The 4th Annual BAND ROULETTE • A Bet That’s Paid Off

The Evolution of a Random Rock & Improv Show Designed to Benefit The D-Street Music Foundation & All Music is Power

Posted In: Arts & Entertainment, Local Music,   From Issue 890   By: Robert E Martin

09th January, 2020     0

As musician Jeff Poirier busily prepares to stage his 4th annual Band Roulette on Sunday, January 26th at The State Theatre in Bay City, one wonders if the exercise has become more daunting, or has it become easier simply by following the established formula that has a proven track record of success?

“The only challenging part is the fact that I’ll be running out of songs soon,” responds Jeff. “There’s only so many popular songs with simple chordal structures that don’t have complicated arrangements or changes going on, so what’s tough at this stage of the game is finding material that will work.  Secondly, what’s always tough is winnowing down the list of musicians invited to perform. It’s so hard to not include people because I want everybody involved; but we also need to change it up to engage more people, as we don’t want to keep repeating ourselves with the same line-up every year.  This year we have nine musicians returning and 24 new faces.”

For those living under a rock unfamiliar with the details of this unique fundraiser, Band Roulette is an ambitious and potentially unpredictable musical showcases that since its inception has raised thousands of dollars for the admirable efforts of the D-Street Music Foundation - a respected non-profit entity focused upon fostering the talents of young musicians through scholarship and instrument acquisition programs, while also showcasing the artistry of our musical scene to divergent audiences in the Great Lakes Bay Region through various showcase performance festivals held throughout the year.  This year proceeds will also be shared with All Music is Power - a special program that brings live music into special needs classrooms for area students.

According to Poirier, the concept for Band Roulette is similar to a variation of ‘Who’s Line Is It Anyway’, consisting of a musical pool of 30-plus musicians whose names are 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 need to perform on the spot for audiences with no rehearsals. Moreover, the list of songs is a secret, even to the musicians!

“The musical line-up is always changing from year-to-year,” explains Jeff. “With this year’s line-up, I’m kind of reaching the end of my ‘Gotta get them involved’ stage, so next year moving into the future I think the line-up will consist 75% of guys that I know I can count on - especially as the song list becomes more difficult and the need for more seasoned players increases,” continues Jeff. “It feels good reaching that stage. There’s people I’ve overlooked for three years that I feel bad about, but now we’re pretty much remedying that situation.”

The line-up for this 4th Annual Band Roulette will consist of guitarists Danny Ardouin, Tom Behmlander, Ryan Bishop, Brian Coonan, Rob Dutcher, Barry Allen Forster, Johnny Guest, Corey O’Keefe, Scott Ratell, Michael T. Richards, Darin Scott, Mark Shelley and Tod Walraven; bassists, Bruce Humphrey, Will Jackson, Pat Manke, Matt Nyquist, Gary Pfund, Jeff Poirier, and Jeff Walikangas; keyboardists Dave Banks, Joe Christensen, Stephanie Noel Howland, Tommy Klimaszewski, Dan ‘Swival’ Sliwinski and Ron Strickler; and drummers Donny Brown, John Cashman, Scott Causley, Pat Cummings, Jon Dillman, Steve Nyquist and Rick Reittenbach.

Another change for 2020 is the elimination of the Singers Category from the band line-up. “Last year we featured Singers as a selection category for each round and I’m glad we did that, because it was very cool and I received lots of compliments. But this year, we’re just going back to using musicians as the singers, as some people missed having the band musicians handling the vocal duties.  We’ll probably we singers again next year, but this year it’s back to the basics.”

The format for Band Roulette will stay the same as last year and 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.

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.  “It’s definitely a challenge and struggle coming up with different songs every year,” reflects Jeff. “You’ve got to keep the material somewhat simple because musicians will laugh at a Train Wreck, but audience members won’t.  We’ve come up with approximately 20 some song titles and there’s a lot of logistics to work out, so 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.”

Perhaps the most intriguing evolution of Band Roulette will be a new Auction Sheet available in the lobby whereby people can bid on building their own favorite band. “At the end of the night the highest bidder gets to pick the five people going on stage, and possibly the song they will play,” states Jeff. “I’ll give them three songs they’d like to hear and pick.”

“Another thing I’m doing this is year Band Roulette T-Shirts,” notes Jeff. “For a guy that works at a screen printing company you would think I would have done this long ago, but this year we finally are.”

With pricing still fixed at only $10.00, Jeff is hoping for a sellout. “Weather permitting, I think we can sell the place out,” he notes. “Last year we came in at 470-plus people attending and I believe the State Theatre seats 525, so believe we can do it. Last year the weather was bitter cold so I’m crossing my fingers for a decent day.”

Since its inception, Jeff says the entire Band Roulette phenomena has exceeded his expectations. “I say it all the time - I came up with a cool idea, but could never have dreamed the excitement that idea would generate in the air - the level of anticipation from musicians all keyed-up about who they’re going to be performing with, or what songs they are going to get.” 

“It’s a happy tension and nervous excitement that bleeds into the audience and gets them on the edge of their seat.  Everyone is so excited when their song works, you could never dream of it. Plus, the camaraderie on stage is gratifying - that family feeling between the musicians - it’s like one big love fest.”

“I knew from the start that Band Roulette would be cool, but never dreamed it could be like this until the first one happened,” he concludes.

“That’s because of all my amazing friends, which says a lot about our community.”

Tickets for the 4th Annual Band Roulette are only $10.00 and available at The State Theatre, 913 Washington Ave. in Bay City by visiting or calling 989.892.2660. Band Roulette will begin at 5:00 PM, with doors opening at 4:00 PM.























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