Bands In Portland Are Playing In A Basketball Tourney Using A Hoop Attached To A Tour Van

In large part thanks to the popularity of the humorously absurdist television series Portlandia, Portland, Oregon has become the stereotypical ground zero for hipster culture. The jokes often write themselves, with the city’s plethora of bearded men, craft beer locations, flannel and other popular hipster tendencies.

With that in mind, it wouldn’t be too surprising to hear that for the last seven years, there’s been a 32-team summer basketball tournament that plays on a ten-foot regulation-sized hoop attached to the actual tour van of the Portland-based rock and rollers And And And.

The tournament is called Rigsketball and has been part of the local annual music festival PDX Pop Now, for the last six years. All of the teams that compete in Rigsketball are local bands and while the winning team receives a trophy, bragging rights are mainly on the line.

The brainchild behind Rigsketball is And And And’s drummer Bim Ditson, who started the tournament shortly after buying a hoop at a local Goodwill. One of Ditson’s band mates convinced him to put the hoop on their van, which was somewhat easy to do since cargo vans have roll top bars. Before shows or after practice sessions, the band would shoot around and play some pickup. Other bands began to challenge them at shows and thus Rigsketball was born.

The genesis for the tournament’s name is rather simple. Ditson refers to his band’s tour van as the “rig” and so he just combined that with basketball. Despite the simplicity to the name, the tournament is anything but.

The idea for the tournament came from Ditson noticing a void in the local band community. Ditson wanted to create a community-based event where bands could get together in a non-music setting and in a sense, network.

“I enjoy basketball now but honestly, I didn’t grow up playing or anything like that,” Ditson said. “For me, it came about more from the band side. I was seeing there weren’t a whole lot of things that bands were invited to do, that wasn’t either a show or some kind of bullshit industry stuff. There was nothing in the middle. There was no community event. For me that was the big drive. Can we get 32 bands to like hang out together and be friends under the guise of basketball? And it totally works.“

“Works” is putting it mildly. Ditson promotes the event through social media and word of mouth, but as soon as he opens registration, the 32 spots are almost instantaneously claimed. And it’s not just punk or rock bands that play. Rappers, folk artists and a wide spectrum of musicians have played in the tournament at some point.

“For some of the bands it’s all about basketball.” Ditson said. “But for some of them, it’s just about doing something weird. And that brings people together. Also once they start playing, it doesn’t matter if you are a rapper or metal head or whatever, if you are making music and you signed up for a basketball tournament with your group, you already have a lot in common. Those people end up being like ‘Oh shit, I never would’ve met you because we run in different circles in the music community.’ So it’s a cool way of bringing people together.”

The tournament has come quite a ways since the first year however, which is a testament to Ditson’s hustle and hard work.

The first year of the tournament, Ditson quickly got the 32 teams he wanted but there was no set location. Because of this, Ditson would drive the van around Portland to different locations for each game. The band that had the fewer MySpace listens, would get home court advantage and let Ditson know where they wanted to play the game. He would alert that band’s opponent to where the game was, then drive his van to the location and organize the game.

“The first year was me being super ambitious…I can’t believe that the first year happened,” Ditson said. ”That one was a logistical nightmare.”

Ditson’s work that first year paid off though. Since Rigsketball is quite unique, a lot of buzz was created in the local music scene and led to PDX Pop Now incorporating the event into their festival. This partnership has (mercifully) given Ditson a set location to play all of the games and the festival also helps with the tournament’s promotion. It also has further developed the community aspect of the tournament, which was Ditson’s original goal.

“What we were trying to do was build community in music,” Ditson said. “And what’s happened is that community that already existed is the reason why we were able to make it happen. It’s cool that it’s been symbiotic that way.”

The community aspect of Rigsketball is very apparent. Bands show up in homemade uniforms and play with a ton of gusto, even if for some of them, their basketball skills are to put it kindly, not the greatest. And since each round is the best of three games, bands know that they signing up for some serious physical activity. Yet for the last seven years, bands keep competing in Rigsketball because Ditson has created a basketball tournament that is truly one-of-a-kind.

And again, while basketball is the unifying force and core part of Rigsketball, it’s not the main aspect of the tournament.

Besides for creating various merchandize, Ditson works with all of the bands to put together a 32-track compilation album for the tournament. Also to accompany the tournament is the Rigsketball Music Fest, where the bands that are in the tourney also perform after an evening of games concludes.

However all of these different aspects relate to the Rigsketball’s central theme of community. A theme that basketball creates on its own through the magic of the sport and is one Ditson is most proud of. It is also a theme Ditson hopes sustains as Rigsketball continues to be a staple in the Portland music scene.

“[Rigsketball] actually leads to people being friends and getting along and knowing each other,” Ditson said. “Like if their van breaks down now, they have another person they can call. Stuff like that is way more important to me than any success Rigsketball can have.”