“What’s up with BandSwap?”
I’ve gotten that question quite a bit over the last couple of months. The answer is not a quick and easy one but the short story is that BandSwap is continuing for 2016.
I’ve written and promoted BandSwap for several reasons but the most important reason is that the City of Madison is behind it. It might seem like a small gesture (the city sponsors it with $5,000 along with Madison Arts Commission oversight), but the implications are huge. Madison has a real shot at putting itself on the map, musically and definitively. As I told just about everyone I’ve talked to over the last three years or more, this small step will turn out to be a giant leap. And there are other giant leaps coming. But that’s a different story.
BandSwap is a project of SpokesBuzz, a nonprofit based in Ft. Collins, Colorado. You can read an article about it here but essentially Ft. Collins sent seven bands out to similar market cities to showcase with a band chosen from those cities. Then those seven bands all travelled to Ft. Collins where they participated in a festival and represented their cities. The Madison bands who have participated, Sexy Ester and Lords of the Trident, were really grateful for the opportunity and benefitted from the program. In Madison we chose the participating band from entries that were collected. But we also involved more bands at our Madison BandSwap event, spreading the love a bit more and making it much more than just a club gig.
BandSwap was one of the coolest and most unique experiences we’ve had as a band,” says Lord of the Trident’s singer Ty Christian. “Fort Collins treated us like family, and the friendships forged during our short stay have remained strong to this day. In fact, I was just contacted a few weeks ago by a Colorado band we met during BandSwap, and helped them to book their tour date in Madison! The experience opened our awareness to both the strength of our own music scene, as well as the similar challenges faced by local music scenes everywhere. At the end of the day, BandSwap showed me that the passion of individuals – be they musicians, fans, or those who support local art – can create experiences that surpass time and distance. They can create bonds – both between bands and cities – that can last a lifetime.”
Sexy Ester’s dynamic vocalist Lyndsay Evans concurs. “We are so grateful to have been given the gift of representing Madison in BandSwap! It was awesome to get a taste of the road and to be treated like Rock Stars in Fort Collins! We gained new Sexy fans outside of the Midwest. We were able to network and make new connections with other bands and music industry people around the country. And because of the connections we made through BandSwap, we were able to play on the Colorado music stage at SXSW which was another amazing experience. BandSwap is a great thing and we are so fortunate that Madison is involved.”
Getting the City to get behind BandSwap was not a big issue for this year. We were dismayed, however, when last fall we were notified that the BandSwap effort in Colorado was being severely scaled back. The money was already appropriated for us in Madison and we started to talk about what we could do. But time was short, the makeup of the Arts Commission was shuffling and we were really being challenged to summon adequate manpower.
Enter Josh Harty. Harty has been running a showcase at the Folk Alliance International conference in Kansas City. He takes as many artists as he can from our area and spotlights them on the Wisconsin Room stage. Harty, by chance, gave me a ring to see about suggestions for artists as he wanted to take a few more. We met, we took it to the Commission and approved a plan to keep BandSwap alive.
This week, Harty will take a whole crew of Wisconsin musicians to Kansas City where they will represent from February 17-21. Check the roster below:
BandSwap Madison will take place on March 19th at the High Noon Saloon. The event will double as a CD Release show for Harty’s new album, Holding On (read a review here). Joining Harty will be the Old Soul Society who will also be releasing their debut album. Also appearing will be Sarah Lou Richards who hails from Hudson, Wisconsin and now lives in Nashville. She will be promoting her new album The Woman Behind the Curtain. This is going to be a killer show and all proceeds from the event will go to the bands.
As Madison works to seize the moment in developing as a music city, the participation of the populace becomes more paramount. This is a good opportunity to show your support, not only as local music fans but as citizens of Madison, a city whose best music days still lie ahead.