What happens when you bring together 30 musicians into a room, randomly divide them into 6 bands, and expect them to compose and learn 5 songs for a show later that same night?
Welcome to The Happenstance.
Started in 2004, The Happenstance has grown as an annual social and musical experiment that pushes musicians to step outside their comfort zones and take on the formidable task of writing against the clock with musicians they just met. At 9 a.m. on the day of The Happenstance, 30 musicians from different bands meet at the evening’s venue The Earl, where organizers randomly divide them into 6 different bands—each with a frontman, guitarist, bassist, drummer, and a “grab bag” musician (any other instrument).
After the selection process occurs, the bands split up for the day, where they have until 9 p.m. to compose 4 original songs. The end result of roughly 10 hours of composition and practice somehow transform into solid live performances, with each group having moments of excellence that one would only expect to hear after days or weeks of practice. In addition, each band selects a cover drawn from a particular theme; this year’s being songs with city names in the title. Between renditions of The Clash’s “London Calling,” The Monkees’ “Last Train to Clarksville,” and KISS’s “Detroit Rock City,” each of these bands’ provided familiar ground for the crowd to enjoy and further judge the impressive versions of these songs.
More than anything, however, Happenstance is a celebration of the everyday Atlanta musicians and their local musical communities—showcasing the talents of these individuals in a new light—rediscovering the often monotonous, highly formalized creative process, and providing a medium for a single day reinvention of a musician’s foundation.
Happenstance co-founder and organizer Brian Fletcher—an Atlanta indie-rock veteran and Happenstance alum—rediscovers his fascination with the event each year, especially in how “it brings the music community closer.” Fletcher remains further taken back by the fact “an actual crowd comes out to watch these bands that they have never heard of before, and will never hear again. For them to actually show up is just amazing to me, and I’m always blown away by every year—we get a packed house, and everyone just really has a great time.”
-Published in Performer Magazine February 2010