Rigsketball Is Turning All the Portland Bands into Jocks

 

There wasn’t a real reason for Bim Ditson to bolt a regulation-sized basketball hoop to the back of his band’s touring van. But he didn’t need a reason. The point was “to do something weird,” according to Bim. The mohawked drummer for Portland band And And And is all excitement as he explains the origins of the basketball tournament he dubbed Rigsketball. “It was just something funny. That was it.”

But the joke grew—first into pick-up games with other bands behind venues around Portland, Oregon. Then, after bands started looking forward to the relaxed pick-up basketball games before the shows more than the shows themselves, into something more. Portland bands were fighting to play shows with And And And—not just because they’re one of the city’s hottest bands. Everyone wanted a shot at a pick-up game on their band van’s hoop.

“I knew I had to start a basketball tournament,” Bim says. “But I didn’t know any basketball players. I only knew bands.”

Rigsketball—a Portland-wide, bracket-style basketball tournament run (and refereed) by Bim—was born.

Luckily, there was no shortage of bands ready and willing to throw down against each other on the court. Or, in this case, in a parking lot, or dead-end street—or wherever else Bim could start a game without the cops showing up.

The first official Rigsketball tournament began in 2010. “We had 31 different locations and no permits or anything,” says Bim. “I can’t believe we got away with it.”

Now, having just completed its fourth year, Rigsketball is a much more professional affair. The bracket was completely filled within 24 hours of the start of registration, and the first round of games took place as part of PDX Pop Now!—Portland’s summer music festival—complete with huge crowds and the full support of the city government.

“Bands who made it past the first round played on July 24th on a closed-off street next to a power station,” Bim told me. “Thanks for the permits, City of Portland!”

The finals were played in a huge parking lot at the East Portland Eagle’s Lodge and, this year, it wasn’t even a band that won the championship—it was a comedian troupe who had sweet-talked Bim into letting them fill a spot on the bracket. The troupe, called Who’s the Ross, walked away with a gaudy and gold spray-painted trophy Bim made himself. The rest of the bands (as well as the sizable audience) piled into the Eagle’s Lodge for $1 beers and a two-stage, Rigsketball finale show, featuring six bands from the tournament.

“Things got sweaty,” Bim grins. “But that’s good. You bond a lot harder when you’re sweating with someone than when you’re drinking Jameson or whatever it is bands usually do.”

That’s why Rigsketball is so brilliant. It started with a handful of different bands from all across Portland. But by the time the tournament is over, you’re left with 100 musicians who have sweated, competed, and even bled together (no one leaves without at least a skinned knee). That’s the way to build real camaraderie—the way to build a real music scene. And at the center of it all is Bim.


 

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