Sound Seekers by Fateema Sayani is published weekly at OttawaMagazine.com. Read Fateema Sayani’s culture column in Ottawa Magazine and follow her on Twitter @fateemasayani
The Ottawa Rock Lottery is a big ol’ love-in for the local music scene. It’s the community cup of spontaneous music-making that happens annually with proceeds going to charity. The fifth edition takes place this weekend with 25 musicians participating.
It works like this: on Friday night, organizers put the names of individual musicians into a hat. They draw out five names at a time and put those people together to form an insta-band. Over the next 24 hours, those five new bands create a half-hour set of original music to be performed on Saturday night for all to see.
The hilarity, camaraderie, rivalry, shining moments, and flubs are what make the show interesting, particularly to those who see live music often and are familiar with the city’s band-folk. The Ottawa Rock Lottery deck-shuffling allows those people to display talents that may be hidden in their other bands — or perhaps the deadline pressures will be evident. As organizers promise on their Facebook page: “It could be great. It could be awful.”
It is all in the name of charity. Proceeds go to the Ottawa Food Bank and the goal is to raise $1,500 for 10 emergency food baskets. Participating bands also get a chance to win a record session with Steve Foley at Audio Valley Recording Studio — though the best bait, for some, is the chance for creative growth.
Songwriter Kalle Mattson is participating for the first time this year. “I’ve been asked to play in the past, but my band and I have been on tour each time, so I’m really excited to be playing this year,” he says. “I’m usually the guy who writes the songs and sings them, so it’ll be really awesome to play in more of a supporting role.”
Singer Sarah Bradley of Fevers says the rock lottery requires a lot of effort and compromise in order to churn out a half-hour set in less than 24 hours. “You have to combine your different song writing processes, styles, and tastes to create music together. It’s a mega challenge, but it’s also kind of a bonding experience,” she says.
Singer Daniel Spence says he’s looking forward to a change of scenery after nearly five years of being “locked down with my dear lads,” in reference to his band mates in The Pelts. “There’s nothing like having a peek out into the world to make you appreciate what you’ve got back home, and maybe I can even bring back something new.”
Bradley’s soft vocal touch is a big part of her band’s sound. In Fevers she sings contemporary indie-pop tunes, but is looking forward to branching out at the rock lottery.
“I learned how to sing by covering Destiny’s Child and Mariah Carey, and I feel like that says something significant about me,” she says. “I see the Ottawa Rock Lottery as an opportunity to unleash my repressed diva. I suppress some of my inner-sass with Fevers, but I am really excited to let my freak flags fly this weekend.”
Spence of The Pelts also hopes to loosen up this weekend. He says he’s not much for restrictions, despite having the stage name of Revered D. Spanx.
“I’m flexible, multi-instrumental, and not burdened with any particular notion of musical theory. I just play by gut and by ear, so my role will depend on the strengths and interests of my other rock lottery band mates and the chemistry we develop,” he says.
“My normal approach to song writing involves a great deal of solitary crafting on the guitar before introducing a nascent song to the band, where we re-work it for weeks until it starts to feel mature enough for our live show. With the ORL, I look forward to experimenting with pretty much the exact opposite way of writing music, relying on the talent and creativity of my fellow lottery winners to help make something beautiful crawl out of our little petri dish after 24 hours.”
Ottawa Rock Lottery. $10 or $9 with canned food donation. Saturday, May 18. Mavericks, 221 Rideau St. Doors at 8p.m. 19+.
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On the subject of possible train wrecks, we bring you to the phenomenon that is Hip Hop Karaoke — that’s where people dress up and imitate their favourite rap tunes from the ‘80s and ‘90s. It started up in Ottawa last summer and it’s been a hoot to watch. The evening’s hosts are MC Atherton and DJ So Nice and they are gracious. Before an evening of hip-hop karaoke, they instruct the crowd with some ground rules. The first of them being that “everyone is a star at hip-hop karaoke,” meaning you can’t boo the tuneless ones off stage. There is also a no N-bomb rule. They suggest using the word “ninja” or “neighbour” in place of that word. (Think “Neighbours With Attitude” or “Sucka Ninja.”) The event happens monthly throughout the year. The summer schedule sees HHK go down on the third Friday of every month in the Mugshots Courtyard of the Ottawa Hostel.