Last year, The Play Badges formed as a five-member band.
They performed one live show to wild critical acclaim, then disbanded forevermore, extinguishing their own flame of stardom just as it began to flicker.
There was no acrimony, no antagonism, no farewell tour, no plans to reunite — just a goodbye with no promises.
But that was the point all along.
“It was really fun to do that,” said Charles Duda, one-half of the instrumental rock duo Crash Cuddle as well as the drummer for The Play Badges — the winning band in last year’s inaugural 48 Hour Band Fest in Mankato.
“I think it’s healthy to play with other musicians. ... You can get stagnant playing with the same people.”
The 48 Hour Band Fest is organized by local musicians Tom Heffernan (Punk Rock Tom of KMSU’s Music Without Borders) and Dave O’Connell (who performs in a number of local music groups as Ocho).
They had the idea to start the event in Mankato after attending — and winning — a similar event in Aberdeen, S.D.
The competition includes musicians that are randomly assigned to five-person bands through a drawing.
The impromptu bands then have 48 hours to create and rehearse a three-song set, and then perform live on Saturday at the Red Sky Lounge.
Winners receive a $200 cash prize (as well as a trophy and other prizes) and will be determined by a panel of judges — including Dan Cleberg, owner of the Red Rooster in Aberdeen, who came up with the 48-hour band festival idea.
“Everyone that participated last year had a blast,” Heffernan said. “ That’s the fun thing — it’s like a social mixer.”
Last year’s event drew hundreds of spectators to Red Sky to see The Play Badges win the first competition.
But, as organizers note, the competition isn’t just a free-for-all.
Rather, there are certain guidelines each band must follow.
Last year, each band was given a prop that had to be used in their band name (The Play Badges received fake, plastic police badges). Each band also drew three words that were chosen at random from the dictionary and then had to find ways to incorporate them into a song title or in their stage banter between songs.
This year, organizers are keeping the guidelines under wraps; but they did say that band names would have to be based on popular film titles and that each band will be required to play one cover montage and one “song with a twist,” such as a parody or a reinterpretation.
O’Connell said the event prompts plenty of creativity. Last year, one group played an acoustic version of “Billie Jean” while another band arranged their songs with a trombone and a ukulele.
“ This is one of those things that people probably would not do in any other context,” he said.