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Ottawa Rock Lottery marks five years of relatively unplanned musical collaboration

By Jared Davidson on May 14, 2013

What is your musical fantasy? Does it involve copious amounts of liquid chocolate and a select Barenaked Ladies album? Or do you simply long to walk in the footsteps of a certain Liverpool quartet at the crossing at Abbey Road? (I could watch that webcam all day!)

Or maybe you’re more the adventurous sort. Maybe you want to see what happens when numerous Ottawa bands swap members, create team of local supergroups, and put on a show.

Well, that last fantasy will become a reality this weekend when the Ottawa Rock Lottery presents its eclectic take on music expression. This Saturday the 18th, Mavericks will play host to the Lottery’s fifth annual showcase. And what a showcase it promises to be. This year’s lineup sports local musicians from such bands as Fevers, Loon Choir, Goodluck Assembly and Kalle Mattson, whom you may remember from this video. There are also some murmurings about a yet-to-be-announced Juno winner. With so much local talent to choose from, it almost sounds like every ticket is a winner – and that’s not something you can say for most lotteries.

Okay, so this isn’t a lottery in the traditional sense. I’ll admit that when I first heard about the Rock Lottery, probably sometime around its inception in 2008, I thought it was some kind of gambling organization that simply used rock and roll music to further entice lottery ticket buyers. How wrong I was!

Alright, so there is a small bit of traditional lottery stuff going on here: there is a draw for door prizes in which guests can win prizes like clothing or tattoos (yep, you can win tattoos). But the real “lottery” part of the rock lottery actually happens one day earlier. 24 hours before the show, all of the participants gather to see their fate decided. Details of this sacred ceremony are shrouded in secrecy, but Apt613 has learned that bands are created by the sanctified ritual of drawing names out of a hat. And once the bands are formed, they have the length of one day to organize, get to know each other, and create a 30 minute set out of thin air to play the following evening.

Take it from someone who has “been in bands” – that’s no easy task. Typically, a thirty minute set is the culmination of around six months of trial and error, a labour of love and a showcase for the band’s unique talents. The thought of condensing it down to a day of prep time makes me feel empathy, anxiety and, most of all, excitement. The Rock Lottery is a chance to see and participate in the creation of a brand new musical identity, as messy or as wonderful as that is.

It’s also a moment in time, a unique type of event that will likely never be recreated. The bands that are formed for the Lottery generally part ways after the show, presumably making recordings of that concert all the more valuable. However, there are exceptions, and several bands and record labels have sprung up around the Rock Lottery over the years, owing their creation to organizer Samantha Everts’ efforts and determination.

So, if you see something you like at the Rock Lottery this Saturday, cheer for it. Maybe it’ll stick around.