By Dan Malone
Every Monday night Reflections Cabaret hosts $Rockin 4 Dollar$ (R4$), a full-band open mic night featuring a mélange of local talent, with a twist: at the end of the night, one member of every band spins a wheel to win a prize. Prizes include various band merchandise, spitting beer at the host Adrian Bruhm, or even as much as $1,000 in cold hard cash.
“Each week’s a lottery,” says Bruhm. “There’s 40 spots on the wheel, two are taken up by money, so it’s a 1 in 20 chance.”
R4$ was founded “about six and a half years ago” by Craig Hamlin and Jon Epworth, who at the time played in the Dean Malenkos.
“First I was just booking regular kind of shows, and then one day I had an idea for this sort of night,” says Hamlin. “I was going to the Valley to play a show, I was sitting in the back seat, thought up the concept for this night, and was like ‘oh, that’d be awesome.’”
Epworth moved away about a year and a half later, and Bruhm took his place co-hosting the night with Hamlin.
Each week, there will be about 12 to 15 bands playing. Getting booked is as simple as emailing an address listed on the R4$ Facebook page.
The open mic format can create some eclectic lineups, which, for Sam Keating is a plus. Keating described his hometown scene, in Kitchener, Ont. as “dull.” This week featured metal band Hitman, the pop punk band the Fat Stupids, and the host band Glory Glory, who describe themselves on their Bandcamp page as “space pop.”
The host band each week gets a half-hour long set, compared to 15 minutes for every other band, two free pitchers of beer, and doesn’t pay the three dollar cover. Notable past hosts include Rich Aucoin, Bloodhouse, and Bad Vibrations.
“We just ask different bands,” says Hamlin about each week’s host. “Typically we try to pick a band that’s been around for a while and is good, that sort of thing.”
Several local bands have debuted at R4$.
“No Flyers Please is our bread and butter, I guess,” says Bruhm. “They’re a band that played their first show here, and then kind of exploded in the city.”
Hamlin, who plays guitar in Tongan Death Grip, formed the Fat Stupids himself because of R4$.
“There were times when we’d only have, like, three bands,” he says, “so we wanted to learn 50 songs, just in case no bands showed up and we had to play the whole night.
“The best part,” Bruhm says, “is seeing four or five guys or girls come out here, playing on a stage for the first time, and having fun, and then putting five new people into the local music scene.”
The hosts of R4$ aren’t picky.
“We’ll just take anybody,” says Hamlin. “That guy that asks for money and plays his flute, I’ve been working on him for a while. We’ll see, he might come in sometime.”