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The Short, Fast Life of the Band

Rock Lotto shuffles the local music scene.

Other Rock Lottos give the bands up to six weeks to produce. Richmond's version gives them nine sordid days to create terrible, beautiful music together. I followed one band from the moment of conception to its first howling words.

April 6, 9 p.m.-Hour 1

Almost three dozen musicians buzz with excitement on the upstairs patio of the apartment where the drawing is held; most of them knew, or at least knew of, one another. It's like a school dance, in a way. There are longhairs, checkered deck shoes, High Life 40s, beards and shaved heads, threadbare T-shirts advertising stuff from a hipster world; there are cigarettes and thick glasses, and strangest of all, a prevalence of ankle socks. Amidst this panorama of tattoos and fireworks screaming off the patio, I'm introduced me to Tyler Worley, the bassist for pop band Wow, Owls! I'll be following him as far as I can.

Then comes the drawing. Singer Matt Seymour (who's played solo and with a few area bands) leans in to Worley and tells him if they are together he's got a great band name. Eight bands of four are drawn, and Worley and Seymour are together. Soon the apartment fills with the chanting of their new moniker: "Boner Academy."

"When you strike gold," says Seymour, "you don't dig any deeper."

Each member of the foursome plays several instruments, and all play in bands, but only Worley's band has released an album and performs live. Boner Academy is made up of the uber-bearded Worley, 22, a dorm security guard; the rasp-voiced Seymour, 25, who works at Harrison Street Coffee House; the reserved Scott Hamilton, 25, a VCU student — all from heavy rock/punk backgrounds. Then there's the calm Joe Mager, 24, also at Harrison Street, who adds psychedelic folk to the mix. They exchange cell numbers and shoot for three to four practices at Mager's place. Many of the numbers still have Northern Virginia area codes, musicians drawn to Richmond's accessible music scene. As a way station, at least.

"For everybody that's this age and likes to hang out, they feel that this is the town," says Hamilton, himself a transplant from Norfolk.

April 9, 1 p.m.-Hour 64

A small house way out on Hull St. is vibrating. A muffled roar comes from the front room. Inside, Boner Academy is packed into Mager's small room, tearing through their first song. The room is something: Carpets are tacked to the walls, the door and over the window. Mager found rolls of the stuff in an alley and put it up to soundproof the place. Two guitars, a bass and drum kit: The noise is terrific, but the song is remarkably polished, a driving punk, Ramones-like introduction to Boner Academy.

This is their second day of practice, and while they stumble over the shift to a slow jam, they're coming along. They've got their stances: Seymour, who wrote the song, stands in the V-legged rock stance, Mager taps his foot, Hamilton stands straight, and Worley flails on the drums.

When they change up instruments and begin working on a new song, Worley keeps the pace with a slow fuzzy bass riff, while Mager tinkers with a beachy guitar hook. Then, suddenly, they're onto something: It rolls around as Seymour begins howling, forming words. They start into their stances. When they find their footing, the songs inevitably speed up. Most people don't like not knowing what comes next, but for it to work in this padded room, these guys have to love chance. And speed.

And that's as good a place as any to leave them, in that vibrating house. In 152 more hours, they'll play with seven other new bands and then, who knows? Bands like Boner Academy often live short, fast lives. S

The Rock Lotto showcase is 8 p.m. April 15 at Nanci Raygun. Tickets are $5 at the door. 353-4263.

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