Parallel Fifth performs at a backyard party.

Parallel Fifth performs at a backyard party.

Photo provided by Lorio Ross


Home is where the party is

By: Maria Allard | C&G Newspapers | Published April 10, 2019

 Jennifer Westwood and the Handsome Devils are known to play house parties for their fans when the occasion calls for it.

Jennifer Westwood and the Handsome Devils are known to play house parties for their fans when the occasion calls for it.

Photo provided by Jennifer Westwood

METRO DETROIT — It’s a warm Saturday as the summer sun begins to set over the lush backyard.

The bride and groom have recited their wedding vows, the tiered cake has been cut, and the reception is just getting started.

The disc jockey for the evening — properly set up under a canopy with just enough equipment — has cued “Stayin’ Alive,” by the Bee Gees, as the guests boogie over to the patio dancefloor.

Hosting a wedding, graduation party, birthday bash or cocktail hour at home for many people is the way to go when celebrating the good times. Corporate events, retirement parties and religious events also can be celebrated at home. And if you have live entertainment — a band, disc jockey, magician or celebrity impersonator — it’s sure to be an unforgettable celebration. It’s also a nice way to have a more intimate setting.

“Live music just elevates the event,” said Susana Woloson, who plays trombone with the Paul Parente Jazz Quintet, based in Oakland County. “I think it adds a special flavor to the occasion. It’s a warmer atmosphere.”

The Paul Parente Jazz Quintet, which performs a repertoire of jazz, swing and pop hits, is available for shows including at-home parties for any occasion. The group is able to tailor its song list for home events and can even go down to a trio when needed.

There are several things to keep in mind when hiring entertainment for your at-home shindig. For starters, decide if the party will be held outside in the front yard or backyard, or inside in the basement, garage or living room. When booking entertainment, Woloson also suggested that performers and hosts determine what to do should it rain if the home concert will be outdoors.

“Get arrangements ahead of time,” she recommended. “Find out if there’s a tent or a tarp, garage or basement.”

When looking to hire a disc jockey, band or live performer, conduct research beforehand. Check out websites, social media pages and YouTube videos to get a better look at your potential performers. That could include caricature artists and jugglers. If there’s music, Woloson encouraged party-throwers to ask performers to play songs people know and want to hear.

“There’s every kind of party you can imagine,” said Alena Kourkouliotis, event coordinator with Lorio Ross Events and Entertainment in Royal Oak, which books bands, disc jockeys, magicians and impersonators. “We can do a small, intimate gathering of 50 people or something up to 400, 500 people.”

Once the party hosts have a vision of their house party, Kourkouliotis said the entertainment is chosen. Song lists also are provided before the event so the family hosting the private festivities can pick certain songs they’d like to hear, or maybe a song they don’t want played.

“Most of our bands do a little bit of top 40, rock ‘n’ roll, R&B, country, pop and Motown,” Kourkouliotis said. “The bands know exactly what to play for the crowd. They can read the crowd and play it perfectly.”

Lighting and staging also are key to help set the mood. As for celebrity impersonators, there are a lot of requests for Hollywood icon Marilyn Monroe.

“She is still popular,” Kourkouliotis said.

Keep in mind that many disc jockeys and entertainers are booked months or even a year or two in advance, so if you’re thinking of having a backyard wedding or house soiree, give yourself plenty of time to find the right act. Important to remember, too, is to ask what the costs are up front. Is the performer paid by the hour, by the gig, and are there any extra fees?

Find out if there is a contract the performers and the party hosts need to sign prior to the day of the event. In many cases, the hired entertainment will require a deposit in advance to book and secure the date. The remaining balance is usually due on the day of the event.

When you have an outdoor party with live music, check with officials in your city about what time the music would have to end per the noise ordinance.

Having entertainment at home is “a lot of fun,” Kourkouliotis said. “There’s a personal touch to it.”

Jennifer Westwood and the Handsome Devils tour all over the country playing their “Rock and Roll with Honky Tonk Soul” style of music at concerts, bars, clubs and festivals. In addition, the Detroit-based band, which has won seven Detroit Music Awards, makes time for their fans who want to hire them for their house party. The band plays its own originals with a few covers mixed in.

“We’ve done private concerts and surprise parties in Michigan, Ohio, Florida and New York for fans,” Westwood said. “In Michigan, we’ve played in fields, barns, backyards and country clubs from the Brighton/Ann Arbor area to the Thumb and in the Grosse Pointes.”

Those private shows have ranged from 10 people seated in a living room to backyards and privately reserved venues for 200-plus people. As a duo or full band, Jennifer Westwood and the Handsome Devils are able to play to the mood of a room with dynamics, volume control and song arrangement. There’s always a connection between the band and the guests at each house party. The tune “Marfa Lights” is always a crowd pleaser.

“We get to build a nice relationship with our fans and get to know everyone better,” Westwood said. “We get to talk more about the stories behind our songs.”

For more information on Jennifer Westwood and the Handsome Devils, visit www.jwhandsomedevils.com.

For more information on the Paul Parente Jazz Quintet, call (248) 561-7465.

For more information on Lorio Ross Events and Entertainment, visit www.lorioross.com.