Upping the Ante at BAND ROULETTE

The Sixth Incarnation of the Region’s Annual Rock & Improv Fundraiser Promises to be More Unpredictable Than Ever

    icon Jan 12, 2023
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As one of the region’s most exciting and engaging entertainment showcases that has served as a successful  fundraising event supporting musical foundations and causes for six years now, the latest incarnation of the 6th Annual BAND ROULETTE musical showcase promises to be more unpredictable and entertaining than ever.

Happening again at Bay City’s historic State Theatre on Sunday, January 22nd at 5:00 PM, for those unfamiliar with this merry-go-round of musical mayhem, Band Roulette is an ambitious, innovative, and highly interactive musical showcase that since its inception has raised just over  $21,000  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. 

Last year’s proceeds were also shared with All Music is Power - a special program that brings live music into special needs classrooms for area students; and this year, the Saginaw-based Major Chords for Minors will also be a beneficiary, seeing as it is focused on cultivating upcoming young musicians through their musical education and lesson programs.

According to musician Jeff Poirier, who is the inventor, founder, and  Chief-Ringleader behind Band Roulette, the concept is similar to a variation of ‘Who’s Line Is It Anyway’, consisting of a musical pool of musicians selected from some of the best bands in the region, whose names are drawn from a hat to form a 4-piece band that will then spin a wheel containing the titles of popular 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.

As if this doesn’t sound difficult and challenging enough, this year Poirier says he will be upping the ante for the performing musicians by throwing a big twist into the proceedings. “This year everybody I chose as players are multi-instrumentalists, so when you get on stage not only do not know what song you’ll be playing, but you also don’t know what instrument you will be playing until you draw it!”

“Obviously, this lowers the pool of musicians we have to draw upon,” continues Poirier. “This year we’ll only have 21 musicians performing, and previously it was up around the 30s; but this year I don’t have any keyboards in the drawing. Each musician will get drawn and then must decide with the other musicians whether they will be playing guitar, bass, or drums.  Keyboards will be on stage for anybody who wants to play them, but it would have been a struggle to find enough people that could play bass, drums, guitar, and keyboards.”

“The fun of it - especially for artists like myself - is that while I’m good at playing bass, I can strum chords well enough to be an okay rhythm but not lead guitarist, and I’m a mediocre drummer at best. A lot of the people selected are really good on one instrument, okay on the other instrument, and weak on the third; but I think that’s the fun of it.  I think people are going to see a lot more train wrecks happen,” laughs Jeff.

This year the pool of players will consist of Joe Balbaugh, Tom Behmlander, Donny Brown, Andy Dalton, Jon Dillman, Rob Dutcher, Chris Fink, Mick Furlo, Tony Furlo, Steve Gould, Brad Graham, Johnny Guest, Bruce LaFrance, Rick Maida, Dave Miller, Matt Nagy, Erik Ryden, Mark Shelley, Mike Richards, Jeff Yantz, and Poirier.

Poirer says this year several of the musicians selected will be performing at Band Roulette for their first time, which also makes it more interesting for audiences; and also admits he was met with a bit of trepidation when he first flew the idea past many of them. “When I approached Joe Balbaugh about participating I asked if he could play drums, and he responded, ‘Not really’, notes Jeff. “But then he thought about it a minute and said, ‘Screw it - I can hold a beat’ - which is all that I needed to hear.”

In order to insure that things get too far out of control, Jeff says that he selected a core of artists that are eminently competent on all three of the featured instruments.  “Unfortunately I couldn’t get Andy Reed this year because he is having some surgery done, but Andy Dalton and Jon Dillman are good on all of them; and then we have some power houses like Rob Dutcher, Steve Gould, Brad Graham, Mark Shelley and Dave Miller.”

The format for Band Roulette will stay the same as in previous years and consist of two 45-minute sets with an intermission separating the two sets. 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. “We’re going to go a little more with standards this year because I promised I would go easy on everybody.”

Jeff says he hasn’t decided yet whether they’ll be staging a Live Auction yet for a signed guitar, but he says they’ll be selling t-shirts again and that over the past two years they’ve raised a lot of money for the charities through t-shirt sales alone.

With pricing still fixed at only $15.00 Jeff is hoping for another sellout crowd. “The main floor is filling very fast with presales,” he explains, “and fortunately there isn’t a bad seat at the State. I’m hoping to sell out again like we did in 2020, just before the world shut down.  We had to cancel in 2021 and last year in 2022 we came close to selling out, but that’s when Omicron started rising. Without that I think we would have sold out last year as well.”

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.”

The 6th Annual Band Roulette will take place on Sunday, January 22nd at The State Theatre, 913 Washington Ave.  in Bay City. Reserved seating tickets are only $15.00 and available by visiting statetheatrebaycity.com or going to their box office.  Doors will open at 4 pm and the show starts at 5 PM.



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