Band Lottery: Where names are drawn and random groups are made

by Rodney Lotter

Everyone in Bellingham is in band. Well, that isn’t that true, but it may as well be. The dude rolling up your potato burrito at Casa Que Pasa? He’s in a band. The bartender serving you that tasty drink at the Shakedown? She is in a band, too (a super rad dance-punk one, to boot!) That dude teaching your kids how to read at school? Yup. He’s in a band too. Anyway, you get the idea. Bellingham is full of musicians, and if you need proof, just check out the upcoming Band Lottery event at the Wild Buffalo on Jan. 18.

The upcoming Band Lottery will be the fifth installment, and if past shows are a good indicator it will be an event not to be missed. A band lottery is when a bunch of people essentially place their names in a hat and then names are picked to form bands of four or five people. These new bands are completely random – it could be four people that usually play guitar and one drummer, or maybe even just a band of five drummers, who knows? The bands then have a couple weeks to hammer out a short set of tunes and then play in front of a live audience.

The randomness of the event is the most inspiring and exciting thing about the Band Lottery, former coordinator of the event Michelle Schutte said. “The Band Lottery show was organized in the hope that it would be good for the Bellingham music community, and with confidence that at the very least it would be a spectacle that would draw a crowd,” she said. “Masterpiece or train wreck, we knew we’d get a bunch of people to show up and watch.”

Schutte put together the first ever Band Lottery in 2010, when she was the owner of the Jinx Art Space (where Make.Shift is now located.) Thirty-five musicians signed up for the performance and seven new bands were formed. Two weeks later, when those bands took the stage in the basement, the sweaty, wall-to-wall audience went nuts. The first one was done as a fundraiser for a new sound system at Jinx (and it was successful as they got that new-and-improved system). Six months later another Band Lottery night took place with mostly new musicians that missed out on the first opportunity, and then a couple more followed at the Shakedown in the following years.

Schutte said since Jinx closed, she kind of lost the motivation to keep the event going and had been looking for someone to take over. That is when Wild Buffalo co-owner and Bellingham music scene staple Craig Jewell showed interest.

“I’ve been looking for a permanent home, with organizers who value the event as much as I do,” she said. “After talking to Craig about it I’m convinced that he’s the guy and the Wild Buffalo is the place that will keep the show alive, relevant to our local music community, and – most importantly – super fun.”

Once the names are drawn, there is no doubt that many a one-off supergroup will be formed, and then subsequently fade away to never be heard from again. The Band Lottery is literally a once-in-a-lifetime show in that aspect. It is safe to say there will be surprises, some mistakes and a whole lotta fun, and really that is what live music is all about, right?

For more information, see Interested musicians (21+) must fill out a form and then be at the Wild Buffalo on Sunday, Jan. 4 at 7 p.m. when 35 musicians will be randomly selected. The Band Lottery show is Sunday, Jan. 18 at 7 p.m. at the Wild Buffalo.

Published in the January 2015 issue of What’s Up! Magazine