Bandolier boys win Slumland Theater battle

They’ve never played for a crowd larger than 60 people but now a Ponoka band is living their dream

Ian Ferguson

Ian Ferguson

They’ve never played for a crowd larger than 60 people but now a Ponoka band is living their dream after winning a spot at Boonstock in late June.

Mark, 19, and Ian Ferguson, 16, and Brett Halland, 19, the members of Bandolier, recently won a highly competitive, talent-ridden battle of the bands competition at Slumland Theater in Red Deer.

“Our parents are telling us the fight is over, you won,” said Mark, lead vocals, guitar and keyboard. Now he’s just looking forward to putting on the best rock show he can.

However, Bandolier is still taking the opportunity seriously. “You’re playing in front of a lot of people. We’re definitely going to practice,” added Ian.

The Boonstock crowd is roughly 20,000 people, and that’s what Bandolier is looking forward to most. Mark feels rock music, the voice of the band, is made for a stadium show rather than more intimate environments.

The large crowd is all Halland, the bass player, can think about. “I’m actually really excited. It’s weird, usually I’m nervous before a smaller show. This is what I want to do. I’m actually excited to get a chance to do it.”

Halland is also excited for the exposure playing Boonstock means for the band. “Right now it’s barely known in Ponoka.”

“Needless to say it’s a big step up for Bandolier, not a baby step — a big step,” said Mark.

Boonstock is huge outdoor music festival held in Gibbons. The predominantly rock and dance music event features more than 90 acts this year.

The battle of the bands competition on May 4 started as an online voting system to choose the eight bands that would actually compete.

Because of the age of drummer Ian, Bandolier was placed in the under 18 category.

“I ended up liking the event more than I thought I would,” said Mark, who wasn’t impressed with the voting system, which he said was outdated, not user friendly and wouldn’t work on mobile phones.

“I had a lot of people who wanted to vote for me who couldn’t,” he added.

Mark and Ian weren’t sure how online voting, which often isn’t about talent but more about who as the most friends on Facebook, would lead to the top bands, but it did.

“It worked at face value,” said Mark. “Any of the bands could have won.”

Once the eight bands with the most votes were finalized, they moved on to the next round, playing in front of a live audience and judges at Slumland.

Although many of the bands were young, Mark said there was so much big talent present and out of the eight, Bandolier was third to perform.

“I remember we were a little skeptical of our chances, you want to be near the end optimally.”

“Because you’re in the judges’ minds right fresh,” Ian added.

Afterward however the band says playing near the beginning was actually better for them. “It actually turned out to be the opposite because near the beginning you still have the crowd’s energy,” said Ian.

“It was an enduring show, four hours is a long time to rock and roll,” added Mark.

Being one of the first bands to play allowed the members of Bandolier to relax and enjoy the rest of the show. “I think by the end we had a good time. If we didn’t win we didn’t win,’ said Ian

But despite their enjoyment they were still nervous of the outcome.

The bands were diverse in sound and Ian knew that was going to make it tough for the judges. Halland believed in Bandolier’s talent but also knew the odds.

Bandolier had to wait a painful three hours for the results to be announced. “They announced the runner-up first and it wasn’t us, so I’m like, no,” said Mark.

When their name was announced Bandolier went into shock. “I was living the dream there for a second. I was so sure we were not going to win,” said Mark.

Mark knew the judges were basing the results mostly on musicianship, which was a concern for the band. “That gave me a little worry. We’ve got pretty good musicianship but we always get compliments on our live sound.”

After the competition the judges spoke with each band to give their comments.

Bandolier was told Mark and Halland had good stage presence and interaction but needed to interact more with Ian.

“”I’ve always kind of struggled with having a good stage performance,” said Halland.

He feels having that presence adds pressure to his performances. “If I’m not very interesting I’m weighing down the band.”

“It was the first time we’ve been judged critically,” said Ian.

Halland believes the judges’ constructive criticism is important. “We get a lot of support and I kind of worry if everyone’s supporting us we’re getting the wrong idea about the band.”

Bandolier officially formed in 2009 but the Ferguson brothers have known Halland almost their whole lives. “Brett’s practically our brother. I can’t remember a time when he wasn’t running around the house with us,” said Ian.

In early June Bandolier is also producing their first studio album at Alchemy Studios in Calgary.

When Halland talks about the album an almost breathless change comes to his voice from the awe and excitement. “I’m very excited for that. It’s kind of a symbol to our accomplishment to have a CD we’ve made. It makes it seem like it’s all been worth it.”

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