Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Photos: Sunday night's Hurray for the Riff Raff at the Top Hat

Posted By on Tue, Aug 2, 2016 at 12:33 PM

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Photos of Red Hot Chilli Pipers at Celtic Festival

Posted By on Tue, Aug 2, 2016 at 12:32 PM

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Friday, July 22, 2016

Review: Star Trek Beyond only goes so far

Posted By on Fri, Jul 22, 2016 at 2:59 PM

Star Trek Beyond
  • Star Trek Beyond

At the beginning of the improbably named Star Trek Beyond, Captain James T. Kirk expresses his frustration and boredom at how “episodic” (his words, not mine) his life has become during the Enterprise’s five-year mission. This is funny to me, as the rest of the film plays out like an extra-long episode of Star Trek. This, though, isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

In 2009, I sat in the theater watching a crucial scene in the newly rebooted Star Trek where the younger versions of the iconic Kirk, Spock and Uhuru discuss their realization that they are now living in an alternate timeline, thanks to Eric Bana’s time-traveling Romulan mucking about in the past. This new Star Trek was establishing its own identity. At this moment in the film, my friend leaned over and whispered into my ear, “They beat you, nerd.”

What he meant, of course, is Star Trek is a series with a very focused, dedicated fanbase. These fans, myself included, are often stereotyped, fairly or not, as narrow, pedantic obsessives who find joy in tearing apart plotholes. My friend thought I would be angry that the film did away with the years of stories I’ve spent my whole life watching. I was not angry. Quite the opposite, I was incredibly happy. By splitting the timeline, the new Star Trek gave itself room to grow and find its own identity without being shackled with the baggage of over four decades of numerous movies, television shows and more tie-in material than you can shake a Spock at. Kirk and the rest of the crew of the NCC-1701 were free to create new, original stories in this much beloved franchise without worrying about stepping on any toes. Despite my friend’s implications, I was excited to see what new directions these new films would boldly go.

But instead of exploring a literal universe of unseen worlds and strange civilizations, 2013’s Star Trek Into Darkness just recycled the plot to Wrath of Khan. Star Trek Beyond at least to tries to tell an original story. And while there are several parts that come across as derivate of previous Trek films (at this point the big bad evil guy with a tragic backstory and a motivation toward revenge for ill-defined reasons is as much a part of Star Trek as the holodeck) it still tells its own, sometimes baffling story. By the end, though, just like those old episodes of the original series, nothing has really changed. Slightly more Redshirts died than usual, our main characters go through their own forgettable mini-arcs and Kirk and his crew head out for a series of more adventures. It’s as if nothing of consequence really happened. 

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Hours of Beauty: Terry Tempest Williams makes a plea for our national parks

Posted By on Thu, Jul 21, 2016 at 11:53 AM

Terry Tempest Williams
  • Terry Tempest Williams


I rarely read a book that fills me with envy. In her latest, The Hour of Land: A Personal Topography of America’s National Parks, Terry Tempest Williams, one of the most beloved and lyrical writers of the West, manages to make me envious in two ways. First, in order to write this collection of essays, Williams travelled to the corners of the United States visiting national parks—in some cases, multiple times. That’s something I would love to do. Furthermore, she doesn’t just visit the typical parks most of us know. Among the dozen she writes about, there are a few big-names: Glacier, Canyonlands, Acadia. But what about Effigy Mounds National Monument in Iowa? Or Gulf Islands National Seashore in Florida and Mississippi? Alcatraz Island? Who knew?

Park aficionados and history buffs know, of course, but for most of us, particularly those only vaguely familiar with the regions they inhabit, these more obscure parks hold some mystery. Williams visits them for us, and we should all travel with someone so thoughtful. Through her writing, we learn the history and landscape of the parks—though The Hour of Land is no guidebook. These are parks that, for various reasons, have a personal connection for Williams.
“Our national parks are memory palaces where our personal histories reside,” Williams writes about Wyoming’s Grand Teton National Park. This is the park where the author essentially grew up, her “Mother Park,” as she calls it—a favorite of her entire family. She tells of how her grandfather would go there, then her father and finally herself. (“Not a year of my life has passed without the Tetons’ jagged presence, not one,” she writes). She writes of how her favorite, what she believed was the Grand Teton, turned out to be Mount Moran and how that realization became an important moment for her. “I did not want to be told where to look for power,” she says, after being corrected by her father. “I no longer believed in the names of things. I knew where the power was held for me.”
I enjoy both these personal anecdotes and learning about the political wrangling it took for these places to become national parks. Our wild spaces have always been threatened, and their protection has usually fallen on a devoted few to rise up and defend them. Those issues continue to echo today, as privatization of public lands looms, “Drill, baby, drill!” continues to be chanted, and so on. Williams frames her points clearly and passionately, making the case that we need these places, culturally and spiritually—the wilder the better—and that it is critical we continue to protect them.
That leads me to the second area of envy for me: the beauty of Williams’ writing. Describing a walk through Gettysburg National Military Park with her husband, Brooke, and writer Rick Bass, Williams writes, “We flush a meadowlark. I didn’t know they were here. Their yellow breasts are a song before they even open their beaks.” I can’t imagine looking at a meadowlark the same again. The description crushes me.
That’s one example; gorgeous sentences are found on every page, holding up against anything else Williams has ever written (including her acclaimed 1991 memoir, Refuge: An Unnatural History of Family and Place). Perhaps you are someone who doesn’t hike. You never spend hours climbing steep series of switchbacks just to gain a beloved vista. If you are such a reader, Williams’ writing becomes that vista. She provides the kind of images that will make you want to return to them time and again, even if it’s just from your favorite reading chair.
Some books, on the beauty of their packaging alone, deserve to sit on a bookshelf in pristine condition. The Hour of Land is one of them. The hardcover first edition is lovely, with a turquoise title sleeve that wraps around a gorgeous black and white photograph of the iconic cliff face of Yosemite National Park’s El Capitan. Other books cry out to be battered, as they are read, re-read and shared among friends. This book is one of those, too. I expect mine to be scuffed and beat up over the next couple years, the corners bent, even more pages than now dog-eared for reference. Coffee splashes in places, maybe even a few Cheetos stains on others. Some would argue such treatment is a crime against books. I call it a tribute to a book that deserves praise in every possible way.
Terry Tempest Williams reads from The Hour of Land at the University Center Ballroom tonight, Thu., July 21, at 7 PM.

The Hour of Land: A Personal Topography of America’s National Parks
Terry Tempest Williams
hardcover, Sarah Crichton Books
416 pages, $27

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

About last night: Protoje and the Indiggnation at the Top Hat

Posted By on Wed, Jul 20, 2016 at 10:18 AM

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Friday, July 15, 2016

Spotlight: Cantores de Cienfuegos at the International Choral Festival

Posted By on Fri, Jul 15, 2016 at 1:21 PM

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The International Choral Festival has introduced several magnificent choirs from around the world to the Missoula community this week. We wrote about some of the anticipated highlights last week, including the buzzworthy Cuban choir, Cantores de Cienfuegos: 

For several years, the choral festival organizers have been hearing about Cantores de Cienfuegos. The Cuban choir, which has been performing since 1962, was accepted to the festival two years ago, but they didn't have the money to come. Still, they were optimistic. "Every time Americans were down there and would hear them sing, [the choir] would announce from stage, 'We are going to Missoula, Montana!'" says the festival Executive Director Anne Marie Brinkman. "As a result, people would come back to the U.S. and call my office—from Hawaii, Texas, California, Maryland—all wanting to know if they can help get them here." Through local and state fundraising, the choir will be able to come, which means you get to see what all the fuss is about.

Cantores de Cienfuegos is here now, and will be performing today and in tomorrow's finale concert. The singers make about $25 a month, and the chances of them making the trip on their own was zero until a group called Cuban Choir to Montana—which includes people from the Hi-Line, Great Falls and Missoula—began fundraising to get them here. Through the Missoula Community Foundation, the group has raised about $30,000 from individual donors and grants. They also were able to get an additional $20,000 loan from an anonymous donor, which they are trying to pay back over the next few months. They're hoping people in the community, especially after seeing the choir sing, will be moved to help out.

As more cruise ships from the U.S. have visited the country, aka The Pearl of the Antilles, word has gotten back to the International Choral Festival that they are one of the biggest highlights.
"Cuba is known as "The Island that Dances," says Yvonee Gritzner, one of the fundraisers. "But in addition to the exquisite classical training, the Latin rhythms they bring will literary move people to get on their feet."

Earlier this week, the choir sang at Paris Gibson Square Museum of Art in Great Falls and at Florence-Carlton Community Church in Florence (who donated $5,000 to the cause.) You can check out the choir this afternoon at the Dennison Theatre at 4:30 p.m. when they sing with Missoula's own youth choir, Bella Armonia Youth Chorale and/or see them at 7:30 p.m. at the Music Recital Hall where they will sing with Ontario's Spurrell Studio Choir and Costa Rica's Coro Intermezzo. The finale takes place at the Adams Center and includes a couple songs from each choir, plus a mass choir performance. Check out the full festival schedule at choralfestival.org.

Those wanting to contribute to the Cuba choir fund can send a check to Missoula Community Foundation, P.O. Box 8806, Missoula, MT 59807, writing “Cuban Choir to Montana” in the memo. To make online donations, go to missoulacommunityfoundation.org, click on the “donate now” button and scroll to “Cuban Choir to Montana.”

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Photos from Friday night's Blitzen Trapper show at the Top Hat

Posted By on Tue, Jul 12, 2016 at 5:55 PM

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Thursday, July 7, 2016

Eat Strike, White Night, tonight? Alright.

Posted By on Thu, Jul 7, 2016 at 2:48 PM

Eat Strike's Michael Siebert.
  • Eat Strike's Michael Siebert.

Music's a thing I do a lot of thinking about, and I love how the VFW does this Residency Night deal because it offers Missoula bands four or so Thursdays to ply their wares, change up their set, invite friends to play, and you know, kind of be on display a little bit. July's VFW band is Eat Strike, Missoulians who play frenetic punk/hardcore. I tend to think of the word "screamo" as a little pejorative, if not lazy, but their's is definitely screamy music. It makes me think of the Blood Brothers from Seattle, and jams like that. I like how frantic and wild it is.

Also playing this show are the California band White Night who played a Total Fest a couple years ago, and who have a new record on Burger Record label. White Night are refreshingly difficult to pigeonhole. They're on this garage rock label, but they're pretty poppy and have some great, lush melodies and are a complete pogo-inducing ton of fun.

There's more tunes, Buddy Jackson and Rock & Roll Girlfriend, both from around here. So that's nice. Show starts at summer show time (doors at 9PM, show at 10PM). Watch Eat Strike's July Residency for some blackened metal from Flagstaff's Swamp Wolf too. They rage. 

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Thursday, June 30, 2016

About last night: Photos by Williams Munoz from Widespread Panic's concert at Ogren Park

Posted By on Thu, Jun 30, 2016 at 10:03 AM

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Kickstarter: Seth Roby and Aaron Parrett's letterpress book of stories and engravings

Posted By on Thu, Jun 30, 2016 at 9:40 AM

Aaron Parrett running the Chandler & Price letterpress.
  • Aaron Parrett running the Chandler & Price letterpress.

Seth Roby and Aaron Parrett are making a book together, letter by letter and stitch by stitch. Parrett, who recently started a letterpress operation in Helena, Territorial Press Studio, has written three books: Literary Butte: A History in Novels and Film, Montana Then and Now and A Princess of Mars (E. R. Burroughs), annotated by Aaron Parrett. Roby is a longtime wood engraving artist.

The letterpress book will include 13 short stories by Parrett and 13 images by Roby. Their Kickstarter campaign runs 13 more days and they still need to raise about $3,000 to cover the cost of the materials for each handmade book. Why all the work? Letterpress is how books were made from the mid-15th century through the 19th century. Those who still work in the craft see it as an art worth preserving.

“I am interested in work that shows the artist hand," says Roby in their campaign page. "Printmaking and its various techniques are all about the direct interpretation of the artist hand and the surface of a plate. As an artist who focuses on change I am always amazed to find that printmaking techniques have stood up to the test of time and remain almost as they were several hundreds of years ago."

Check out the video from their campaign here.
An engraving by Seth Roby.
  • An engraving by Seth Roby.


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