(Originally written for Reverb1)
For small-time bands, going on the road can be a humbling experience. No matter how big your following is back home, you might as well be a middle-school jazz ensemble to the folks two states over. Of course, right after the out-of-towner’s wrap their set to an empty room, the hometown heroes take the stage and pack the place like it’s free t-shirt night.
Enter BandSwap. Developed by Fort Collins-based music non-profit SpokesBUZZ, BandSwap takes bands from the Fort Collins area and pairs them each with a similar act in one of seven different host cities. The bands play a gig together in the host city, as far as Nashville and near as Denver, and the visitors share in their hosts’ established fan base. Friday, BandSwap kicks off its “Away” schedule with the Epilogues, the Echo Chamber and Viretta at the Hi-Dive and the Quick and Easy Boys and Musketeer Gripweed at the Alberta Rose Theatre in Portland.
According to SpokesBUZZ founder Dani Grant, the program was designed to develop young talent in the organization’s incubator program. BandSwap accomplishes this by helping artists bridge what Grant called a “newly formed gap” in the music industry between “an emerging artist and an artist who’s nationally touring with management and representation.” By introducing Fort Collins bands to similar acts in other cities, the hope is that the bands will establish fan bases there that can serve as friendly waypoints in a national tour.
SpokesBUZZ acts as management for these shows, taking care of transportation and providing liaisons in each city at no cost to the bands. In addition, the organization holds so-called “Starving Artist Networking Parties” in each city, inviting local bands together to forge bonds and grab some free food, courtesy of Illegal Pete’s.
After this week of shows, all fourteen bands will reconvene in Fort Collins and Denver for a weekend-long mini-festival, set for Oct. 3-6. The homecoming not only returns the favor to the bands abroad by introducing them to new fans in Fort Collins, but helps to close another gap within SpokesBUZZ’s purview.
“We want to provide more demand for our supply,” Grant said of Fort Collins’ burgeoning arts and culture sector. “The 20-somethings [in Fort Collins] generally graduate from CSU and move off to Denver or other places and come back in their 30s to raise their kids. But that gap between 20 and 30 is an economic driver and you can’t have it without a robust lifestyle.”
The host cities’ events, which Grant sees blossoming into full-blown festivals themselves, afford their locales the same exposure. “It’s hard to lose,” Grant said. “We’re all putting a little bit in and receiving a bigger bang.”