It was a packed house last Saturday as The Community Exchange (TCE) in Altona hosted its first-ever Bands Night during the January Community Meal. About 175 people enjoyed the meal, with more arriving later to hear music from three local bands. 

"The turnout was awesome!" said Carol Braun, one of the organizers of the evening. "When we first proposed the idea of bringing some music to TCE, what we talked about is the idea that we would bring together various parts of the community and we knew that food is a good connector and music is a good connector. So, we decided that we would combine those two things. [...] (it) seemed like a no brainer and it turned out great. The people who had come for the meal stayed for the music and then the music people also brought their own fan clubs."

Braun noted, they went into the evening without any big expectations, adding the goal was to bring together various part of the community, in line with the TCE's mandate, and that is exactly what happened. 

"We got great feedback. Just people saying what a great event it was, what a great evening it was, how the vibe in the room was just so pleasant. We did get some feedback about it was too loud, and that was sort of my age group," she added with a chuckle. "Also, it was great to hear from some of the staff from Regional Connections who were also there, and that lots of people gave them feedback about how great it was."

Many connections were also made that night.

"We got potential connections to new bands that we will reach out to, to bring in their group, and that came through Regional Connections and other places," said Braun. "We also saw people asking questions like, 'we're looking for a place with a studio. Does anybody have a studio?' And so, there was a connection made with somebody who had a studio. And then, there was somebody who was talking with the sound people. So, there were those kinds of connections that got made in the room as well. So, there was of great community stuff happening."

The evening was made possible thanks to a $5,000 grant from the Manitoba Arts Council. This allowed all three bands that performed that night to get paid for their time. The remaining funds, noted Braun, will be used to host, hopefully, another two events. 

"We don't have dates for the next two yet, but yeah, we have the money in place to be able to hire artists, to be able to provide that music and put that out there as another great community connector."

The hope is to have the remaining two evenings before summer, with the possibility of making it an ongoing thing at TCE. 

"Because it did get such a great reception," said Braun. "To be able to have monthly music events that people know are going to happen and provide opportunity for artists to bring their music to the community."

With files from Zack Driedger