Monday, October 28, 2013

UPDATE: Today is the last chance to get tickets for The Woman in Black Halloween show at The Keep

Posted By on Mon, Oct 28, 2013 at 9:08 AM

UPDATE: If you want to see the Halloween dinner theater production of The Woman in Black at The Keep you have to get your tickets today by 5 PM.
Last night's show was spooky and fun. If you love Wuthering Heights or any other eerie old-timey book/BBS television series, you'll dig this. Your last chance to see it is Halloween, this Thu., Oct. 31. The night starts with a dinner at 6 PM followed by a presentation of The Woman in Black. $50. Call 406.728.7529 or visit for ticket info by 5 PM today.

I've been searching for some of the most terrifying ghost stories in existence. The ones told best under a blanket with just a flashlight. Or inside an abandoned building, huddled around a jug of Carlo Rossi. You know The Golden Arm where the storyteller says, "Have you seen my golden arm. Have you seen MY GOLDEN ARM?" Over and over before grabbing the person next to them and yelling, "You've got it!" Or the story of the singing bone. Or one of the Grimm's Fairytales where young children have been murdered and buried in the yard, only to come back to haunt the perpetrator. I don't think I made that one up.

In any case, tonight you can get lost in a fantastic ghost story called The Woman in Black, when you head down to the Zootown Arts Community Center for the 7:30 PM show. The play, directed by Andy Meyers, is an Out of the Box Production from MCT inc. It's a version of the novella by Susan Hill. In the original story, a young lawyer tries to put a deceased old woman's affairs in order at a place called Nine Lives Causeway, which is surrounded by marshes and the sea. High tide isolates the estate, ominously called the Eel Marsh House. (I would never go there, would you? But poor sods from stories always do foolish things.) There is a woman in black who wonders the place, and for a long time we know nothing of who she is. In the play version, the audience gets to hear the whole story told from the lawyers point-of-view, years later, in a story-within-a-story scenario.

As with any ghost tale, you must get yourself in the mood. This is a good one. It'll get you in the spirit of the season.

The show, we are told, is not for children.

The Woman in Black shows at the Zootown Arts Community Center tonight, Oct. 27, and again at The Keep, Oct. 31, at 7:30 PM both nights. The performance at the Keep includes a 6 PM dinner. call 406.728.7529 or visit for ticket info.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Grunt plays Saturday, releases vinyl.

Posted By on Fri, Oct 18, 2013 at 4:17 PM

Grunt, a Great Falls/Missoula band, have been plying their grindy hardcore for a couple years now, as far as we can tell. They emerged from the ashes of the short-lived Semen Segal who I think we can say without any need for challenge are the only Montana band who ever covered Caustic Christ. Missoula's Eat Records put out a 7" and the band immediately broke up, or perhaps they were already broken up, and the 7" got released as a posthumous deal. Regardless, Eat curates a pretty good and eclectic set of releases and makes me appreciate the little weird underground pockets in Missoula. That record's definitely still in print, if you were wondering.


That there's extreme music coming from Great Falls makes me happy on a Friday. The other thing that makes me happy is the ambition these guys are displaying. They're currently planning a tour, regularly travel around the state for DIY shows, and played Billings' Richard Dreyfest, with great bands like Mr. Dad and Noise Noise Noise, and are recording regularly. Here's a link to Grunt's demo tape.

Three final notes:
1) Marcus Swafford from Mahamawaldi plays bass for them.
2) Grunt releases a 12" at their show on October 19th.
3) That October 19th show is with Kylesa, Pinkish Black and Sierra at the Palace Lounge. Grunt play at 9PM.

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Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Oll Breds avert musical shutdown. Tonight at the ZACC.

Posted By on Wed, Oct 16, 2013 at 1:21 PM

Missoula band Oll Breds quietly released a digital album called Charm right in time for their Total Fest appearance at Free Cycles. Since I came of age going to see music in the late '80s and '90s and apparently need a jewel case and abt. 4 oz. of plastic accompanying every piece of music I own, I hadn't really dug into the thing but cursorily until now. It's friggin' good!


You can buy it for free. Which means they trust that you'll contribute what you can. A baffling concept again for me, but hey man, it's the 2000s, right? Enough, though, about me and my need for physical media and currency exchange. Oll Breds, man. This is the band to watch as they play house shows and punk shows and shows period. Just two pieces, guitar/drums and vocals but a surprisingly full-sounding outfit. Pop music and rock and roll focused hard on the songs and vibe, and charmingly without the marketing/fame-ambition that seems to kind of spoil stuff.

This song in particular had a kind of Robert Pollard/GBV vibe, without that uh, haughty or sort of English thing he does. I mean, I get the shallowness of needing to compare constantly, but simultaneously man, a person needs his or her reference points. And certainly Guided By Voices got compared plenty to others.
Here's When Yer Down.

They play tonight, incidentally (October 16, 8PM) at the ZACC Below, 235 N. 1st West, which is the basement there at the Zootown Arts Community Center. You get in through the ZACC's wooden stairs off the back parking lot. It's all ages. If you're under age 14, the show's free for you. If you're 15+, it's $6 at the door. The Bugs and Mountain Shark play too.

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Friday, October 11, 2013

Tonight at the Headwaters Dance Studio: a one-hour, underground showcase for those who love an intimate setting

Posted By on Fri, Oct 11, 2013 at 12:58 PM

If you haven't heard of the Underground Studio Showcase, you are forgiven. Underground events tend to be this way: by word-of-mouth, and a little secretive. The one hour showcase, hosted by Amy Ragsdale of Headwaters Dance Co., takes place in her dance studio behind her home, and it happens only twice a year, once in the Spring and once in the Fall. And it can be anything from dance to theater to music to literary readings. The studio provides an intimate setting—it seats only 40 people, and performers are often in the middle of the room, making it feel cozy, giving you a chance to see various angles of a performance. Though it's not spontaneous it feels spontaneous, like you're in someone's living room and suddenly a person shows up to entertain the guests.


One of my favorites was in Feb. 2012 when Brian Gerke and Steinunn Ketilsdóttir performed a dance piece that entailed them locking mouths—jaws nearly unhinged—and moving together as they breathed into each other's bodies. It was strange and magical, and it induced a sense of urgency since they were breathing rapidly. These showcases are good for seeing experimental artists and favorite local artists showing off their talents in this intimate little space.
Past performers have included dancers from Headwaters Dance Co. and Bare Bait Dance; writers like Fred Haefele, Caroline Patterson, Judy Blunt, Josh Slotnick and Melissa Mylchreest; and music from the Floating Feather Ensemble, Ouzel, the Tuesday Night Flute Club, the Montana Womens Chorus and the Childbloom Guitar Ensemble.
Tonight's show offers dance from Headwaters Dance Co. who will be presenting two pieces from their upcoming concert; a performance from comediennes Teresa Waldorf and Rosie Ayers who are presenting "Lucinda and Lulinda, the Home Shopping Girls"; and writer Kim Zupan, best known for his short stories about Montana. And there's wine and cheese.
Headwaters Dance Co. presents: The Fall Underground Studio Showcase, Friday, Oct. 11, at 7:30 PM. $5 at the door. Performance is at Headwaters' Home Studio (go to for street address) or contact Amy Ragsdale, 728-1131, Get there early. Seating is limited to 40. No reservations.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Oh give me a f*cking break already, enough with this about "nowhere to rock."

Posted By on Fri, Sep 13, 2013 at 2:07 PM

So, the Kaimin ran this article, which—aside from the fact that DIY/punk in Montana is now associated with the Naval Jack or Stars and Bars (a symbol of slavery to most Americans)—perpetuates this total fallacy of a myth of a crock of sh*t that is "there's nowhere for the all-ages kids to do their rock shows." Man, I dig Mahamawaldi. Stuff is wild, weird and I like his description of it. I also like the diverse collection of Missoulians whom I respect, (i.e. Marty, Chris, Kia) who give their two cents. I like that Marcus and Matt got this funky space together and held some epically raging shows there. And I've slowed down my showgoing out of necessity in the past well, about 20 months, so I'm lame enough to have to say that I never made it there.


So here's my problem with this: mostly, it's the g.d. headline. There is a place to rock. It's called the ZACC. A mere crushed Pabst-can's toss away from the Hammer Haus. Yeah, and because it's a place that seeks to make its wares available to Missoulians of all ages, the shows happen to be boozeless, god bless 'em. And it appears to be a problem for attendance at these shows, but I tell you what, in my 20 years or so of trying to convince people to come and check out bands, there've been worse times. Man, in the '90s I lost many a rental payment at the Union Hall on a Tuesday... you daggone whippersnappers!

For a $60 room fee and a small deposit, you can hold the mightiest rock and roll concert that Missoula's ever seen. You can serve a delicious carafe of coffee, tea, or Tang made with Rattlesnake Creek water. You can make kebabs. You can use kebabs to paint a mural. You can have boys and girls slow dancing, together. Or breakdancing. Apart. You can have a dance contest. You can have an ad-hoc art show. Karaoke competition. You can get creative, have fun and party to your heart's content. You just can't get sh*tfaced or even sip beers. You could've gone to the Northside Kettlehouse and had one of two before the show. If you were of age. So you got that going for you.

But the woe-is-me tone of this stuff just gets to me. There. Are. Show. Spaces. In. Missoula. And if we could get over the narrative of "but you can't drink" and figure out what else you can do, like say: talk, listen, hackysack, skateboard, think etc. I think it might be easier to get a little momentum and move over the hump of the age old question Missoula seems to ask itself about every six months of: "how, besides drink, do we get folks to check out DIY music?" The answer for me at least is in the question.

Oh, and on a related note: you're invited to this Bugs show.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Blasting to the sun: The Magpies "Barn Burner" video

Posted By on Thu, Sep 12, 2013 at 10:56 AM

In this week's paper we offer you a review of the 7" split record put out by Missoula bands the Magpies and VTO.


In the review we mention a video for the Magpies song "Barn Burner" that was created by Cade, the 12-year-old son of guitarist Hank Donovan. It's a cool stop-motion animation that captures the rock tune in a quirky, fun way. According to Cade's YouTube page, it took him 70 hours and 1,860 stills to craft it. Wow. Check it out.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Pearl Jam's new video features a major Missoula connection (aside from Jeff Ament)

Posted By on Fri, Aug 23, 2013 at 10:20 AM

Pearl Jam released the music video to the first single off its upcoming album, and local viewers may have noticed something familiar: "Mind Your Manners" includes silhouette animation with the distinct look of Missoula filmmaker Andy Smetanka.

It looks like Smetanka's work because, well, it is.

Even if you've been in Missoula for just a short time, it's hard to miss Smetanka's stuff. He's screened his short films at the Big Sky Documentary Film Festival and displayed his prints and light boxes during First Friday. He's made music videos for the Decemberists and worked with Guy Maddin. A successful Kickstarter campaign afforded him the chance to make a feature-length film about World War I called And We Were Young. All of that exposure appears to have helped Smetanka land in front of an even bigger audience.

Pearl Jam's connection to Missoula is just as well known as Smetanka's work: bassist Jeff Ament grew up in Big Sandy, went to school at the University of Montana (where he started his pre-Pearl Jam hardcore band Deranged Diction) and is now a part-time resident who can often be seen around the valley at various arts and culture events.

So, how'd Smetanka end up working with Ament and Pearl Jam on the project? We caught up with Smetanka by email as he was traveling through Finland and got the scoop.

How did you end up making a music video for Pearl Jam?
Andy Smetanka: Jeff Ament made a generous donation to my Kickstarter campaign (for And We Were Young). I sent him a message to ask him how he wanted to take delivery on his custom light box, and he wrote back asking if I was interested in "creating some images" for Pearl Jam. Hell yes, I replied. It went from this not-very-specific request to actually starting work on green-screen animation for a music video in less than a week.


Did you approach it as a silhouette animation in the way you have with And We Were Young?
AS: I approached it pretty much the same way as any other silhouette project, with the difference that I shot it digitally and not on Super 8, using a Canon DSLR camera and a program called (I think) Dragonframe. I had to do it this way because of time constraints, but it was also very liberating, very encouraging to get a peek into my post-film future if I intend to keep making silhouette movies.

What was the hardest part of the project?
AS: Getting to grips with this new technology wasn't very difficult. The hardest thing about the project was the disruptive effect of the long working days on family life at a time when we were also getting centered down to go on a major overseas adventure. But I'd set the whole month of July aside to not work on And We Were Young, and the PJ project fit perfectly. Another great thing about the digital process was that it created, as a sort of happy by-product of the animation, literally thousands of huge JPG files for the band to incorporate into both the Electronic Press Kit and the album artwork for the upcoming release! Double bonus!

Did you get full creative reign or did Jeff Ament and Eddie Vedder have their own ideas?
AS: I think Jeff takes a direct hand in designing the artwork for PJ projects, kind of the de facto Art Director, so I was mostly working with him and their frequent collaborator, Danny Clinch, who was directing the video and filming the live performances behind which the animation will be inserted via green screen. Everyone had great ideas, they usually gave me the go-ahead on mine, and I took great care to film some interpretation of theirs, from Danny and everyone else in the band filtered through him and Jeff.

How long did it take you?
AS: The whole thing happened lightning-fast. Starting from scratch (with a few ready-to-go silhouette trees and things from my silhouette archive), it took two solid weeks of 10-14 hour days to come up with around 8 minutes of animation. The song itself is around 2:39 in length, so there was plenty of coverage.

How do you feel about getting to do this?
AS: All in all, an exhilarating experience, and probably the most compact, efficient and blindingly fast film project I've ever had a hand in, speaking only for my part in it. Also a great weight off my shoulders.

Are you a Pearl Jam fan or, if not, have you been converted in any way?
AS: I don't own any Pearl Jam recordings apart from a CD burn of just this one song, but I definitely consider myself a fan of the band, more for what they stand for than for the music itself (although the song is a corker!). As many who know me will surely point out, this has not always been the case. Along with certain other Indy writers, I used to be infamous for knocking them in print every chance I got back in the mid-to-late '90s. But the truth is that I've never had any substantive beef with them, and in my experience it's hard to find anyone who does. We were young, snotty punks and we wanted enemies. Now, of course, the idea of little punks like we were then casting aspersions on what is and is not worthwhile music and "selling out" is just comical to me.

Check out the video here:

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Hit Play: Mixed tapes for life, made with Missoula bands

Posted By on Thu, Aug 22, 2013 at 4:13 PM

Fresh Facts, the Indy's guide to being a better local, hit newsstands today. The magazine provides something of an introduction to this here city, as well as helpful hints and suggestions for those of us who've been around for a while.

This year's issue includes a piece called "Hit play: Missoula's ultimate soundtrack, courtesy of the local music scene," a different kind of roundup of bands and artists. We've curated a heartache playlist, an angry, pumped-up playlist, a playlist for the road, a playlist for hanging out by the river, and a playlist for late night beer hoisting. Reading about the lists is fine and dandy, but what you really should do is actually hear them. Here's your chance:



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Monday, August 19, 2013

Total Fest XII: A recap, of sorts

Posted By on Mon, Aug 19, 2013 at 11:46 AM

Hey everybody. Coming down from the wild, sweaty, beer-choogling section of space and time that is Total Fest XII.

Modality, photo by Michael Workman
  • Modality, photo by Michael Workman

At this writing, I’m barely coherent (just ask my roommate, who made the mistake of knocking on my door on Sunday afternoon) so here’s some highlights for your easily digestible pleasure. There were many other astoundingly hilarious events, too many to catalog (or not suitable for family audiences). Here’s some that come to mind.

Some very cute, polite young guys showed up on Friday while I was working the door. I very briefly assumed they were local high school students. Then they said they were Media Blitz, the insanely rad OC hardcore band, and I got really excited. They played a ferocious set, all Los Crudos-speed hardcore with occasional bursts of insane metal soloing, and then got off stage and resumed being polite. Seeing them again six hours later at the warehouse afterparty was also delightful, though I do not very distinctly remember that set.

Norska played on Friday night. I hadn't listened to any of their stuff, but when I realized that one Jason McMackin, former Indy calendar editor, whose taste in music I trust infinitely, was extremely excited, and that the lead singer of Norska looked like a slightly scaled down, equally beardy version of Mr. McMackin, that I needed to be there. And, wow, I was not prepared for that titanic wave of supreme Viking metal. I saw the dudes, all very gentle and quiet, the next day hanging out. I presume they got on their longboat and sailed back to whatever mystical land they hail from afterward.

I talked to a couple bands (Burn Burn Burn and Hoverbikes, both super party punks) who were playing Total Fest for the first time, and they all had nothing but really nice things to say about how cool the festival was. So, Missoulians, I think our evil plan to get awesome bands to want to tour here more often will work out nicely.

On Saturday night, I bought PBRs for the Helms Alee gals, and yell-talked about how they’re an inspiration and I love seeing women play awesome metal, right before I jumped in front for Red Fang and rawked out arm-in-arm with a bunch of rad chicks and dudes. It was so sweaty. It was like moshing in a sweat slip-in-slide with eels. Eels with some sharp elbows. When I got out of the Badlander, my tank top was completely soaked with sweat and beer.

Vile Blue Shades were excellent, though the crowd for that wasn’t very big, since young’uns these days do not know of the wonder and glory that is VBS. More bands need gogo dancers, dammit.

Guantanamo Baywatch played the fest for the first time last year during an early slot at Zoo City Apparel (RIP, sigh) and I knew if they came back this year and played later, it would be wild. The awesome surfy trio closed out the VFW on Saturday nite, and it was packed and groovy. Definitely the set with the most people making out in the crowd.

Also by Saturday, I was really starting to flag, despite my best attempts at hydrating and caffeinating. Sure, I could’ve gone to bed, but dammit, everything just gets more fun the later it happens in the evening. The trick is to stay moving, stay dancing and keep drinking. Every time I started to get tired, I would crack another beer. And that, friends, is how I wound up thrashing around to Hundred Visions at the Hammer Haus afterparty. And it was kind of a blessing that the cops showed up at 4 AM, because I was at the point where I couldn’t stop until somebody made me.

It was immensely cool to be part of the Total Fest committee. So cool that I was daunted to be part of it, agreed to do way more than I actually had time for, felt really guilty all the time, and probably made a lot of terrible awkward jokes because I don’t know how to not be awkward. Also, it is nearly a year-round goddamn job for a lot of people to put on Total Fest. I spent plenty of time on it, but it’s a drop in a sweaty ocean compared to how much work the head honchos like Josh and Kari put in.

So if I ever, theoretically, had whined a wee bit about volunteering, somebody should have mentioned that I would get a free T-shirt and be allowed to boss around punk bands. Instantly made it all totally (ha!) worth it.

It’s funny ’cause, as I get older, I find myself getting too tired for punk rock shenanigans. I’ve noticed that I have to take it easier at shows, which is really depressing. Chugging beer, jumping into a crazy pit and butt-rawking is basically my favorite thing ever; but I can’t do it as much these days without waking up feeling like a pile of garbage.

But for this, the twelfth annual Total Fest, I raged it up and danced hard and stayed out til 4 AM three nights in a row, and I am goddamn happy about it. I’m getting older! But I’m going to enjoy the hell out of stuff as much as I can! Thanks for being awesome, Missoula.

A (much less coherent) version of this post appeared on Missoula Punk News.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Long live Total Fest! Memorable moments continued

Posted By on Thu, Aug 15, 2013 at 12:17 PM

In our Total Fest preview this week we list the top 13 most memorable moments during the Missoula independent rock festival's past 12 years. There are surely more than that, and festival-goers from years past might be able to recall those. (For instance, it was pretty cool when Milli Thompson from Sasshole saved the night and filled in as the bass player for Olympia's Fitz of Depression at the last minute. That band has been around for a long time, and a big contributor to my record collection. I would have been star-struck to play with them).

Still, some memories aren't necessarily shared by the entire Total Fest audience, like the one from Total Fest veterans and committee members Wendy Maltonic and Lou Beard. Here's their memory in Maltonic's words:

Our best memory has to be of TotalFest VII. All of us on the committee offer up our homes to the bands that come from out of town so that they do not have the extra expense of paying for a hotel. Most of the time, we have never met the people we are staying with until they show up at the venue. In 2008, Rad Touch from Seattle was one of the bands staying at our house along with The Limbs (who happened to be an old friend of mine from Ohio and whose dad was my 9th grade English teacher). After having a wildly successful Thursday night we headed back to our house to get settled in for the night.

That was the year that the Olympics were in Beijing and Lou and I are a huge Olympics nuts. Of course, we tried to keep that on the down-low since we didn’t imagine that very many rockers would be interested in seeing how many medals the US had racked up. After having a few night caps, I couldn’t help myself. I quietly turned on the TV to see what was happening (and since it was 3 a.m., it was on live). I tried to be discreet while everyone else was engrossed in conversation, but to no avail. I got busted.

“Is that the Olympics?”

“Yeah, sorry. I couldn’t help myself."

As I grabbed the remote to turn it off, I was met by a chorus of voices yelling “Leave it on!”

Turns out we ended up with a house full of people who were as crazy about it as we were. We spent all three nights sitting up until 5 or 6 in the morning yelling for the gymnasts to stick their landings and cheering on Michael Phelps as he set his gold medal record.

TotalFest really has been such a huge part of our lives and for the past 5 years we have celebrated our anniversary during TotalFest. We could not imagine this city without this wonderful gathering of music lovers. Long live Total Fest!

Rad Touch from Seattle
  • Rad Touch from Seattle

We'd love to hear any other weird, warm-and-fuzzy or mind-blowing moments from any of you, too. Bring it on. (Oh, and see you tonight!)

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