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This Little Underground: Phil Longo’s Hat Trick Band Bingo Skills Challenge

August 22, 2014
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This Little Underground is Orlando Weekly’s music column providing perspective, live reviews and news on the city’s music scene. Read the latest column here.

Phil Longo's Hat Trick musical skills challenge at Will's Pub (photo by Ashley Belanger)

Phil Longo’s Hat Trick Band Bingo musical skills challenge at Will’s Pub (photo by Ashley Belanger)

The latest genius concept in music battles comes from one of the architects of the last great local one, the Pedal Challenge. Scene mover Phil Longo debuted Hat Trick (Aug. 20, Will’s Pub), a team skills tournament where the organization and challenges are determined by a bingo-style blind draw.

Here’s how it goes. Individual participants are grouped into bands by a random name draw (from a hat, naturally), resulting in six, intriguingly diverse four-piece bands for this well-attended inaugural event. For Round 1, the bands perform a short original song that they were only given an hour together to write, which made for an interesting scene when I walked up to the venue past musicians in clusters outside on the sidewalk and parking lot working it out. In Round 2, the bands are given a cover song (this time, “Louie Louie”) that must be played in a specific genre determined again by a hat pull (in this case, R&B, country, metal and ska). Finally, Round 3 revisits Round 1 except the random draw now dictates which instruments each person plays. Each round is evaluated by a panel of judges (which included the worthy likes of OW’s own Ashley Belanger) and culls the field by half. The last band standing wins cash.

The Hat Trick Band Skills Challenge at Will's Pub (photo by Ashley Belanger)

The Hat Trick Band Bingo Skills Challenge at Will’s Pub (photo by Ashley Belanger)

The challenges aren’t easy so the musical results ranged wildly – some inspired performances, some train wrecks, but all of it fun. The event was like hanging out in a joyous, buzzing workshop. Even between rounds when the musicians are in development, the vibe of the bar for attendees like me was different, more electric than usual. The creative hum surrounds you.

The Hat Trick Band Skills Challenge at Will's Pub (photo by Ashley Belanger)

The Hat Trick Band Bingo Skills Challenge at Will’s Pub (photo by Ashley Belanger)

Like a band-based, less esoteric sister to the Pedal Challenge, Hat Trick is a smart live music event that completely breaks down the usual walls of a show and immerses everyone – audience and performers alike – in total, spontaneous and artistic sport. For spectators, it’s a ringside view of creative minds at play in a group dynamic, out loud and on stage. For the contestants’ part, all I kept overhearing from musicians’ mouths was how much fun they were having. In other words, it was a 360-degree scene-stirrer. The event was billed as the first annual, so here’s to hoping that it indeed proves to be a recurring thing.

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