When a few hundred people gathered on picnic blankets in Esmont at the end of May for an outdoor music festival, pig roast and potluck, only a handful knew they were actually attending the wedding of Jen Fleisher and Jesse Fiske. Having organized “Esmont Rocks” under the auspices of celebrating the host farm’s 35th anniversary, Jen and Jesse hadn’t told anyone but immediate family about their engagement.
Jen Fleisher and Jesse Fiske
“People go to weddings with a specific social construct in mind,” said Jesse. By throwing a surprise wedding, the couple was able to lift the usual nuptial pressure from their guests and their performing bands while also surrounding themselves by friends, family, happy children, and their favorite music. “I always wanted to have a mini-festival of the local band scene,” said Jesse, “so I figured [getting married] was a good opportunity to put that together.” Spoken like a true musician.
Jesse (aka Baby J), who plays upright bass for the Hackensaw Boys, first met Jen, who plays the same instrument for Jim Waive and the Young Divorcees, when he saw her perform with Las Gitanas five years ago. “I tried to put the moves on her when she packed her bass up,” he said. “I thought, ‘I’m going to date that girl in a couple years!’”
The two remained acquaintances who occasionally crushed on each other until July 2006, when Jesse showed up in a suit at a Jim Waive gig in Richmond and Jen invited him to join her and fellow Divorcee Anna Matijasic at the Outer Banks. In the Currituck Beach Lighthouse kept by Jen’s dear friend, Anna found herself relegated to the “haunted” room while the fledgling couple took the double. Approximately two years later Jesse proposed with a shell ring he’d purchased from a gas station near the same beach. The ring was significant because of its nostalgic origins, but also because of its low profile. The couple’s wedding ended up being just as sweet and inconspicuous as the engagement.
Because of their respective music careers, Jen and Jesse share space in their 700-square-foot home with guitars, harmonicas, cables, gear, a piano, and, course, the upright basses. At one point Jen looked around and said, “Get the banjo out of the bedroom!” Now they are building a shed/recording studio to free up room for an important addition to their household: Their child is due a month after Jen’s last 2009 gig with Jim Waive and the Young Divorcees.
But expecting her first baby hasn’t slowed down this bride. Because many guests camped at Copps Hill Farm after Esmont Rocks and the last band didn’t play until 3am, Jen was proud to “make it to sunrise.”
The only barefoot, pregnant newlywed on the premises, not to mention the only bride to perform with a band that evening (groom Jesse played with three out of 12 bands), Jen was truly the belle of the music festival. Although Jen is used to being applauded while she’s performing, she had never been greeted by such an explosion of cheers and whistles as when her husband took the stage at 7:45pm on May 24 and announced to an astonished crowd, “I’d like to take this opportunity to marry Miss Jen Fleisher.”