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BandSwap: Yeg’s exciting return

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Tune up your guitar, oil your valves, or grease up your slide because BandSwap Yeg is back!

BandSwap brings Edmonton musicians together in a weekend-long event that celebrates weird instrument combinations, funky song arrangements, and the creativity of local musicians — all to raise funds for Boyle Street Community Services. All proceeds from the event are donated to the Edmonton charity.

Local musicians who sign up are randomly sorted into different bands, and they have 24 hours to learn a short set consisting of song selections they pull out of a hat. The following evening, the bands perform live for the BandSwap YEG audience.

“It’s all about having a good time (and) hearing lots of interesting songs that you maybe wouldn’t hear in a set,” says Max Foerster, a BandSwap organizer. “It can go anywhere from Sam Roberts to Avril Lavigne to Shania Twain to Britney Spears.”

While it might sound a little nerve-wracking, Foerster explains that BandSwap is just about having fun and raising some money for Boyle Street. “It really is just a big group of music-loving Edmontonians coming together and having a good time,” he says. “Once everybody kind of gets over that initial anxiety… it’s all just about having fun, looking foolish, (and) hearing lots of different, great covers.”

“The beautiful thing about BandSwap, (is that) the only requirement is that you play an instrument — any instrument,” adds MJ Cumine, another BandSwap organizer. “It doesn’t even have to be (your) typical bass, guitar, drums. It can be anything: flute, trombone, saxophone.”

“We had somebody play a harp one year, lap steel guitar. We find the stranger the instruments, the cooler that it ends up being.”

Another year, there was a band that played a punk set — with a flute. “You’d think that would be weird, but it was actually a blast. They were so good,” says Cumine. “So, we want everyone, regardless of instrument, to sign up because we find that makes the whole experience just that much more fun.”

BandSwap started in 2015, and it was first organized by Sam Karras and Jon Capus. Cumine and Foerster started out as participants in the event, but because they had such a great time and believed in the event’s potential, they asked Capus and Karras if they could help organize BandSwap.

This year, Cumine and Foerster are the sole organizers and showrunners at BandSwap, and they’re excited to share the event with more people, get more weird instruments involved, and help musicians make connections.

“I first saw the event and wanted to participate because I thought, ‘Oh what a good way to meet other musicians in the city and potentially put together some new bands,’” says Cumine. “You really get to know a lot of different musicians from a lot of different styles and genres that are maybe looking to branch out and play something else.”

Cumine’s favourite part about the event is seeing the creativity of Edmonton musicians in action: seeing musicians tackle genres they’re not comfortable with, putting punk spins on pop songs, and arranging well-known songs for instruments like harp and clarinet.

“Somehow, they make it work!” says Cumine. “Edmonton has such creative, amazing musicians in it, and this is a chance for them to kind of showcase (their skills) and just do things that they maybe wouldn’t do normally.”

“This is a time to come and showcase your weird funky side and just try things. Because at the end of the day, it’s just about having fun and raising a bunch of money. And it really shows,” adds Cumine. “People look relaxed and are just having a good time. There’s no judgment…. There’s always a really happy, supportive atmosphere.”

Cumine and Foerster are hoping to raise about $10,000 for Boyle Street — roughly double the amount the event raised last time in 2019.

“Each year, we’ve been roughly doubling the amount that we (raised the previous year),” says Foerster. “So in 2015, the very first year, we raised a modest $450. And then it’s just been steadily up.”

“It would be fantastic if we were able to raise $10,000 this year,” adds Foerster.

This year, there will be a silent auction, a raffle, and a 50/50 draw at the event. Four guitars are up for auction, all signed by artists who tour through Edmonton. There’s a country-themed guitar signed by Aaron Goodvine, Dean Brody, and Corb Lund, and three other guitars signed by artists including Prism, the Beaches, grandson, the Blue Stones, Dear Rouge, Scenic Route to Alaska, Reuben and the Dark, and more.

Local businesses and hotels have also donated items that will be up for sale in the silent auction, and there will be many more fun items to win in the raffle.

BandSwap has something for everyone, whether you sign up to play in a BandSwap band, listen to the innovative performances, or bid on a signed guitar.

“I just generally want it to be known that this is for everybody. This is not an exclusive space that’s only reserved for certain bands or whatever,” adds Cumine. “This is for somebody who’s not in a band but wants to play on stage, this is for the trumpet player that has a secret love for playing Britney Spears covers, this is for everyone.”

“Come on out, make your voice heard. Play (and) experience different things. Meet all the musicians around.”

BandSwap takes place on Oct. 1 to 2 at Polar Park Brewery. Participating musicians will also need to be available on Sept. 30.

Sign up at bandswapyeg.ca/ and check out their site for additional information.

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