Many claim when James A. Naismith invented basketball, he conceived the perfect game. In the 90s MTV thought they could do better, while casting smoke and mirrors on the obvious handicaps posing as athletes on a neon-splashed parquet court, with its Rock N' Jock BBall Jam. Two years ago, Bim Ditson of Portland band And And And became the James A. Naismith of Rip City when he invented Rigsketball, a sport that combines basketball and touring.
Yeah, it's dangerous to drive towards a hoop directly above the backend of a rig, but that's part of the fun. If you saw a van pull up with a basketball hoop fashioned to the back of it, no matter how janky it looked, you'd request one shot or legs willing, attempt one dunk by catapulting yourself off the bumper. Rigsketball feels like the sport that was under our noses since the the van became the go-to touring vehicle. It just took the courage and audacity, which Bim Ditson seems to have out to the tips of his mohawk.
On July 19 the third annual Rigsketball tournament tips off in Portland, 32 bands squaring off in an elimination bracket to crown one champion of Rip City. In 2011 the debut tournament was won by Rock 'N'Roll Soldiers. Last year TxE took home the trophy. This year bands like Typhoon, Aan, Wooden Indian Burial Ground, Mannequinhead, and TxE, looking to repeat, will compete for the title.
We talked with Bim about the history of Rigsketball, this year's tournament, and the future of the sport. Below is a free Rigsketball compilation, featuring all the competing bands. The comp is available for name your price download and a limited pressing of 100 cassettes is available at the shows and tournament.
Before it was called Rigsketball and before the tournaments, was the idea to attach a hoop to your tour van born within the group or had you seen it done elsewhere?
I'd scored a hoop someplace, and was gonna bolt it to my house, but landlords. The way I figured it, I owned my van and could ruin it all I wanted. Plus, I Google'd around and couldn't find anyone who'd hoop'd their rig, so I had to. Give a man a basketball court and he'll ball for a day. Build a hoop on his van and he'll make a ridiculous band basketball tournament.
So now you've got the hoop on the van… when did the pick up games turn into organize a tournament? I imagine it was in part from playing pick-up with other bands. Did unknown hoop dreams start coming out of the woodwork and guys you never expected to have silky jumpers and silky guitar skills keep showing up?
Pretty much, there was this band called Archers — god, rest their songs — that were buds of ours and they challenged us to a match before a show that we were playing together, I think the winner got the door money or something. I wanted more. So I put the word out and a few weeks later we had 32 Portland bands ready to rip, love this city. It was sort of shocking how good some of these bands were, at basketball: Starfucker putting ankle-breaking moves on the court/street corner. Laura Gibson driving hard to the rim, smashes through a member of Charts, earns the point and bloody's the bumper. “Rip City” is truer than one might have thought.
What bands or individuals since forming Rigsketball surprised you the most in terms of court skills?
Dude, Erik Karter from the band Manniquinhead is awesome on the court! And in general, folk singers run smart plays but it only gets them through the first round.
What tips do you have to newbies to Rigsketball? I imagine mechanics adjustments to the traditional lay-up have to made to avoid colliding with the bumper of an Econoline?
Use the van, become the van.
What are the rules to Rigsketball? Is it legal to take a step on the bumper to elevate for a lay-up or dunk?
It's essentially the rules of the half court 3 on 3 pickup game down the street, plus a van: you can bounce pass off of the back or side of the van, we encourage the bumper dunk. There's no out of bounds. Perfecting shooting from behind the hoop will win you some games, climbing on top of the van and swatting shots is not allowed–looking directly at you, The No Tomorrow Boys.
Do you go out on tour with the Rig attached? If so… in your travels what bands impressed you with their Rigsketball skills?
Yep! My band tours a good amount in this rig and it smells fine. Holy rad, Doug Martsch from Built to Spill has a mean skyhook, and he brings a jam-box with great ballin' tunes. We play games with the bands on the bill as often as possible and wether it's a game of horse, or a real match, it's a way better show that night.
Every year Rigsketball continues to grow. What additions to the summer tournament were made this year?
Oh man, I think that the biggest thing that's new this year is our being at the amazing, free, and all ages music fest called PDX POP NOW!, it's going to be insane.
There's this comedian from Portland who goes by Ed Forman, he's gonna commentate the semifinals and finals. Full video coverage of the entire tournament. We have this really rad bracket on our website that will be getting updated with winners of matches in real-time, so don't bet on this with your friends.
Red Bull is supplying the equivalent of 10,000 hours of sleep. And of course, we're throwing our best show yet! It's at Holocene, with two stages and seven awesome bands, and it's free!
What do you see for the future of Rigsketball… are there goals for it in the coming years?
The goal is to keep ripping. 64 bands next year! Have tournaments in LA, NY, etc and than a national finalists tourney here in Portland, on the Burnside bridge! Realistically, this year has shaped up to be more than I'd ever dreamed Rigsketball would be, and as long as Portland has all these super down bands, Rigsketball will get them sweating together for a week in the summer.