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First Avenue hosts first Rock Lottery

The legendary concert venue drafted 25 artists into five bands, giving them just 48 hours to come up with a set.

MINNEAPOLIS — Twenty-five Minnesota music artists can take a breather after working under a tight deadline.

In its first Rock Lottery, the legendary concert venue First Avenue drafted them into five bands Wednesday and gave them just 48 hours to create a set.

Artist booker James Taylor said other cities including Brooklyn, Austin, and Seattle have done such drafts.

"I participated in one of these rock lotteries a few years ago, where one of the bands became a real band," Taylor said. "So it would be incredibly gratifying if one of the bands decided to give it a go."

At Friday's showcase, you would have thought the bands had been together for years. They all successfully created four songs, or a 25-minute set, under the given time constraint.

"It's amazing," spectator and music producer 222 Red said. "I think they need to do more of this."

While some musicians had performed in First Avenue's Mainroom before, it was Reiki Michael Hall's first time and the achievement fulfilled a goal he had for years.

"I used to work at Loews Hotel across the street," he told the crowd.

A former bellman and valet, Hall said he watched longingly as people lined up for shows and even served some of the major artists who performed.

"It doesn't matter if you're shining shoes at a hotel in one season of your life," Hall told KARE 11 during a rehearsal Thursday. "The next season could be completely different."

On stage, he shared his story through an original song, "First Ave," and told the crowd to "never give up."

At one point, the crowd chanted his name. Hall's mother, Maryann Davies, was there.

"I knew one day this day would come," Davies said. "I'm originally from Liberia, West Africa. Reiki and I started this journey when he was three years old."

"She started me when I was small," Hall agreed. "Just in acting, in entertainment and all that … Very grateful. All praises to the most high."

Hall and bandmates Julia Eubanks, Hilary James, Cindy Lawson and John Lindquist named their newly formed band 5 Below FKA Wheat Trick. While he'd like to return to First Avenue for his own set one day, he said he'd like to work with them again.

Booker added that First Avenue plans to host more rock lotteries in the future. Meanwhile, Hall is set to perform at 7th Street Entry on July 25.

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