Rockin’ 4 Dollars celebrates 3 years of community building, musical memories

For the past three years, it has become weekly destination viewing for local indie bands and music lovers — a community building event where good times are had by all.

And this Wednesday, Feb. 6 at Broken City, Rockin’ 4 Dollars will celebrate its third anniversary in style with cake, balloons, beers and, of course, the bands, which, this week is a stacked lineup featuring Double Fuzz, Seafoam, The Galacticas, Lashes and more.

For the newbies not quite in the know, here’s your Coles Notes introduction to what’s been called an open mic game show night: Any band — the good, the bad, the brutal — can sign up ( to perform a 15-minute set with gear provided by the venue; each member of the 10 to 12 bands chosen get themselves a beer and play their half half-hour; and then they spin the big wheel that has goofy prizes and cash money numbers on it.

On the Dollars side of things, it runs the gamut from $200 to $1,000 — it has to build by $200 each week to get to that max number and then it must be won — which, for any local band is a pretty excellent payday for 15 minutes onstage.  

Prior to the eve of R4$’s big 3, we chatted with BJ Killer, who hosts the evening and who actually brought the idea to Calgary — first to the Nite Owl, now at BC — from Halifax in 2015.

We wanted to know his trio of highlights from a crazy three years of the always eventful evening.

1. “The first year starting out, the rapper named Stitches, from Florida, he happened to be in town that night and he walked into the Nite Owl basement when Rockin’ 4 Dollars was happening. This guy’s got an AK-47 tattooed on his face, his whole face is tattooed, so it was like, ‘Wow, that guy’s not from Calgary, let’s go talk to him.’ He was like, ‘Hey, man, I’ve never played Calgary, do you think I can play?’ So he hops on drums and my co-host at the time, Matt Mosley, and I — I grab a bass guitar and Matt just starts freestyle rapping to one of the top rappers in the industry at that moment.”

2. “The Dudes have played, like, five times and we know how legit that The Dudes are and how Danny (Vacon) is, and how crazy he supports the city. (But) you get a lot of bands in the city that are like, ‘We don’t play battle of the bands, fuck Rockin’ 4 Dollars.’ Well, first off, Rockin’ 4 Dollars is not a battle of the bands … and The Dudes are the most legit  band in town, so if you can’t take a page out of their book then you’re doing something wrong. And this one time The Dudes were playing it was $1,000 on the wheel, and Danny was like, ‘Yo, bud, if The Dudes win, we’re going to walk right outside and give $1000 to someone that’s living on the streets that needs it.’ They didn’t end up winning it, but soon after Danny started The Night Church (Vacon’s now defunct weekly evening at the equally as defunct Wine-Ohs) and he gave a lot of money away to people that definitely needed it.”

3. “We did a Fort McMurray fundraiser and 48 bands signed up in three hours wanting to play it. So we had to ask Broken City to cancel their Thursday night, which they accommodated, and we did Wednesday and Thursday night and we did 24 bands in two nights and raised $6,800 for the Red Cross.”

(Photo of BJ Killer, main, and The Dudes, inset, courtesy Adam and Alexandra Photopgraphy.)

Rockin’ 4 Dollar$ Turns 3 takes place Wednesday, Feb. 6 at Broken City. Tickets are $4 at the door.