Starry eyes: Can rock lotto pick a winner?

Where else but Charlottesville could punkers, pickers, gospel singers, and indie rockers come together in one show? In one band?

Less than one month after eight new bands were created by drawing names out of a bowl, they'll perform at the RockStarr Showdown, a benefit competition at Starr Hill Music Hall.

"I think that the best thing about this," says Nikki Vinci, one of the organizers, "is that musical connections are being made. It's new, it's different, and it's for a good cause."

Which is exactly why local rocker Christian Breeden decided to show up at Starr Hill at an open call "draft party" in late July when the bands were formed.

"I love rock and roll, and this just seemed like an interesting approach," says Breeden, a member and spokesperson for the just-created band American Roulette.

Breeden says he relishes musical risks. "I like the idea of taking and throwing out 'the band' as we know it. I like to laugh at what it is to be a band."

His experience hasn't been hassle-free. Early on, American Roulette lost a member, John Johnson, to scheduling conflicts. And then there are different musical tastes, which in American Roulette include gospel, bluegrass, hard rock, and– egad!– divided opinions on the Dave Matthews Band.

Despite their differences, Breeden says that with only a few more days left to rehearse, the band can't afford to have a spat.

"We still need to fix up the ends of some songs," says Breeden. "It's hard to fit the violin in some places. It's not typical of rock and roll."

Although most of the bands competing at the RockStarr Showdown may sound atypical, American Roulette has a style that will surely set it apart. Which is a requirement for success, considering that each group gets just 15 minutes to impress the judges.

"Our band's sound is like the coolest garage band ever," says Breeden. "It's smolderin', rockin', rockin', rockin', garage band rock. We just took the rockin' rock and roll route."

At the July 24 "draft party," 70 names went into the bowl, but only the first 48 could participate. If no one had any idea of what to expect from their own bands, then they most certainly don't know what to expect from their competition. But not knowing may be part of the thrill.

"I think the rivalry between the bands is good," says Breeden. "You know that you could have been paired up with any other person on that stage."

The Showdown occurs Saturday, August 23, at Starr Hill around 8pm. Admission is $5, with all proceeds benefiting the Music Resource Center, and, if this goes well, Nikki Vinici is hoping that the RockStarr Showdown will become an annual event.

As for Breeden and American Roulette, he says, "It was just something I had been rolling over in my mind. I think it speaks of chance. Like this competition, it's all about taking risks. You spin the wheel and see what you get. It's political, too. It's like Russian roulette, except in America we're not brave enough to play with suicide... we play with bands."