On March 30, Zoo City Apparel, on 139 E. Main St., hosts a farewell blowout pop-shot super show! Featuring the crushingly soothing beauty of Seattle’s Helms Alee, Missoula’s own hairy wunderkinds Total Combined Weight and a buncha other bands, all as a fundraiser for our own massive awesomeness that is TotalFest, Thee Premier Musica Festivus of Missoula, Montana. I can’t think of a better way for Zoo City Apparel to go out than like this, unless you’re Thelma and Louise of course.
Zoo City Apparel was a spacious, vibrant clothing shop and all-ages venue, situa-located right in the middle tum-tum of a rapidly changing downtown Missoula. So many good shows were played and experienced there, man, and it was super dooper. The founders shut down the shop on March 1 to concentrate on continuing the 406 clothing line.
In a short time, Zoo City garnered enough word-of-mouth and popularity to showcase many amazing and legendary musicians, like Mike Watt of the Minutemen, and been privy to our proud town’s little scene of weirdo rock misfits. Its success as a venue, I most heartily believe, was thanks to the relaxed nature of its finely distinguished founders and the passionate promoters and showgoers. It epitomized that wonderful do-it-yourself ethic that all the cool kids are into nowadays and was a safe place for the peeps who love music but do not necessarily enjoy the drunken bar scene so prevalent in a college town.
I anticipate the farewell show to be one awesome and notable endeavor with a crowd to match. Helms Alee have always created and maintained an audience of converts to its pummeling, loud-as-shit, Pacific Northwest Super Rock, and if that ain't your cup of tea (you loser) there is variety to the night. Indianapolis’ Vacation Club will be providing that poppy lo-fi garagey stuff that seems to have become all the rage lately: It’s catchy, it’s fun, yeah. Crys, which is even more lo-fi, will probably make a statement, too, with their reverb drenched, driving little post-punk style ditties. So something for everyone and a fitting end to the “—ness” that was Zoo City Apparel.
-Tim Arrowtop plays in bands including Birds Mile Home and Buddy Jackson.
In one of the more unusual events to pop up in town in a while, the Ole Beck VFW hosts a screening of Floating Oceans, a 40-minute stop-motion animated opera by video artist and composer Alexis Gideon. It first premiered in October 2012 at a Portland theater.
From the description: “Video Musics III: Floating Oceans contrasts the vivid dreams of a nameless poet-protagonist with the foreboding routine of pedestrian life. When the protagonist attends a bourgeois dinner party, he hears different guests´ tales, each in its own melodic and visual style, affording glimpses of inchoate longing through the tattered veil of dinner-party patter.”
It looks to be a stimulating and somewhat unsettling experience.
Check out the trailer:
Floating Oceans screens at the VFW at 7 PM, with a Q & A with the director immediately following.
If you've been to a show in the Missoula indie/punk scene at all in the last few months, you've likely run across the effervescent John Yingling, photographer and editor of the Gonzo Chicago blog.
Gonzo Chicago started out documenting, well, Chicago, but since Yingling moved to Missoula last fall, he's been photographing and filming Missoula events and posting the results online—all for the joy of it, saying he doesn't expect payment for covering DIY shows.
He explained how he got started in a post for Impose Magazine, saying, "I started Gonzo Chicago in 2007 with a shitty point and shoot Canon ELPH, simply filming bands in DIY spots and other venues. Some of the things I was seeing in Chicago's underground were blowing my mind."
He goes on to explain why he started bringing a camera: "I could never find any music online from a lot of the bands I was seeing in these warehouses and basement shows, so it was hard to check out what I was going to see."
Here's Yingling's video of Thee Oh Sees show at Zoo City Apparel:
Yingling has also jumped into the promoter game, booking Chicago rock duo White Mystery at the VFW on April 10 in Missoula. He promises there's more to come, telling the Indy: "Chicago is home base for any foreseeable future. I'll return there in November, but Missoula has been phenomenal, and is part of an insane project to be launched in summer."
I ride a bike or walk to work most mornings, mostly because I live close enough and it's my preference, but also because, you know, you don't drive if you don't have to. I'm probably gonna sound like a crank/curmudgeon here, but I found two things sort of annoying in the small piece on cycling "Missoula stacks up" in the Feb. 14th Indy. Randy Neufeld, director of the SCRAM Cycling Fund was in town eyeballing our city's friendliness from a cyclist's perspective. On balance, according to Neufeld, Missoula's on the right track, with our river trails and "cross-river connectivity" and soforth.
What got me was that Neufeld mentioned that "cross traffic would stop" on a couple of occasions when he was attempting to "cross a slightly busier arterial."
I don't know if it's just me, but I hate this practice. It strikes me as misguided charity from motorists who I'd rather treated bikes like other vehicles, albeit without the thousands of pounds of steel enclosure (and motor). I mean, I'll take the charity to an aggressive road-hogging driver, but I've also seen cars swing out from behind these would-be good Samaritans and come dangerously close to smacking cyclists. Ultimately, I think we Missoulians are a conscientious lot. We stop for pedestrians and too many of us lump cyclists in with walkers, who legally have right of way at street crossings. I imagine somebody's done the research and can talk more intelligently about what data tell us, but my gut tells me that a car waving me across Higgins Avenue when they don't have a stop sign ain't totally safe. I'll take a traffic circle at a crappy intersection to having to count on driver charity, if I've got a choice.
Neufeld also recommended a bike share program among the things we could do here. In fact, we had a pretty DIY version of that in the latish '90s here. Some green-painted junkers are still submerged in the Clark Fork. I think if you look off the pedestrian bridge on a day with good water visibility, you can see one or two.
Anyhow, cool idea and all, but uh, we've got Free Cycles Missoula, and the Missoula Institute for Sustainable Travel, which are responsible for I'm sure thousands of bikes getting recycled, repaired and made usable again. It surprised the hell out of me to not see that as part of the assessment. It's a little like saying "You should start a building material re-use nonprofit here" or "How 'bout thinking about starting a documentary film festival?."
I prefer the Free Cycles model, which requires some labor, learning basic mechanical skills and volunteerism, all of which I think ensure a little more built-in ownership/responsibility in bike riders, compared to the random green-painted Montgomery Wards junkers parked in front of Charlie's, often with flat tires and bent-ass handlebars. The University of Montana has a bike loan program for anybody with a Griz Card, too.
At the end of the day, I'm 100-percent in on a much more cyclist and alternative transport-centered Missoula. I just think we've got to look at what's happening now that's making this town pretty vibrant before breaking out the cookie-cutter ideas.
The trailer shows what looks to be a feature-length romp with this high-energy band. The trailer description says, "Too happy-go-lucky for the earnest fans of roots music, too plaid and pragmatic for the hippies, too old and hairy for the mainstream, too young to be called legends."
Although Missoula has adopted the Gourds as its own, the band calls Austin home. So it makes sense that the film's world premiere will happen at SXSW 2013 next month.
Check out the trailer right here, and be sure to watch for a shot of a packed, raucous Wilma crowd at the end:
This year's winners of the Big Sky Documentary Film Festival have just been announced, and this weekend, you'll get a chance to catch or re-watch all of them.
Some Indy staffers aren't surprised to see that the heavy-yet-inspirational Blood Brother, which focuses on HIV-infected orphans in India, took the top prize for Best Feature.
Not Yet Begun to Fight, which follows a retired Marine as he teaches fly fishing in Montana to wounded veterans, earned the 2013 Big Sky Award for best film depicting the American West.
As for shorts, Best Mini Documentary goes to the nine-minute Amar, about a teenage boy's daily struggles. Best Short Doc goes to Slomo, about a man who quits working as a neurologist to find more meaning.
Other award-winning shorts included Thick Dark Fog, which took the Big Sky Artistic Vision award for showing a Lakota Indian's search for his heritage after a boarding school education took it away.
A press release notes that festival organizers expect to pass last year's attendance of 20,000.
You haven't missed your chance to see the favorites, either, since the festival re-screens winners and favorites, such as Indy-recommended docs like Bad Brains: A Band in D.C. and Central Park Five.
Here's a list of rescreenings:
It promises to be a tearful Thursday for the Big Sky Documentary Film Festival.
Evening showings kick off at 5 p.m. with Blood Brother, which follows a young American man who travels to India and ends up working with HIV-positive orphans. Our usually stoic editor, Skylar Browning, wrote about it, saying, “I cried during most of the second half—and choked up again while telling my wife about it afterwards.”
Blood Brother screens at the Wilma at 5 PM.
Opposite Blood Brother is Racing the Rez, where Navajo and Hopi high school cross-country runners compete for pride and glory. Born to Run author Christopher McDougall said, “If it’s not the best running movie ever made, it’s damn sure in the fight.”
Racing the Rez screens at the Crystal at 5 PM.
Remember Polaroids? Time Zero: The Last Year of Polaroid Film sure does. The 2012 doc is a memorial of a time when it was exciting to instantly see a picture. Includes interviews with people who are passionate about Polaroids, like John Waters, and others working to keep the art alive.
Time Zero screens at the Wilma at 7 PM.
For an oldie-but-goodie, Be Here to Love Me: A Film About Townes Van Zandt, 2004, offers a close look at the legendary and self-destructive singer-songwriter.
Be Here to Love Me screens at the Crystal at 7:20 PM.
The day includes a late addition, Valentine Road, a 2013 HBO film that explores the events leading to the 2008 death of 15-year-old openly gay student, Larry King, who was shot execution-style in a classroom by Brandon McInerney, then 14. Premiering in Montana after Sundance buzz.
Valentine Road screens at the Wilma at 9 PM.
Click here for all Big Sky Documentary Film Festival screenings.
It is 10 in the morning when I arrive at the Wilma for the first full day of films at the Big Sky Documentary Film Festival. I'm a bit bleary from the opening night party where wine flowed freely like the river outside.
There is something special about giving in to the gravity of the Film Fest…letting it carry me from film to film all week long, good film or bad film I care only a little, relinquishing control I am sure I'll find a vantage point to see just about anything.
One of the things I like best about the Film Fest is the variety of documentaries. It is like looking at the world from all manner of eyeballs. In one morning, I have seen the world through the view of a post-genocide-Rwandan-women's-drumming-troupe who introduce to their home, for the first time ever, ice-cream! (I feel inspired). I am an Eider duck who depends on the ice and water of the Hudson Bay, as well as, the extremely crafty Inuits who've evolved as much as the ducks to live in that ecosystem (I'm in awe). No shit! In Tajikistan hundreds of men on horse back attempt to grab a dead goat by the leg and score goals!? (mouth hangs open).
There is so much to learn here and it is the first day. I am bit overwhelmed. Will any of it stay with me by the end of the festival? Regardless, I look forward to being receptive to stories from all over the world, and perhaps on my sleepy-eyed perch I'll learn something that wakes me up.
The Big Sky Documentary Film Festival continues through Sunday, February 24. Get out and see some documentary films!
Last summer was a wonderful blur of rock shows, frito pie, beer drinking and lady arm wrestling, thanks to Zoo City Apparel. It was so strange to show up to a rock show at the downtown clothing venue before the sun had set, hanging out in front of a rack of 406 shirts and big windows, eating snacks and watching musicians set up on stage. ZCA has offered a badly needed, non-bar, all-ages place to hear music—everything from one guy playing guitar to gregarious 10-member Total Fest bands to sludgy metal groups. And this fall and winter, under the cover of darkness, ZCA’s early shows felt like endless evenings of sweat and tunes that often led into after-hours parties elsewhere...or at the Oxford.
No longer. Zoo City Apparel has announced it will be moving out of the space March 1. The change is bittersweet. Bitter because we’re losing this fantastic music venue, which I expect will hold memories for people for years to come. Sweet because it’s a move that will allow the company to focus on the business of custom printing and not spreading themselves thin also running a retail store. Owner Chris Johnson created the 406 ® brand apparel, which gained popularity for those of us who have area code pride—and that’s most of us. That brand will not be going anywhere. Johnson and the local store The Green Light now have a partnership where the Green Light will take over sales and distribution of the brand. That means it’ll be expanded online and distributed across the state in a way that Johnson didn’t have time to do while also running the custom print shop.
“I almost felt a little of the old Catholic guilt on that,” Johnsons says. “People were having a hard time getting [the apparel] and I think we have a responsibility to make sure they get it."
The print shop will be expanded in the Ceretana building, which may or may not be open to the public, but will not be a retail space.
ZCA as a music space never made much business sense, but it was a passion for Johnson and his friends.
“To provide a space that’s all ages and had the kind of music we had there and to have it be as laid back as it was, it needs a parent organization," he says. "Typically it costs us money. But it’s close to all our hearts. We played host but the shows were a community effort. I didn’t realize it would be this big. People got pretty attached. For good reason. It was a good, easy way to get music out there."
You can see two more shows at Zoo City Apparel this month, before they close. And Johnson says there might be a last hurrah party, but it's up in the air.
Catch Spencer's album release with King Elephant, Buddy Jackson and Cory Fay Sun., Feb. 17, at 6 PM. $3. Catch the UM Irish Studies Punk Rock Fundraiser Sat., Feb. 23. Doors open at 5 PM. Cover TBA. Zoo City Apparel, 139 E. Main
Any show that starts off this way has my complete attention, and it deserves yours. That's Gang of Fun's theme music (Wowee by the Bran Flakes), for y'all late-sleepers on Sunday mornings between 8:00 and 10:00 AM... on KBGA 89.9 FM. You're missing out! Gang of Fun is fun. It's a hell of alot of fun, in fact, and while it's oriented to keep younger listeners listening, if you're into hearing all things weird and awesome, from bizarre kitsch and novelty children's music, to some genuinely, timelessly classic stuff, like African folk tales, Smithsonian Folkways kids songs, Shonen Knife, Toots and the Maytals, Hasil Adkins this is your jam. Oh, and my all time favorite band that I just learned about from Gang Of Fun, Bent Bolt and the Nuts, holy shit. They're on there too.
What I like about Gang of Fun is the theme that Julie and Jasmine dream up each week, and trying to figure it out before they come on and explain what it is. Sometimes it's food, other times it's grooviness, other times, hey, I don't remember all the themes. But each week's got one. And there's always either a rad story, or more recently some great plays. Gang of Fun is super successful at being a show aimed at kids that doesn't strictly play kid music. It's also got the awesome innocence of good fun childhood musical exploration, and wonder. That ain't easy stuff to capture, friend, and it's here in spades.
Julie's half of a music collecting/appreciating juggernaut, and it translates to a pretty excellently curated crop of stuff each week. I mean, Jasmine's no slouch either, but I know less about whether her living room might collapse under the weight of its records. GANG OF FUN! It's gonna mean that a generation of Missoula kids grow up knowing who Donovan, the Kinks and Small Faces are, and I for one, am in favor of that.
It's worth noting that this past Saturday, February 9th during H Rap's show began KBGA's annual fundraising drive, Radiothon, dig deep. 406-243-KBGA to donate, or through the website. The premiums are primo, the programmin's priceless. The DJ pizza, welll.... Let's leave at that.
This is part three in my spotlight on the shows of KBGA, a radio station you can stream from kbga.org, and listen to in Missoula at 89.9 FM.