“On the evening of February 1st, 2013 at the Beachland Ballroom, 169 musicians were drawn from all reaches of Cleveland’s vibrant music scene and drafted into 42 bands. And the third season of the Cleveland Lottery League was born.” So begins the description of the events which led up to the magic night of April 13th, 2013 when those 42 bands came together, all for the first time, to perform their initial live performances as groups.
It was back in 2008 that the original idea of the Lottery League was thought up by a group who called themselves the Council of Chiefs. In 2008, a hypothetical situation was proposed by the original Council of Chiefs and that situation was this:
“What if all these rock band recidivists around [Cleveland] had to quit playing the same old shit with their same old friends and got forced into new bands at random?”
With that thought, the Cleveland Lottery League came into being. The rules for the Lottery League were as follows: Every band had to have a drummer and a member with access to a rehearsal space; no lottery band could include current or former bandmates or significant others; and once the bands were created, there could be no messing with the lineups. No one could trade band members with other bands and if someone in the newly created bands quit, there would be no replacing them.
Given 10 weeks to cement as a band and to write original material for the group, each group was required to create a 10-minute set of original music to play in what has been named The Big Show. It was just recently that The Big Show took place in Cleveland at the World Famous Cleveland Agora.
With 42 bands that HAD to perform, The Big Show 2013 on April 13th was an all-day event. Starting at 2:00PM on Saturday and finishing around 1:30 AM Sunday morning, it was one hell of an event. And with this being the third edition of The Big Show, the Council of Chiefs ran the event very proficiently. With two bands alternating on one stage and a third band playing on a second stage in a second location of the venue, the audience never had the chance to get bored since someone was always playing. And with 42 bands playing throughout the event, I was not able to hear everything. However, here are some of the most memorable moments that I experienced:
My time at The Lottery League’s Big Show 2013 began with the hard rock/heavy metal band called Dinosaur Coffin. Complete with a stage prop that looked like, well, a dinosaur coffin, this band was the perfect example of the randomness that happens with the draft process as Dinosaur Coffin consisted of a guitarist/singer, a bassist and TWO drummers; one of which had a keyboard set up alongside his drum set. All four members of the band wore dark hoodies that were covering their heads during their 10 minutes on stage. The hard rock/heavy metal music created by the band was performed with energy and the setting the band created with their 10-foot high coffin and their matching “outfits?” told the audience they were there to impress. Needless-to-say, Dinosaur Coffin was one of the better bands I was able to see during my 4-hour concert experience at my first Big Show for the Lottery League.
The next band that I saw perform was the 100th band to be formed during the three Lottery League drafts. The 100th band was called Sex Cake. A female-fronted quartet, Sex Cake featured a pure rock-n-roll feel to their music. And while the band Dinosaur Coffin came to impress, Sex Cake was a bit of a letdown as their set featured over-simplistic lyrics and their songs seemed to have a one-joke feel as all of their songs played off the band’s name. Nowhere was this more evident than on the band's first song. Their first song could be considered their “theme song”. With lyrics like these, it was easy to see how the band could be considered a “one joke band”: “Sex cake. Sex cake. I know I want a piece of your Sex Cake.” There was also the fact that when the band was playing, their transitions within their songs were not very smooth. They were the perfect example of what could happen when only given a finite amount of time to prepare for your first time on stage. The band was in no way bad enough to walk away from but they could have been a lot better.
Another band, like Dinosaur Coffin before them, did come to impress. And this band had one of the most original names from this year’s event. In fact, Michael Pultz, one of the members of the Council of Chiefs and emcee for the event had this to say on the subject: “I love this band’s name. Everything about it is just wrong.” And with that, Dark Magic Ponyride took to the stage. The band Dark Magic Ponyride created music with an Indie rock/Jam band quality to it. It was that music that captured the audience’s attention for the band’s 10-minutes and their set seemed to be over way too soon.
One particular band that blew everybody away (myself included) was the group How to Stay Alive in the Woods. The three-piece band blended Classic Rock and Hard Rock into a style that made people stop and listen. The band featured two singers in the bassist and the guitarist and that helped to add a little variety in the band’s sound. While many of the assembled bands that were created during this year’s Lottery League had a real feeling of togetherness as far as their onstage presences were concerned, How to Stay Alive in the Woods felt like a BAND. The three musicians felt as if they had been playing together for years and not just the two months that have passed since the draft. Beyond a doubt, How to Stay Alive in the Woods received the loudest applause of any of the dozen or so bands that I was able to check out during my time at The Big Show 2013.
Immediately following How to Stay Alive in the Woods was probably the most unique band to be assembled for this edition of the Lottery League. Like the first band I saw (Dinosaur Coffin) who had TWO drummers, Valisystem A also had a unique look and composition to their band: The trio of musicians who made up this band consisted of a bass player, a drummer and a xylophone player. With no guitarist and/or no singer, the band stuck out as their music could be described in only one way- JAZZ. While the music was some of the most different when compared to everyone else in the event, the three musicians created music that would definitely fit in at venues like The Winchester Music Hall and/or Nighttown here in Cleveland.
As The Big Show 2013 from Cleveland’s Lottery League lasted for 12 hours more or less, I stayed for as long as I could since I had other things to do and places to be. But my 4 hours at the event ended on a high note with the final band that I stuck around for:
Everyone in the audience knew something was up when we walked into the Theater part of the Cleveland Agora and saw the seven-foot tall crucifix that had been brought onto the stage. And when the band that brought it with them came on stage and turned the crucifix upside-down and then turned on the string of lights that was covering it, we all knew what we were in for. And when the band, Queen of Hell, came out in their robes that made them look like Druids, the energy level in the crowd rose. Everyone could tell that each member of Queen of Hell took the idea of the Lottery League seriously. The band had their look, their style and their sound down and made it work. The heavy metal music produced by Queen of Hell brought to mind the classic metal bands of yesterday. The band played their music as if they were a band that had been together for years, just like How to Stay Alive in the Woods earlier in the day.
During the 4 hours I was in attendance at The Big Show 2013 for the Lottery League, I was able to see around a dozen bands. Some were good and some were not as good. The bands listed in the review are the ones that made the biggest impact on me.
Cleveland’s Lottery League is one of the most creative and unique musical ideas to have been thought up in a while. And the resulting 12-hour music festival that has resulted from the bi-yearly draft is well worth the admission price, especially since this year’s concert was free!!
Any city with a decent-sized music scene can have their own version of the Lottery League in their area. Contact the Council of Chiefs through Facebook and they’ll guide you in the right direction.