By Jim Schutze
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By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
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After coordinating countless benefits for Denton's Good/Bad Art Collective, Chris Weber is used to dealing with unique situations, controlling them as much as possible. For example, Inflicted Music -- the benefit that partly inspired Weber's best-known creation, Rock Lottery, three years ago -- featured Centro-matic's Will Johnson playing his songs on a swing while wearing a bunny suit, and Chomsky performing in a box, topped off by E.F.F. playing a set on a trampoline as the band's drummer circled around it in the back of a pickup truck. Thanks to Weber, the event came off without a hitch, though it did result in the only ticket Good/Bad has ever received from the Denton police.
"It was a cop that was new on the beat, and I think we just freaked him out: 'Holy shit, what's this?'" Weber remembers, laughing. "The policeman that's on our regular route came by and gave us his card and said, 'If this ever happens again, give me a call, and I'll take care of it.' He apologized for giving us a ticket. He was like, 'I don't know what you're doing, but you're not criminals.'" He laughs. "Thanks, officer."
Sometimes, it's hard to tell just what Weber and the Good/Bad Art Collective are up to, setting up concerts that are more like art installations. And in just more than a week, Weber will be in one of those unique situations again, presiding over the fourth installment of Rock Lottery. Well, as much as anyone can control the chaos that comes along with randomly grouping 25 musicians into bands in the morning, herding them into rehearsal spaces during the day, and making sure the whole thing doesn't fall apart when they take the stage later that night. But right now, Weber is sitting around his New York apartment, stuck in a situation he can't control.
Weber is waiting on a delivery man to bring him the new computer he ordered, which, in fact, is the same thing he's been doing all week. If he sounds preoccupied, it's only because he's missed the computer's arrival for the past five days, coming home 15 minutes too late to find the only thing waiting for him is a note saying that the delivery man will be back tomorrow. His flight back to Texas will touch down at DFW Airport in about eight hours, but he's staying put until the computer comes, or at least as long as he can. Weber knows that you have to take care of all the small problems before they become big ones. That's why he's a bit worried about the latest edition of Rock Lottery, which happens November 7 at Rubber Gloves Rehearsal Studios in Denton.
This is the first Rock Lottery he's had to plan from New York, where he moved earlier this year to help set up a Good/Bad satellite. He's been so busy with his projects in New York that he doesn't really know what's going on in Denton anymore, what to make of the recent troubles Rubber Gloves has had with the Denton police. And this year, he's had more trouble than ever keeping a stable roster of musicians to choose from; until he arrives in Denton, he won't even have the final two slots confirmed, since Kim Lenz dropped out at the last minute, as well as Tripping Daisy's Tim DeLaughter after Daisy guitarist Wes Berggren's surprising death. "I guess I'm going to figure that out when I get to Texas," Weber says. "That's not necessarily how I wanted to do it. Sometimes, that's the way it has to go."
Weber didn't really expect Rock Lottery to go much of anywhere beyond the first event. Of course, he never expected any of the benefits he set up during his stint in Denton to have a life longer than the night they happened, and most of the time, he just hoped they happened at all. But it was obvious to him that Rock Lottery was different as soon as he started coming up with a list of musicians that might be interested in participating. Somewhere around name No. 400, he knew he had to do it again.
"I wrote down every person in every band that I could think of, and I ended up having a list of like 300 to 600 people," Weber says. And I was like, 'Holy shit.' I left out a lot of people that I really wanted to be in it, made a lot of people mad. There were so many people that ran up to me and said, 'I better do the next one.' I never said there was going to be a next one, but people just started assuming that there was going to be one."
The musicians involved in this year's Rock Lottery are just as diverse as in years past, even with the booking problems Weber encountered. The list includes: Mark Burke (Chop-Sakis), Julie Carpenter (Gropius), Colin Carter (Little Grizzly), Kyle Cheatham (The Ditch Kids, Pointy Shoe Factory), Pete Gannon (The Factory Press), Josh Garza (Captain Audio), Tony Harper (Slobberbone), Andrew Hufstetler (Baboon), William "King Bill" Ivy (The Meat Helmets), Jason Parks (Asphalt the Recorder), Lee Tomboulian (Little Jack Melody), Dave Wallin (The Grown-Ups, The Dooms U.K.), Josh Pearson (Lift to Experience), Jason Wortham (Mandarin), and Kris Youmans (Post from Vermont). That kind of eclecticism is the reason Weber believes the Curtain Club's experiment with the same idea hasn't worked out as well. At least, one of the reasons.
"I guess the first one did relatively well, and the second one that I know of, no one really came, and there wasn't an original song among all the bands," Weber says, mystified. "All covers. I try really hard to get lots of people from lots of different types of music, and they ended up with all the people that play at Curtain Club. Corn Mo was the only one that kind of stood out."
And Weber is smart enough to realize that the Rock Lottery idea might not work everywhere. After all, it's an event that requires ample rehearsal space, willing musicians, and an audience prepared to follow the whole thing from haphazard beginning to what-the-fuck end. The man who used to know every member of every band in Denton, and quite a few in Dallas and Fort Worth, now lives in a city where he doesn't know anyone. Until he does, Rock Lottery will remain a Denton project.
"Rock Lottery is one of those things that you need to know about the music community, and I don't have a clue," he says, laughing. "New York is really hard. There's not really a scene. There's like millions of scenes, and there's lots of bands that don't belong to any of them. It's hard to figure out what's going on. Eventually I would like to do it. In Denton, it's relatively easy, because there are places to practice and all that stuff, everything I need." He sighs. "Here, it'll be tough."
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