The Lottery League: A Single Shot of History

The Lottery League got its start in 2008, when The Council of Chiefs — Michael Pultz, Jae Kristoff, John Delzoppo, Nate Scheible, and Edward A. Sotelo — were looking to inject a new dose of vitality into Cleveland’s familiar music scene. The idea they hit upon was the unique Lottery League concept — one that would force a wide variety of musicians to rehearse, compose, and perform music with new collaborators, regardless of genre, experience, and skill level. The end result surpassed all expectations, inspiring both participants and audiences to new heights of creativity, camaraderie, and good old-fashioned fun. A newfound sense of community was created in Cleveland’s music scene, thanks to The Big Show — a performance event lasting several hours and involving nearly three dozen new bands.

At the beginning of Lottery League, participating musicians gather together for a party called Draft Night; this is the kick-off event for the Lottery League’s “season.” The lottery system groups musicians in a fully random manner while also ensuring that musicians are placed in groups of people with whom they have never played before. These newly minted bands must then go on to rehearse, record, and perform at the Lottery League’s Big Show, which takes place approximately two months after Draft Night.

The Big Show is the goal and party towards which all of the new bands work for those several weeks — getting to know one another, thinking of a band name, coming up with promotional copy (just like a “real” band!), and composing 10 minutes of original material, to be performed that night. In past years the number of musicians totaled over 100,  distributed into over 30 different combos. Over the course of night, the boundary between audience and performer blurs in the festive atmosphere of The Big Show. Everyone involved eagerly waits for the next band, celebrates their own performance, or just revels in the carnival of of multi-media light and sound that is The Big Show.

Lottery Leagues took place in 2008 and 2010, with similar, but smaller events also taking place in cities such as Los Angeles. After these two Lottery Leagues, The Council of Chiefs decided to wait until an opportunity to make Lottery League bigger and better than ever presented itself. Now, through the efforts of organizations such as The Beachland Ballroom and Tavern, Cleveland Rocks: Past, Present, and Future, and [fill in the blanks] the Lottery League returns to Cleveland in 2013. This year, the goal of the Lottery League is not just to bring more people together; the desired result is to make this act of large-scale creativity an essential part of Cleveland’s cultural life.

The last few years have seen the city of Cleveland emerge as a shining beacon of creativity, whether in the cultural spheres, the culinary worlds, or as a model for sustainable living.  The idea of a “Rust Belt revival” has inspired the rest of the country; meanwhile, inspiration is spilling over among entrepreneurs, artists, and creative people from every possible walk of life.  While Lottery League is supposed to be a lot of fun, it’s also a way to harness and proudly showcase the kind of rule-breaking and resilient energy that makes our city special.

For the 2013 Lottery League, Friday, February 1st is Draft Night, which takes place at the Beachland Ballroom and Tavern (15711 Waterloo Road). The Big Show, on the other hand, will take place on Saturday, April 13th, at The Agora Theatre and Ballroom (5000 Euclid Avenue). Not only does the size of the Agora truly allow for a spectacle like The Big Show, but its historical relevance as one of rock n’ roll’s most famed venues makes clear how Lottery League wants connects the past, present and future of Cleveland’s music history.