If Thursday provided a good introduction to Total Fest, last night proved the crazy amount of energy the indie rock festival is capable of generating. Everything great about the first night was amplified on the second. The crowds were bigger, the bands were more numerous, and both the Palace and Badlander boasted a dual-stage setup, allowing for a dizzying amount of choice in evening entertainment. It’s enough to make me wish I could split in two and catch every band.
I started the evening out at the Badlander with the excellent Bird’s Mile Home. Playing first in the scheduled line-up seems to be a rough gig; the audience is too sparse, too detached, and too sober. But Bird’s Mile Home owned the stage regardless. With a ripping guitar and deliciously swooping cello, they reminded me a bit of fellow country-western-punk balladeers Murder by Death. That’s almost always a good thing in my book.
Sneaking down to the Palace, I managed to catch the tail end of Streetlight People’s set. I was glad I did. Their infectiousness inspired all but the most sullen bystanders to some variety of dance. Up next, Miss Lana Rebel brought a welcome mellow vibe to the stage. After all the bluster and hyperactivity, it was great to chill out with some great country. With her easy smile and slight southern drawl, Lana wielded a charming stage presence that was kind of irresistible.
Sugar Sugar Sugar took the first stage next at the Palace. Even those adverse to the genre would be hard-pressed to deny these hard rockers their status as instrument virtuosos. The guy in front of me certainly agreed. His excitement every time Sugar Sugar Sugar laid out a new hook was reminiscent of a kid on Christmas Day, and he expressed his approval with his patented rock moves: the reverse headbang, the air guitar and the hip pivot (that’s all you need to know). I admired his enthusiasm. However, every time he tossed his golden curls of envied hair back in my direction, I couldn’t help but imagine the artillery barrage of dandruff that he likely launched my way.
One night left to go and, so far, Total Fest has been an invigorating and incredibly fun experience. I walked away with a music high and several new bands to follow. If next year finds me living outside of Missoula, I just might have to make the pilgrimage back and enjoy my sophomore year as a Total Fest devotee.