, or they’re not getting back to you when asking them questions at the point of booking, consider that they may not be as professional as they first appear….
Don’t be afraid to book someone without hearing them; if their audio and visual are good on their website, you’ve heard good things about them and you feel that they could be the perfect act for your wedding, why not ask them if they have a practice you can attend? If not, have a look at the instruments they play – are there less than you can actually hear in the recordings? If so, ask them whether they are using backing tracks – this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it will help you determine what they will sound like on the night.
Don’t shy away from taking advice; entertainers have often played hundreds of weddings, and they really have seen it all! Listen to what they have to say, and don’t be afraid to follow their advice (but don’t feel that you have to adhere to their suggestions either!).
Ask questions! It’s your day, and you deserve to have the act you want. Ask your wedding band or DJ to confirm or explain any queries you have, or if there’s a special request you’d like, try asking them. You’ve got nothing to lose!
And last but not least…. Don’t try to please everyone. Not all of your guests will share your taste in music and so you really do just have to go with your instinct and gut-feeling.
Live entertainment at a wedding is sometimes an element of the big day that gets over-looked – after-all, you’ve got so much to think about, and so much to spend your hard-earned cash on! Personally, we think you just can’t beat the enjoyment and atmosphere of live entertainment…. But then again, I suppose we may be a little biased! : )
Good luck from all at The Session Band in finding the right act for your special day – and if there’s anything you’d like to ask us, or any advice you need concerning your evening entertainment, please feel free to get in touch. We’re always happy to help!
How Much Does A Wedding Band Cost?
Great question! And one that is far more nuanced than you might, or might not, expect! For ease of differentiation, the following guide places bands into several different categories based upon certain criteria. Not one category is necessarily “better” than another, just different.
The categories are as follows:
1) The “mate’s who can play instruments” band
These kind of last-minute jam style bands can be awesome for a wedding of close friends and family. Often a little rough around the edges which can be overlooked due to the intimate connection with the band members.
2) The “pub” band
There are some fantastic bands playing regularly on the pub circuits in Wales and across the UK. Often performing one or more specific genres of music they can be great if you (and your guests) like a cetrain style of music, for example, rock. Usually a “see you on the night” arrangement with beers & banter in full flow.
3) The “backing track” band
A plethora of bands have emerged on the wedding and function scene of late riding on the back of rapidly-developing digital technology. Often a small number of live musicians, compensated with additional instrumentation & vocals played on a backing track. Thus helping to reduce overall musician fees.
4) The “wedding & function” band
Professional function and wedding bands will have high quality audio & visual equipment along with safe & secure booking processes. All members of the band will have “deputies”, should last-minute illness occur, meaning no booking should ever be cancelled. Expect a wide range of live music & a professional service throughout.
5) The “agency” band
The “agency” band will consist of a roster of “backing track” bands and “wedding & function” bands, as discussed above. Expect a professional booking service and an additional 15-20% on top to cover administration costs. Many “agency” bands across Wales and the UK exist independently but will perform under different names to provide agent exclusivity.
6) The “show” band
Expect the band to comprise of male & female singers, dancers, costume changes & pyrotechnics. Slick production & a large number of musicians often favourable with large corporate companies.
We hope this guide has been helpful in answering the question “How much does a wedding band cost?” in Wales, and across the UK.
Here at The Session Band we are always happy to offer our professional advice on live music & event entertainment, whether that be a DJ, a wedding and function band or daytime acoustic music. Please contact us using the Contact Form for further information on any of our services.
We hope you have a fantastic wedding or event and we thank you for supporting live music!
Planning The Big Day
So after months (or should I say years!) of wedding planning, it’s all over. What a fantastic day! One we’ll most certainly remember forever. If only we could do it all again! (Well… the day, that is… not all the planning… ha ha).
Because there really is a lot to planning a wedding. I know everyone tells you how quickly it’ll come around, but you don’t quite realise at the time quite how quickly. And getting married is a really big deal; a day that a lot of girls (and guys) have been dreaming about for a long time. And ensuring it goes without a ‘hitch’ (excuse the pun) takes a huge amount of planning and organisation.
I think having worked in the wedding industry for as long as we have, we were always aware that choosing the right suppliers for our day would be key to ensuring the day ran smoothly. But the problem that we found was that we had worked with so many professional, high quality businesses – how would we choose!
Our first step was to sit down and consider what was really important to us on our special day. And I mean REALLY important. Everyone has a budget (excusing Wills and Kate – Ellie Goulding was WELL outside ours!), and so unfortunately there were times throughout the process where we did really need to prioritise.
We soon realised that our top four ‘biggies’ were; guests, location, catering, band. The band, of course, had to be….well, nothing short of SPECTACULAR. But I’ll come on to that later….!
Of course, we wanted as many of our friends and family there as possible, so that was how we came to our budget; how many people can we afford to feed without re-mortgaging the house, which then helped us narrow down location choices.
But when it came to actually picking a venue, and visiting… well, we’ve been to so many with the band! So it boiled down to ‘who do we feel would give us fantastic service and make us feel the most special’?
And that is why we chose De Courceys Manor in Cardiff.
Can I just say at this point that The Session Band have played so many fabulous hotels, with amazing staff and fantastic food. All we can say about De Courceys Manor is that they are incredibly helpful, supportive and professional when hosting a wedding, and when performing with a band! We considered many other venues, but it was the staff at De Courceys who really won us over… so it just goes to show that ‘word of mouth’ applies in every walk of life; if we hadn’t played there as a band, we’d never have got to see what a great team they are, and how they really do go the extra mile. And that’s not to mention the beautiful décor and gorgeous food (if you haven’t been there for Sunday lunch, book now!).
There was a dress, vows, a meal, a cake, tears, speeches; the day was absolutely amazing. It was so strange being on the ‘other’ side of it all! It was the band that I was most nervous about (well, walking down the aisle was a tad nerve-wracking too!). Now, someone once said ‘Don’t shy away from booking a band without seeing them’ (what idiot said that – see previous blog ha), but, If I’m honest, I’m not sure I had truly bought in to that idea. I mean, I know we’re professional and reliable (sounds a little boastful I’ll admit, but it is true), however this doesn’t mean that all bands are. What if they don’t turn up on the day? What if they turn up and play heavy metal music? (my Nan would love it but that’s another story). And worse still, what if they played 500 Miles by the Proclaimers?! (Still our most requested song by the way!).
And yet, despite all of the above, we booked a band without having seen and heard them play. And here are the reasons why. Firstly, they came highly recommended by a friend of a friend of a cousin of a friend of a neighbour (or something like that), so we checked them out. Their website was incredibly impressive (not even Session can boast playing Jim Carey’s Boat Party). Their testimonials were fantastic – real couples giving such good feedback really was a must for us. And their communication with us was superb. We asked A LOT of questions, partly because of the type of band they are (which I’ll explain a little more about shortly) and partly because we were intrigued as to how another band dealt with such queries. They were really helpful from start to finish, and we wouldn’t hesitate to recommend them.
If anyone wants to know what kind of band they are, above is a photo of Cam and I singing our first ‘dance’… if you’ve seen either Cam or I dance, you’ll know our singing is a little better than our dancing ha ha.
Actually, we wouldn’t hesitate to recommend any of the suppliers we used. David and his team at Chair Covers & Bows made De Courceys Manor look even more glam than it already did. And Nicky at Creation Hair made me look even more glam than I ever have (not hard). Not to mention Leonie at Perfection Bridal Cardiff, who actually chose my dress for me.
And the cherry on top were Snap Photo Booth, who captured some of the funniest pictures of our family and friends I’ve ever seen, plus Andrew Hazard our Welsh wedding photographer who captured the real essence and atmosphere of the day.
So, now we’ve both been through the frenzy that is planning a wedding, we both feel like we’re even more equipped than ever before to deal with any queries you have as an engaged couple planning your own big day. It has even encouraged me to take up a course in Wedding Planning!
It is such a special time, but with a lot going on it can get stressful – just remember, we are always at the other end of the phone or on email to assist, even if it isn’t something band-related! You never know, we might just be able to help… ☺
Take care, and happy wedding planning!
The Session Acoustic Trio
As well as offering top class live entertainment as a full 5 piece band, The Session Band also perform as a live acoustic trio to cater for a variety of events, weddings and parties. A very popular option is to have the The Session Acoustic Trio perform in the daytime to entertain guests as they arrive or enjoy welcome drinks, leaving the full live band to perform in the evening to get people on their feet and into the party vibe!
On a side note, The Session Band also provide a live DJ option to take requests and compere the evening, or alternatively, you are welcome to take advantage of the disco service included FREE OF CHARGE with each booking! A huge selection of the latest hits and classic tracks will make sure you and your guests are dancing all night long. If you would like to take charge of the disco music yourself from your favourite playlist, you are welcome to use the band’s professional sound and lighting system also at NO ADDITIONAL COST! Really? YES – our job is to give you and your guests the very best professional live wedding entertainment in Wales, at the fraction of the cost of booking through a Music HQ wedding agency!
The Session Acoustic Trio features both male and female vocals, two acoustic guitars and a piano – the perfect vibe for the more relaxed wedding, party or function.
If you would like to find out more about the The Session Acoustic Trio, sax or DJ options please Contact Us. We would love to hear from you!
We Love Performing in Bristol!
Although The Session Band are based in the beautiful surroundings of South Wales, we are fortunate enough to travel to all around the UK performing at amazing weddings, parties, functions & events.
Back in 2017 we performed at the wedding of the lovely Sarah & Niall at Priston Mill near Bristol & Bath. Since then we have had the pleasure of performing at many of the couple’s friends, family & friends-of-friends’ celebrations! Word of mouth is always the best recommendation
There are some other wonderful wedding venues around Bristol & the surrounding areas of Somerset & Devon. In 2018 our funky festival-style Acoustic Trio played at the annual summer event for a luxury wedding and event company at Berwick Lodge near Bristol. The live band and DJ then completed the days celebrations!
We offer competitive rates of travel for all over the UK and abroad. With the removal of the Severn Bridge toll we hope to be visiting our friends over the bridge in Bristol even more in the very near future!
The Session Band – A brief history
So, I’m sat on the train on my way to a client meeting, casually browsing Facebook, and am suddenly struck by how many of my friends (young and….not quite so young – ha) have been to see Lionel Richie on his recent tour, and how fantastic they say he was.
Here are a few stats for you; 65 years old, performing for 40+ years, 100 million albums sold worldwide, 5 time Grammy winner, Golden Globe winner, 16-time American Music Award winner….(Oh, and he’s a Gemini, in case you were wondering). Who else has had a career as long and as diverse as his?
That got me thinking about The Session Band’s career – a baby compared to Lionel but still a span to be proud of! Since our first performance at a St. Cyres Sixth Form assembly in 2001, we’ve changed line-up, instruments, learnt countless songs, performed at many wonderful venues (from muddy fields to swanky hotels) and learnt songs from genres we never have before. We’ve met some lovely people, have learnt lots and have improved both musically and professionally along the way.
It’s hard to believe that the fresh-faced youngsters you see in some of these pictures are none other than the original members of Session (Andy was so small he could hardly see over his drums…. I, on the other hand, don’t look that different, not aged one bit, incredible really ). With our original line-up including Dan Lewis on lead vocals and guitar, and Cameron Stewart on bass guitar.
And from that moment on we started performing regularly together; from supporting the Beachwood Sparks in Barfly (who are still going strong), to playing (and winning!) Battle of the Bands contests in Moloko’s Bar and The Toucan Club (if you remember these relics of Cardiff you are officially ‘getting on a bit’).
There have been many, many highs…. And a few lows (although not that many – we’ll come to those in a minute). A personal high for me was Session being nominated for and winning the Best Entertainment category at the Welsh National Wedding Awards for the last five years; a great achievement and one we’re all incredibly proud of.
Of course another personal high for us all is having the opportunity to play at many family and friends’ weddings, which has been an absolute honour in every instance (there’s nothing quite like seeing your nearest and dearest dancing like nobody’s watching to songs you’re playing). And even performing for people we don’t know; we remember every single wedding we’ve performed at. Spending the evening with people that are there to celebrate such a happy occasion, and have a great time, really is a huge perk to the job.
We’ve played at some cracking festivals; the Hog Rally in Bristol (where we ran an experiment to see how many ‘hogs’ we could fit into the Session van – 43 in case you’re wondering). And, of course, not forgetting Penarth Summer Festival which is always a fabulous event (all day sunshine this year please!).
And there have been many Session socials, Christmas Do’s, inter-band weddings (and, no, Session did not perform at the Stewart wedding… although Cam and I did sing, but that’s for another blog…).
But of course, there has been the occasional low. I can’t say I’ll miss the scraps and brawls we’ve experienced at some venues we’ve played in the early years; from fighting with hammers and chisels at a certain pub in Maesteg, to the stage being stormed at an un-named pub in Cardiff (although one thing I will say is that both venues hold a special place in my heart as having the best gig atmosphere and crowds we’ve played to!). Or the Session van breaking down at 3am on the way home from a gig in London… That wasn’t ideal either.
In 2006 we said farewell to singer and guitarist Dan Lewis as he embarked on his adventure to London and in 2012 we waved goodbye to bassist Mike Heneghan as he left to begin a successful career in Psychology in Australia. However, this also lead us to recruit the super-talented Andy Brown on bass as a replacement and gave us the opportunity to perform with some other fantastic bassists (Tom, Dave, Kev and KT to name a few).
Following that, there is so much for The Session Band to look forward to this year and in the future. Penarth Summer Festival will, again, be fantastic (rain or shine) not to mention the many weddings we’ll be performing at for couples tying the knot this year and next (we really do have the pleasure of meeting some lovely people in our line of work). And we’re looking forward to returning to venues to see the regular faces who have been instrumental to us pulling off great wedding performances over the years and who really do look after us, and hopefully meeting some new ones.
So, if you’re a couple that has booked us to play at your wedding, or a venue that has invited and recommended us to perform, or an agency that continues to encourage people to book us – thank you for enabling The Session Band to continue to perform and enjoy what truly is a wonderful career in live music.
May it long continue!