On Saturday, seven bands that were (somewhat) randomly assembled will hit the stage at the ZACC Show Room. These groups have only been around since December. They’ll only be playing songs from a particular year with dystopian associations and no shortage of classic albums.
Those are the edicts for participation in the seventh Missoula Rock Lotto, themed “1984: Obey Every Rule.”
Organizer Jon Van Dyke hopes people will “party like it’s 1984,” complete with distinctive amounts of hair gel and “pant legs rolled up properly.”
The first Rock Lotto was held in 2013, started by restaurateur/punk bassist Jason McMackin. It was a way to rally some entertainment during the drearier winter months when shows were fewer and further between, and encourage people who could play music but didn’t play out, to give it a shot.
In the past, proceeds went to projects like Lost Sounds of the Treasure State, the ZACC kids rock camps, and more. They were held in the Palace, now a billiards club, until 2020, when it was staged in the newly opened ZACC Show Room. Covid naturally put a kibosh on the event in the years since. McMackin handed the event over to Van Dyke, who’s acting as a one-person committee.
The proceeds this year will go to the ZACC and KFGM Community Radio, where Van Dyke is the nonprofit station's manager and board president.
As of Tuesday, only around 50 tickets were left for the 350-capacity venue.
The theme, “1984: Obey All Rules,” is born of a sort of dream board of pop-culture associations that came to Van Dyke. It started with a memory about the view of Styx’s “Mr. Roboto,” and its 1983 video with a creepy, grinning robot’s face. The next year saw the release of the famed Apple Computers “1984” commercial with its promises of revolution, aligned with Orwell’s dystopian vision. That year, the “Footloose” score was released with its lyrics “you’re playing so cool, obeying every rule.”
The sign-up was open to anyone – you just had to pick an instrument and enter your name. There was a drawing back in December, one that's traditionally random but tweaked as needed so a group doesn’t end up with something unworkable, like two drummers and two bassists.
“I was really happy with seeing a lot of first-timers, people with no performance experience; and people with a lot of experience that have never done Lotto before,” said Van Dyke.
Each band will play an assigned series of songs for a 25-minute set. They were given an album or a set of albums and could choose whichever tracks they like.
“I think having the requirements thrown on you gives bands a lot of direction,” Van Dyke said.
The ensembles include groups like Big Suit, Silent Appendages, which will play songs from the Talking Heads' "Stop Making Sense." Or Van Sailin', armed with tunes by the iconic guitar band and more.
Local actor Jeff Medley, who you may recognize from the Garden City Ballet’s “Nutcracker,” the Montana Actors’ Theatre’s “Rocky Horror Show Live!” and Nicolas Cage’s “The Old Way,” has been in musicals before but doesn’t consider himself a musician. Yet he’s also signed up for Rock Lotto for that very reason.
“It is so fun, because I am not a musical person,” he said. Within this context, it’s “fun to sing and pretend to be a rock star for a few minutes.”
His group, Waters of Lake Minnetonka, is playing songs exclusively by Prince. One of his bandmates, Rachel Netzloff, is a collaborator from Rocky Horror, playing keyboards and singing back-up. Medley doesn’t need to worry about hitting each falsetto accent on his own, either: They have a second singer, Erin LeFebvre, who covers the upper range on the legend's tunes.
Which songs? He didn't want to give up the secret. You’ll have to find out on Saturday.