Saturday night around 8 p.m. in a cavernous Eden Prairie barn, The Belfast Cowboys cruised into a sublime version of Louie Armstrong’s “What A Wonderful World.” My brother is the band’s lead singer/guitarist, and I’ve seen them play in all sorts of bars and at all kinds of events, so you can trust me when I say they came with a little extra verve Saturday night.
The occasion was the wedding of our friends Joshua “Stook!” Stuckey and Erin Madsen, a beautiful couple who met through their love of local music. The ceremony, held out by the barn’s tool shed, was a short-and-sweet exchange of laughs, tears and vows, and then everyone went into the barn and ate roasted pig from Divine Swine while the Cowboys set up.
Saxophonist Vic Volare got there early to hook up microphones, hopping around the stage like he knew it wasn’t just another gig. Bassist Joe Baumgart clasped hands with his Slush Puppies band mate, guitarist Simon Sheehan, and did the same thing when drummer Dave Haugen and keyboardist Joe Loskota arrived. After the rest of the horn section arrived, the big band retired to the front acre to smoke and bask in the breathtaking rural scenery.
Caleb Garn, Stook!’s brawny best man and a new father, gave a tough-guy toast that warmed even the smartest asses in the house. Stook! made a sweet toast to his new bride, who did the same to her groom and cried a lot. The couple danced the first dance, and then it was time for “What A Wonderful World,” which my brother crooned with hushed reverence and a smile.
I sat with my hand in my wife’s lap, watching the dance floor. Erin’s father, a white-haired Swedish-American gentleman, took his daughter by the crook of her arm and started waltzing. He talked into her ear and she talked into his shoulder, and both unsuccessfully fought back tears. The song’s message of loving the moment and accentuating the positive drifted up to the barn’s rafters and floated out like candle-lit votives into the star-spangled night.
After about a minute, the father’s eyes were red and wet, and the daughter’s face was buried in her father’s chest. A few of us in the corner started looking around at one another, wondering if anyone else was witnessing this private expression of pure love. A very tan beautiful woman about the father’s age was crying as hard as he was, and four women stood against the wall holding their hands to their mouths.
Finally, my brother, who had started the evening’s festivities by talking about what an honor it is to play at any wedding but especially this wedding, ended the song by genuflecting to his band. The father and daughter hugged, laughed, and went their separate ways.
The father walked over to the women by the wall, the lot of whom stoically patted him on the back and told him how beautiful it had been to watch him dance. The man found a handkerchief, wiped his eyes and blew his nose.
“That’s my favorite song,” he said.