With band names like HOT medium mild, 3.14159265358979323846264338327...., Womb Temp and # # floating around social media over the last couple of weeks, it’s clearly just about time for the Queen City Music Lottery bands to make live debuts.
The second installment of the joint venture between Sugar City and local imprint Peterwalkee Records finds musicians -- regardless of musical background and instrument choice -- randomly assigned band mates and asks the fledgling group to prepare a short set to be later debuted at a showcase hosted at Sugar City. (Band members from JOHNS, UBV-76, Space Wolves and Merchants are among those who participated in 2014)
Lottery organizer, Peterwalkee founder and Sugar Citizen Matto LaQue, recalls how the idea of the now-annual event was formed out of a music lottery-style gathering called Band Olympics that he participated in when he lived in Albany.
"Band Olympics operated on the same idea of random people lumped into new bands, however there was a very competitive side to it, with all the money from the door of the final showcase going to the winner of Band Olympics (as chosen by the audience)," LaQue said. "Also, it was only open to a much smaller slice of the local music community in Albany.
“Despite the competitive nature and slight elitism of Band Olympics, I had a great time participating in it,” LaQue said. “So I decided that I wanted to spearhead a music lottery in Buffalo, but one that was open to anyone and was not based in competition but simply for the love of music, meeting new people and having fun.”
The idea of being in a band is sometimes much more exciting that actually being in a band, at least to some people, so there is the constant risk of lotto members losing interest or bands folding. Luckily for the event organizers, almost all of the acts from both last and this year’s collection managed to stay intact long enough to reach the showcase, and some even beyond.
“Turnout for the lottery both last year and this year were great,” LaQue said. “Last year, there were 17 bands after the drawing with 14 making it to the final showcase. This year we have 14 bands and so far no band has quit the project yet. People have dropped out along the way, but as of right now all 14 bands are headed to the showcase.
“It can be challenging getting updates and info from the bands over the course of the 10 weeks,” he admits. “I like to get as much info from the bands so I can post and share it and get people excited about the showcase. The biggest challenge would be putting on a show with 17-14 bands. That can be crazy. I have bands play on two different stages back to back to keep the show going and to help keep peoples interest.”
Shawn Lewis, a local pop artist who performs under the moniker of Lesionread, is one of the returning participants of the lotto. Performing last year in dance punk outfit moverealfastSTOP, Lewis’ new band is called ELVIRA.
“This year it seems there are more participants that have never been in bands before,” Lewis said. “The hardest part is getting paired with those people who have much less experience, so a lot of the songs which the bands end up making are kind of lowest common denominator formulas. Those band members may know less about music, but their input still has to be an equal part of the bands dynamic.”
One aspect of this year’s lottery that has pleasantly caught Lewis’ attention is the growing participation female musicians.
“This year my band has two female members which is good. Last year, I had one. I don’t know if more women signed up this year than last year though. If they did, that would be a great sign.”
New to this year’s lottery is Bryan Johnson, primary songwriter and vocalist/guitarist for lake-pop act Bryan Johnson & Family. After being a spectator for the first year of the lottery, the musician decided to throw his name in the hat this time around and hope for the best.
“I had gone to the showcase last year and loved seeing what everyone was able to accomplish under such unique circumstances,” admits Johnson. “Finding the right group of people to start a band with is difficult enough, but starting with random friends/strangers who may or may not play music normally and still managing to pull off something at all is a challenge. I just had to do it.”
“We call ourselves Karl Palidino and the School Bored,” he continues. “We really wanted our sound to showcase the clarinet. I think we've been able to do that and stayed true to the different styles that we all take inspiration from, and luckily for me, I ended up with four guys that play different instruments and most of us have a history playing in bands before. Now I had never played with any of these guys before so we had to find a common ground so that we could write songs that weren't totally disjointed stylistically.”
After such a successful first go around, LaQue and the rest of the event organizers didn't make any major changes for this year’s lottery. Outside of a new venue (the final showcase moved from the Foundry to Sugar City’s newly opened space), only some minor tinkering was needed for year two.
“The only major change I made from last year’s lottery and this year’s lottery is that I decided to hold only one drawing on one day this year as opposed to last year which we had two drawings on two different days. One drawing just made it easier to manage,” explains LaQue.
The Queen City Music Lottery No. 2 will take place at 5 p.m. June 6 at Sugar City (1239 Niagara St.). The drug- and alcohol-free event has a $5 cover at the door. Further event info can be found here.
“I honestly enjoyed all the bands from last year, everyone put in a solid effort and wrote some really cool songs. For me personally, Scajaquada Creeps, Beast Coast and Nail School where very cool," LaQue said. “As far as this year’s lottery is concerned, I'm looking forward to seeing all the bands. Can't wait to see what people come up with.”