Psyko Steve Chilton’s Rock Lottery (scheduled for Saturday, January 16), now approaching its third year, is one of the more brilliant ideas to take hold in the local music scene. There is nothing quite like the exhausting task of shuffling some two dozen musicians together, forming random, new five-piece bands, and giving these performers only a few hours to create three original tunes and master one cover.
Such showcases, which tend to sell out, feature still-struggling artists paired with more seasoned musicians from every imaginable background, genre and style. The results are often sloppy, hilarious and bizarre, but just as often these hours-old bands can be poignant, ear tingling, and accomplished. Like ice sculptures or saguaro blossoms, the fleeting lineups exist for existence’s sake, never again seen onstage. There is something powerful and beautiful about an event that is meant to dissolve afterward and only subsist in the moment.
But so far, only one band has decided to continue their chance incarnation. That band is Wet Lab.
“The material we came up with was just really fun to play,” says Jim Adkins, the Jimmy Eat World frontman and Rock Lottery participant who got drafted into what would become Wet Lab.
Wet Lab includes vocalist Adkins, drummer Jason Roedl (Mergence), lead guitarist Chan Schulman (Harper and The Moths / Dead Eyes of London), Justin Weir (Celebration Guns) and bassist Mitch Wyatt (Pinner). Wyatt almost wasn’t in the band, but when Wet Lab drew the Lottery’s “call a friend” card, he was an instant and permanent member.
Jimmy Eat World fans will rejoice, given the many stylistic overlaps in Wet Lab’s modus operandi. “Lords of Hell” will almost instantly remind you of “The Middle” but in an updated, modern way while “Weekend For Mom” is a carefree pop punk anthem perfect for your raunchy teen summer blockbuster. In fact, such films were an inspiration for the band.
“As a jumping off point to write we chose favorite ’80s movies of ours. Or, movie plots that could have been ’80s movies. Or, anything Elisabeth Shue,” Adkins explains. “‘Weekend For Mom’ is our imaginary pregame anthem for a group of moms’ ladies night right before they head out on a Judgment Night-style wacky adventure. 'Lords of Hell' is about getting in the psyche of one of the non-speaking role members of the gang, the Lords of Hell, from Adventures in Babysitting.”
The band plans to release these two songs on cassette — a “cassingle” — via Saint Joseph, a recently started music and arts collective managed by Weir. Adkins remarks, “physical recordings are an opportunity to do something really obnoxious.” Wet Lab will not be offering the songs available in any digital format, including CDs or online streaming.
As far as plans for 2016 go, Wet Lab is only focusing on the cassette release for now, although they are “not ruling out any offers or options.” This show is Wet Lab’s only planned gig, but like the Rock Lottery, all proceeds will benefit Rosie’s House, a free music academy for children in downtown Phoenix.
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In case you were wondering, the name has nothing to do with old school photo processing.
"A paramedic friend of mine told me about something the police did in her town of Redding, California,” Adkins explains. “They would have volunteers [come] in and give them drinks to bring their BAC’s up to different levels so police trainees could practice field sobriety tests on them. They called it Wet Lab. Seemed like just as good of a band name as anything else.”
Wet Lab is scheduled to perform Friday, January 8, at Rebel Lounge.
Correction: This story originally incorrectly attributed quotes written in an email by Jim Adkins to Justin Weir. Those mistakes have been corrected.