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As the fourth installment of our profile series, it is no surprise that we found ourselves courtside (er...curbside) at the Rigsketball tournament. The game is basketball, or street ball, or whatever you call it when a drummer sets up a regulation sized basketball hoop on the back of his band’s van, holds the whistle for flying elbows and invites 32 Portland bands to compete in a basketball tournament. Sure, eye candy for those of us addicted to an Epic on a Movi and strapping GoPro’s to random stuff but what we found really compelling about Bim Ditson was that for him, Rigsketball is about building music community and fostering friendship and collaboration.
Normally, this is how it could work (from the perspective of a guy who plays in a band): a band arrives at a venue for a show, they unload their gear, maybe do a soundcheck--and then they wait. And wait. And drink. And wait. The other bands playing the venue that night are waiting too. Everyone is just sitting around. But introduce a basketball hoop to the scene and things change. I mean, it’s right out there in the parking lot, why not have a game? So that’s what happens. Bands play. They sweat. Rub shoulders. Talk. They make a connection, get to know each other and pretty soon they have a sense that they’re part of a larger community.
That’s how Rigsketball started. Now it’s an annual tournament here in Portland, OR, in which 32 local bands compete for a trophy (a gold statue of the rigsketball van, no less) and nothing else--except bragging rights. They play games in parking lots and alleyways all over town. This year, the bracket filled up in one day with bands wanting to compete. These are bands all over the spectrum, so now bands who wouldn’t have been on a bill together are meeting and making connections, sparking ideas, planning collaborations. In short, building that community. But none of this would have happened without Bim Ditson.
During our interview, Bim, lounged his full 6’4’’ length (height not including his red mohawk) across the couch while he expounded upon the virtues of “sweating with someone.” “You bond a lot harder than when you’re, like, drinking jameson or whatever it is bands do,” he told us. He knows because he started this whole thing. On tour with his band, And And And, Bim, first bolted a hoop to the back of his ‘93 Aerostar. Now, it’s on an elaborately painted Ford Econoline 350--and it’s regulation height. Once that was in place, Bim says, “I was like, ‘shit, I gotta run a basketball tournament. But I don’t know any basketball players. I only know bands.’ So then that happened.” Feeding back into Portland’s music community in this way comes natural to him. “I don’t live in a community so that I can use it,” Bim says, “I live in a community to be part of it.”
As for us, we had a great time shooting the finals. There are no “out of bounds” in Rigsketball, so we were both on the court and in the action. Fierce action at that. Skinned knees and elbows and fingernail marks across the chest of at least one member of Hustle and Drone. The van itself comes into play during the games, as well; people pass off of it and use the bumper as a launchpad. “Basically, anyone can dunk,” says Ditson. This year, the Rigsketball tournament had a big upset when the band that came away with the trophy was not actually a band, but a comedy team calling themselves “Who’s The Ross?” Apparently, jokes aside, they are.