One of the most existential and potentially unpredictable musical showcases yet to be staged in the Great Lakes Bay Region will be happening on Sunday, January 29th, when the first ever Band Roulette comes together at Bay City’s State Theatre for a star-studded fundraiser designed to benefit the D Street Music Foundation.
Conceived by Bay City musician Jeff Poirier, the concept for Band Roulette is similar to a variation of ‘Who’s Line Is It Anyway’ for musicians, consisting of a musical pool of 30-plus musicians whose names will be drawn from a hat to form a five-piece band that will then spin a wheel containing the titles of contemporary songs to determine what specific song the newly formed band will have to perform on the spot for audiences.
In addition to promising an evening of magical moments by mixing up musicians in this manner, the inherent design of Band Roulette also carries the potential for creating some amusing train wrecks along the way, coupled with an unpredictable evening of top-notch entertainment focused towards benefit the D-Street Music Foundation, which assists promising young talent in the region to acquire musical instruments and scholarships.
Featuring players from such popular regional bands as The Rockshow, Jedi Mind Trip, The Sinclairs, Tweed & Dixie, The Hipakritz, Burnaround and many more, the complete list of musical performers consists of Danny Ardouin, Zac Bacigalupo, Chris Bartnikowski, Tom Behmlander, Jimmy Beschoner, Donny Brown, Joe Christensen, Rob Dutcher, Mike Eudis, Barry Forster, Tony Furlo, Steve Gallagher, Brad Graham, Levi Goodwin, Billy Gunther, Dan Hellus, Noel Howland, Matt Johnston, Tommy K, Rick Maida, Dave Miller, Dave Mossner, Jeff Ott, Dana Osmun, Jeff Poirier, Scott Ratell, Andy Reed, Mike Robertson, Mark Shelley, Chris Shannon, Bill Silverthorn, Joe Sullivan, Mike Thomas, Scott VanDell, Jeff Willford, Jeff Yantz, and Emcee Michael Bacigalupo.
According to Poirier, the idea for Band Roulette all started at a musical gathering with a bunch of friends that he attended when different musicians came to the stage and started jamming together on different songs. “One day I thought to myself, ‘What if we got a bunch of guys together in a bar and had names filled in a hat for every position – bass players in one hat, drummers in another, guitarists in another – and drew a line-up together from the hat, along with a song that was selected by spinning a wheel,” he explains.
“I kicked this idea around for about six years and always thought it would be fun to pull together, so eventually shared it with a few friends, who also thought it would be great to do; and then my wife came up with the idea of staging it as a benefit concert,” continues Jeff. “We were at the Bay City Parkapalooza last summer and Mike Bacigalupo from The State Theatre was there, so I pitched the idea to him and he thought it as great. We decided on the spot to do the benefit for D-Street and then Mike locked in the date.”
Thanks to the miracle of facebook, Jeff was able to reach out to 32 of his musical friends to start forging the performers together. “I started by nailing down guys I really knew were seasoned enough to be able to wing-it on stage and that also carried star-power, such as the players from bands like Jedi Mind Trip, The Rock Show and Burnaround,” he explains. “Next I started thinking about artists that tend to draw crowds at The State Theatre such as Andy Reed, Donny Brown, Jeff Yantz, and people like that. A few of my friends were slightly ticked off because they weren’t invited, but we had to draw the line somewhere.”
“One thing that was important to me was assuring that everybody on the list could sing,” states Jeff. “I thought that of the five people pulled together for each song at least one of them should be able to hack the lyrics to the songs that will be drawn, so once the band names are drawn and the song title is drawn the band can decide who they will feature as the singer.”
The format for Band Roulette will consist of two 45-minute sets with an intermission separating the two sets; and Jeff anticipates that it will take about 8 minutes to draw the band names, call the song, take a few minutes to talk it over, and then perform the song and get off the stage so the next group can be featured.
“I came up with 20 some song titles and because this is the first Band Roulette we are staging, we’re going to flying by the seat of our pants and see how everything flows,” he reflects. “There’s a lot of logistics to work out and I figure we should have time to do anywhere from ten to a dozen different songs and band configurations. We’ll keep drawing names out of the hat until the hat is empty, so no artists will be called to the stage twice. The line-up will consist of a five-piece band with double guitarists in each configuration.”
No rehearsing is involved with this event and to add even more drama to the evening, Jeff is the only person that knows the song and set list. “I sent a facebook message to each person involved and asked them to give me five songs they thought everyone involved could hack their way through, keeping in mind that someone would have to also sing the song, so the material needed to be centered around standards,” he adds. “We’re playing it pretty safe and am going to throw a couple tunes into the mix that might be tricky, so everybody has had input in developing the song list but nobody knows the exact list.”
Admission for Band Roulette is only $5.00, plus Mike Eudis from Eudici’s Pizza plans on donating some pizza, according to Jeff. “I’m honestly floored and humbled that so many people signed up to become a part of this,” concludes Jeff. “The only thing I’m worried about is possibly having too many players, so next year we may scale it back a bit; but if everybody involved is able to get up for at least one song then I’ll be happy. We’ll see how it goes. It’s really a grand experiment!”
Tickets for Band Roulette are available at The State Theatre by visiting www.statetheatrebaycity.com or calling 989.892.2660.