If you’ve been to a Marching Arts event in the last several years, odds are you’ve passed by someone wearing a Lot Riot shirt. From subtle nod’s to the marching arts to more vibrant tie-die tee’s, Lot Riot’s apparel lineup has blurred the lines between “another band t-shirt” and modern streetwear.
Matt Verburg, founder of the Marching Percussion inspired apparel company, got his start in music like many. The local band program put on a demonstration of various instruments at Matt’s elementary school, including several percussion instruments. From that point forward, Matt was hooked. “The requirement to become a middle school percussionist was to rub your belly and pat your head at the same time. When I showed The Director I could do it like 8 different ways with different hands and different rotations, he let me into the percussion section.”
At around the same time Verburg was learning how to hold a stick, His older sister (an oboe player) joined the Front Ensemble in her high school’s marching band, where she would eventually join the Bass line.
“I would go to band rehearsals, football games, and just listen to the drum instructors talk about rolling your toes and keeping your heels off when you’re crabbing - I thought it was the weirdest, coolest thing.”
Matt went on to spend 4 years on the school’s snareline, followed by 4 summer’s on snare with Southwind Drum & Bugle Corps during their years in Kentucky. He even performed at Disney World as a Toy Solider, among other casted roles.
While pursuing both a Bachelors and Masters degree in Entrepreneurship, Matt Verburg stayed plugged into the percussion community through teaching for a number of years. From Southwind and Madison Scouts, Verburg eventually went onto create “The Creek” Independent Percussion Ensemble. The Creek debuted in WGI’s Independent A Class in 2008, only to work their way up to Independent World Finals by the end of the season. After 4 successful seasons with the Creek, Matt began to discover where his love for the activity really came from.
“The cultural element was the real hidden treasure. Everyone's seen a Marching Band. Not too many people know what goes into it, or know what kind of people are building that culture and experience”
As he was finishing a masters degree in Entrepreneurship, Verburg was searching for ways to stay involved beyond teaching. Focused on the culture of the percussion ensembles he was working with, Matt begin to notice something. Students would show up to practice in their band shirts, and change into something else the instant they got out of rehearsal. That’s when the lightbulb moment came.
Much in the same way skaters, surfers, and athletes of all kinds have brands that represent them, he saw an opportunity for musicians to be represented in a similar fashion. “What we do is not only physically and mentally challenging, but it’s artistic as well, and has scholastic benefits. What we do is as much of a lifestyle as many of these activities.”
“I don’t consider myself an artist, but I’ve always had a passion for print and graphics. At some point I just presented a book of pencil sketches to the Southwind souvenir manager, and thats when it started.” Southwind went on to produce a few of Matt’s designs that summer.
ON Art and business
“I want desperately for this activity to get the light shined on it. But even more important than that, I want the people of this activity to feel respected. It’s never just been about building a sustainable business. It has 100% been about combining something I’m passionate about, along with something that could lift up a ton of people in the process.”
While Matt is the sole owner and full-time employee of Lot Riot, there is a core team of crew members that help setup and run the booth at shows. Much like a performance ensemble, the Lot Riot crew has a goal to be towards the top of the activity in terms of their designs, garment quality, and in the interactions they have with performers and parents at shows.
Running a business, no matter how many people are involved, is no easy task. Verburg compares it to his experiences participating in the activity: “I feel like as a performer, things are asked of you that you don’t always want to do. When you roll off a bus in Kansas at 3AM, they don’t ask for a show of hands of who wants to put in 100% the following day.”
His time as a teacher helped him learn how to ask for that effort of others. “I’ve learned all of these lessons through being in the marching arts.”
The name “Lot Riot” of course pays tribute to the parking lots where drumlines warm up, rehearse, and bond after shows.
“The parking lot is where a lot of us grew up in our skills, and developed into being performers. We’re not talking about the stadium where you’re seeing the finished product, we’re talking about the gritty, dirty, metronome beeping life that is the parking lot.”
“Riot” came naturally as a term to depict musicians hanging out and having fun in the lot. The initials “LR” also certainly worked in favor of a percussion focused brand.
Instead of focusing on the uniformed, finished production you see on a field or floor, Lot Riot is more interested in shining a light on what happens in the lot both after school and before a show. As Verburg puts it, the “shared sacrifice, shared misery. and shared glory” that unites every drummer who has picked up a pair of sticks.
“We want to shake the hands of every single person that sweats in that parking lot. Thats what we hope Lot Riot does. “
You can check out Lot Riot’s collection of quality merchandise on their website, or at the following DCI Show’s this summer:
July 18th - Denton, Texas
July 20th - San Antonio, Texas
July 22nd - Mesquite, Texas
July 26th - Murfreesboro, Tennessee
July 27th - Atlanta, Georgia
Aug. 8-10th - Indianapolis - DCI Championships