Part gong show, part marathon and part support group, $Rockin' 4 Dollar$ is one of the best events this city's music scene offers. Every Monday night without fail, 12 performance slots are offered up and 12 slots are filled. (It's like The Dirty Dozen, but with more musical numbers.) At the end of every night, each band spins a wheel for various prizes. Sometimes it's a magic-marker moustache, other times it's getting hit by food. Thankfully for the bands, there is a cash prize that ranges from $200 to $1,000.
The brainchild of Craig Hamlin, $Rockin 4 Dollar$ started about four years ago. "I was on a trip to the Valley with The Dean Malenkos and I got the idea in my head about doing an open mic that had a few twists to it that would make it unique," he says. "The Dean Malenkos had hosted an open mic at Hell's Kitchen for two years before I conceived R4D. I always liked the concept of having an open mic for bands but I realized it needed a few incentives to ensure bands and fans would come out."
Aside from cash prizes and antics, Hamlin, assisted by Adrian Bruhm, also offers his audience video games, ping-pong, free food and popcorn. "Free food nights occur when the jackpot reaches its potential of $1,000. We bring in a couple of cooks and give away free food to anybody who wants it. We've had giant breakfast platters several times, burgers and hot dogs, gourmet grilled cheese, chili contests, Mexican food night, English muffin pizza and tons more, all for free!"
And, of course, there is music. A sampling of great bands from across Canada have played, including Hot Blood Bombers from Regina, Statues from Sudbury, Pneumatic Transit and Hoosier Poet from Hamilton, A/V from Gaspereau Forks. There have also been bands from more distant shores like Ireland's Ended and Totally Stoked. On the local front, participating bands have included The Bad Motels, Myles Deck and the Fuzz, Catholic Gaydar, No Flyers Please, The Superfantastics, Blue Shirts, The Baketones, Gilbert Switzer (who won $1,000), The Healing Power and Scribbler, among many many others.
"We've had Wintersleep twice," says Hamlin, "The second time they played was minus Loel and they played a set of songs that I thought were R. Kelly covers but were in fact Wintersleep originals. That was kind of a big deal because people like Wintersleep and I thought that when they signed up to play there would be like 1,000 people, but only like five people and their moms were there---it was kind of sad."