It started with an old brown hat and ended with an accordion. In between — in the 12 hours of breakneck musical collaboration that is Rock Lottery...
It started with an old brown hat and ended with an accordion.
In between — in the 12 hours of breakneck musical collaboration that is Rock Lottery — 25 handpicked Seattle musicians realized playing nice was easy.
In this annual experiment (now in its third year in Seattle), musicians’ names are drawn from an old hat at 10 a.m. and randomly arranged into five bands. By 10 p.m. they must be back at Neumo’s on Capitol Hill to play three to five brand new compositions. Each band has a drummer; the rest is left up to fate.
The process, according to the musicians, was surprisingly drama free, and the resulting one-night-only performances Saturday night were exuberant, inspired and never boring. David Terry of Aqueduct rapped about Old Spice, mellow songstress Jen Wood found her tambourine-smacking alter ego, and singer-songwriter Damien Jurado lived out a childhood rock ‘n’ roll fantasy as he put down his guitar and grabbed the mic with gusto.
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“I’ve learned to not be completely surprised by anything,” said Rock Lottery founder and organizer Chris Weber.
Rock Lottery was born in 1997 out of a Denton, Texas, art collective that launched a series of events designed to “inflict” something on musicians, audiences, or both. When Weber moved to Seattle, he brought the idea with him and found the music scene ready to take on the challenge.
That challenge, of course, is logistical: high-speed song creating. But it’s deeper than that.
“A lot of people are used to being in complete control of their projects and then to go into something where we’re asking them to be collaborative, that’s scary,” Weber said.
Jurado admitted he thought there would be a lot of egos flying around.
“There was none of that,” he said. “I’m not usually playing with other people. That was really scary but also really freeing.”
For the musicians of Rock Lottery — who are allowed to participate only once — it’s also a chance to meet their peers, sometimes for the first time.
“I ended up in a band with total strangers,” Terry said. “We sort of stood around looking at each other for a while. A funk guitar in E got things started.”
The musicians in Rock Lottery (nominated by a panel of former participants and others and then narrowed down by Weber) come from all corners of the Seattle music world — from Americana to hip hop.
“Musicians who are school-trained with decades of experience and have Grammys are mixed with people who are straight out of the garage and know three chords,” Weber said.
Regardless, the stage was packed with talent Saturday. Heidi Wischler of Shiftless Layabout showed off her virtuosic skill on the trumpet, sax, trombone and, yes, cowbell. Dynamo soul singer Choklate wailed over Michaela Brangan’s torrent of violin. And Nate Mooter of power pop band The Lashes whipped out the accordion for a lovely final ballad.
This year’s proceeds benefit the all-ages Vera Project; previous Rock Lotteries raised money for KEXP and the now-defunct Consolidated Works. Weber said usually about 350 people attend.
Joanna Horowitz: firstname.lastname@example.org