Artist and musician Ali Spagnola made a splash when she started playing Power Hour concerts as a college student. Power Hour is a popular drinking game during which partiers take a shot of beer every minute for one hour, often listening to music that changes every minute.Spagnola took inspiration for her set from the Power Hour idea, playing 60 one-minute songs to rev up the crowd.
After winning a well-documented legal battle with a man who claimed he trademarked the phrase Power Hour, Spagnola released “The Power Hour Album” in 2011 with her own twist: She put her album on a shot glass-shaped USB drive. Spagnola hits New York on Friday with a concert at Wicked Willy’s bar in Greenwich Village. Metro asked Spagnola what New Yorkers can expect.
How did you end up becoming a Power Hour musician?
I played regular, non-alcohol-related music but I wanted my show to be more like a party, so my solution was to combine a concert with a drinking game that was popular at my school. It made marketing really easy and fun because they were just coming to my party.
When did the shows get really big?
I guess when I put out this album on a shot glass USB. That’s when I produced the album well and released it on something that was interesting and that was a couple years ago. That’s when things started picking up.
How did you come up with the idea of a shot glass USB?
I was a sculpture major in college and I always had a desire to make a physical object that people can love and have, and so I knew I’d put a lot of work into these 60 songs. I wanted to make something cooler than just a downloadable album so that’s how I came up with my shot glass USB.
Do you ever wish your songs were longer than one minute?
I still have the option to do that, and I put out YouTube videos where I’m not limited to that. I’m putting out an album with regular-length songs but I love the one-minute restriction, and I’ve even thought of recording 30-second songs – I’ve done a lot of ringtones before, too, and having a box to think outside of is always fun.
Walk me through what it’s like to be at your show.
It’s not like a regular concert. Everybody’s part of the action, we’re all playing together and it’s more like a house party than a live show. Each song changes in genre and lots of them have activities. They’re interactive. There’s a mini drinking game within a big drinking game and there’s an Irish jig – really any genre you can think of, from electro-pop to cabaret to rockabilly. It’s a big party where everybody is just playing together.
Where were your biggest shows?
Online, probably. I do some Internet shows where I’ll perform Power Hours and people will play at home with me – we had some big crowds for that. But in person, I played really big shows in Seattle and Cleveland.
Do you play mostly colleges?
No. The people who are really into it aren’t really in college. They’re young professionals that still want to have that college vibe and get back to their partying roots. I was surprised to learn that it was an older crowd than people would expect – it’s kind of cool.
Do you also play the game?
No. When I’m performing it’s so hectic to keep the party going. I’ll be drinking but if I did the full Power Hour it would not be a good show.
What’s the crowd like in the beginning and then at the end?
Some people know exactly what they’re getting themselves into and they even drink beforehand. That’s just chaos the whole time, but it’s fun going into a crowd that hasn’t experienced it before. With a crowd that doesn’t know what they’re getting into – it’s a very different vibe toward the end. I do my best to get them into it and by 12 minutes they’re tapping their toes, by 30 minutes they’re playing cowbells on stage and clapping and chanting, and by the end it’s an uproar.
What’s the craziest thing that’s ever happened at one of your shows?
I was playing a private party at a ski chateau – we were playing outdoors and it was kind of a warm but snowy day. We were on a second floor balcony and this guy put a beer in his mouth and climbed out onto the railing and he did a backflip off the balcony into the snow with his beer in his mouth and then finished his beer. That was about halfway through my show and I was like, "Geez you stole my show." It’s nutso.
You have a huge following on YouTube and Twitter. Did that all just happen after your album?
It’s been sort of steady since I released that album and got a lot of press. Gizmodo and Mashable and Wired and Vice all wrote about my album and how it’s different because it’s a shot glass USB and I was in that legal battle over the term Power Hour, so I got this army of people really supporting me and it’s grown from there. I try to put out content to pull in more people. I’m headed in the right direction so I’m very excited about it.
Will you be playing Power Hours for a long time?
I think definitely it will be my bread and butter. I can make a party wherever – that’s what I love and it’s super fun, but of course as soon as I get home from this tour I’m working on more music that’s not necessarily about drinking; but I will always love Power Hours and bringing the party to people.
Follow Andrea Park on Twitter: @andreapark