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Swedish Jam Factory Brings Music and Tap Dance Show to Buckman

The duo sings and plays while tapping.

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Swedish Jam Factory — formerly Swedish Gun Factory — will make its debut theatrical performance in Memphis at Buckman Performing Arts Center at St. Mary's Episcopal School this weekend.

The duo, which consists of Thomas Bergstig and Isaac Middleton, tap dances while singing and playing musical instruments.

They formed the group four years ago, but this is the first time they've performed their more-than-hour-long show in a theatrical setting in Memphis, Middleton says.

CARLA MCDONALD
  • Carla McDonald

He and Bergstig sing and play several instruments, including guitar, piano, banjo, and mandolin, and employ a range of musical styles from classical to punk rock while they're tapping.

In 2016, they released an album, Chris Raines, which features their original music.

Describing the Buckman show, Middleton says, "The numbers are basically an accumulation of all of the material that we have made over the last four years."

The show will feature their original material as well as covers, which range from The Beatles to the Norwegian band A-ha. They also will perform movie and Broadway standards. And classical pieces, Middleton says. "Taking a nod to certain composers like Mozart and Beethoven."

Bergstig, a native of Stockholm, Sweden, got into musical theater when he was 21. He and some friends formed a tap dancing group called JEERK. Like Swedish Jam Factory, the members of JEERK played musical instruments while they danced.

In 2009, JEERK got a gig in Branson, Missouri. Bergstig stayed after he met Memphis singer Alexis Grace at the Andy Williams Theater. He eventually moved to Memphis, where he and Grace were married. Bergstig taught tap dancing and, later, he became Playhouse on the Square's music director.

Middleton, who was born in Harlan, Kentucky, but grew up in Chihuahua, Mexico, became fascinated with tap dancing when he was 15 after seeing the movie Singin' in the Rain.

He moved to Memphis in 2016 to appear in the Playhouse on the Square production of Kiss Me Kate.

After meeting Bergstig on a friend's porch, the two began writing music and developing tap dance routines, Middleton says. Swedish Gun Factory was formed shortly after.

They wanted a name people would strongly react to. A "Swedish gun factory" was something that wouldn't exist, Bergstig says. "Coming from a country where people don't have guns, we do not have such a thing as mass shootings," he says. "Of course, every now and then the shooting happens. It's nothing like in America."

In 2017, Bergstig and Grace moved to Los Angeles, but Bergstig and Middleton continued to perform in Swedish Gun Factory. Middleton moved to Los Angeles in 2018.

The duo appeared on Sweden's Got Talent, a Swedish show similar to America's Got Talent, in 2017. "Through that we got some steam going," Middleton says.

About two years ago, they substituted "Jam" for "Gun" because of "the political climate surrounding gun violence," Middleton says. "'Jam' felt like a good way to go. It best encompasses, more or less, what we do."

Asked their long-term goal for the band, Bergstig says, "Las Vegas would be perfect, but it doesn't have to be an ultimate goal. It could definitely be something that would be worth aiming at. I think we both are open to what might happen. I would love to do Broadway."

"I definitely see us going that route," Middleton says. "It's funny 'cause we've been making all these short-term goals, but I don't think I've even thought about long-term goals."

Swedish Jam Factory will perform Friday, January 31st, at Buckman Performing Arts Center at 60 Perkins Ext. Tickets are $28.

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