Chris Kemp has had a major impact on Brandon's music scene. Through countless shows with his group FUGR and of course the countless hours he's invested in the Band Jam for Cancer Research. He has been at the helm of this annual fundraiser for 20 years. With the help of sponsors and volunteers he's managed to spearhead this musical event into one that many fans of the Westman music scene look forward to the most. Aside from that, he has included a wide range of bands over the years and continues to do his part to spotlight a whole new generation of bands mixed in with some of the mainstays of our music scene at this this event.
He is also planning to write a book about the history of the Brandon Music scene. Since there's just over a week until the next band jam for Cancer and plenty to discuss we made Chris the subject of our latest round of 20 questions.
1. FM: First off congrats on 20 years for the Band Jam! When you first started this event did you ever imagine it would reach such a milestone?
CK: Not all! I figured we'd do it the one time and that would be it.
2. We've discussed the origins of this event many times but I think it's a great story to share yet again for those who are unaware. What inspired you to create such an event?
CK: The Band Jam was started as a way to pay tribute to Georgette Williams. She was very instrumental and supportive of my musical endeavors at the very beginning. My first two bands practiced in her basement and she was our manager/agent and never asked for anything from us at all. When she passed away I felt bad about not saying anything at her funeral about how much she meant to me personally so I talked to Heidi at the 40 about doing a fundraising event for the Cancer Society and as luck would have it she was chair of the fundraising committee at the time. She gave me free reign for the first weekend and here we are 20 years later still going strong!
3. The first Band Jam was back in 1997. How many bands were featured?
CK: I believe we had 15 bands the first year. We started quite early at the first one.I think the first band went on around 6 pm.
4. Did you have a good turnout for the debut?
CK: Yes! The bar was packed all weekend! It was very successful.
5. How many bands have you featured in total over all these years?
CK: Too many to count, really. If I had to guess I'd say we must be close to 150 different bands over the years. I try to bring in new bands every year as well as some favourites who've played many times.
6. Your band has been a part of each band jam correct?
CK:That is true. I have performed at every one in one band or another.
7. Your total donations to the Cancer Society must be way up there by now. What was the latest tally combining all the years?
CK: Heidi Howarth would have a better idea but I believe last year we broke the $150000 mark in total for the 1st 19 years.
8. Other than the cover charge, how are monies raised during this event?
CK: We also have 50/50 and other prize draws on both nights over the weekend. We've raised donations in the bar to shave off beards and last year one of the girls from the Wheat City Roller Derby League team, Gang Green, raised some money and shaved her head right on the dance floor between bands. It was awesome!
9. Have you ever had any major donations from sponsors or attendees?
CK: There does always seem to be someone who is willing to donate more than the suggested $10 at the door which is always cool. We've also had 50/50 winners donate their winnings right back to the event. Heidi herself always made a good sized donation every year as well. I don't really make a huge effort trying to find sponsors etc to make big donations but the crowd always seems to come through with something extra every year.
10. Are you still in need of volunteers or is that end of it usually covered quickly?
CK: I have a few people who step up every year but I can always use more volunteers to sell 50/50 tickets etc.
11. I remember a couple years you ran the event for three nights. You had a long list of bands those years. What was the most amount a bands you ever had booked to play the event?
CK: We've done 15 bands a few times. It's great but it can be a little overwhelming when it gets that big. 10 bands on two nights seems to work perfectly.
12. You have 10 bands ready to rock this weekend, are they all rock bands or is there a mix of genres?
CK: There's a little bit of everything this year. The event has always been open to any band of any style or genre. We have had predominantly rock bands but there's always something for everyone. This year we have classic rock, country, instrumental rock, punk, metal, if you like live music, we've got something for you.
13. You've seen Brandon's music scene go through many different phases over the past 20 years. How healthy would you say the scene is these days?
CK: I think it's starting to build up again. There are new young bands that are really doing well both here and in other markets. The cover band scene is strong right now with lots of bands playing across the spectrum. I'd say the overall music scene in Brandon is doing really well right now. It can always get better though.
14. What would you like to see change with the scene to help it improve?
CK: More people checking out live music! There are a few venues in town right now that have live music just about every weekend but a lot of them are almost empty sometimes. Everyone likes music and the best way to appreciate music is live. People need to get out there and support the bands more. Bigger crowds make for better performances and gets bands working harder to improve their shows. That's good for everyone!
Kemp (pictured Front and centre) with FUGR, taken during their opener set for the Anvil Concert last year at the 40. FUGR is one of Brandon’s longest running bands and they’ll be revved up and ready to rock on the Saturday night for one of Brandon’s longest running music based events! You can catch their set around 11pm. (All set times are approximate) Photo submitted.
15. I heard through the grapevine that you're writing a book based on Westman's music scene. That's a fantastic idea! Can you give us a quick overview of what the book will entail?
CK: It's still very much in the idea stage at the moment. I'm thinking of putting a book together filled with road stories from local bands from the area from all eras. I sent out a call for stories a while back but they've been pretty slow in coming. I can't really build a book with what Ive got yet so if anyone out there was ever in a band or are in one now, send me your road stories! firstname.lastname@example.org
16. Good luck with that project Chris! When do you hope to have the book published?
CK: Like I said it's pretty slow going at the moment but I'd like to get it out next year some time.
17. I understand the crew from WCG will be out to film the bands. Can people order DVDs of their favourite bands performances?
CK: I'm sure that can be done. Just contact the good folks at WCGTV after the event and they'll hook you up!
18. Speaking of the performances, how long will the bands sets be?
CK: Each band will be playing for 40 minutes. The bands start at 9pm and go on on the hour after that with the last band on at 1:00 each night.
19. Can people by tickets in advance? Let's get all the ticket info out here.
CK: There aren't any advance tickets, just a donation at the door. The suggested donation is $10 but we never turn down more!
20. What would you like to say to those folks who haven't purchased their tickets yet?
CK: Like I said, there are no advance tickets but if you're still on the fence about what to do on the weekend I suggest you join us at the 40 for the best live entertainment Brandon has to offer and a chance to support a worthy cause. You might even win something!