David Boone and the Mercenaries include, clockwise from lower left, Burke Jam, David Boone, Brandon Barker, Tyler Paul, Sarah Condon, Max Allyn and, not pictured, Checkers Barker and James Wasem
In October 2007, local musician David Boone threw a rock show so ambitious, so big and so bold that the Indy listed it as one of 11 moments that defined Missoula’s art scene that year. The sold-out show at the Wilma Theatre aimed to raise funds for Mountain Home Montana—a nonprofit for young homeless mothers—and promoted Boone’s upbeat rock album A Tale of Gold. The colossal production—which included a revolving cast of 17 local musicians, a modern dance performance, strong opening acts and a photography exhibit—garnered exuberant praise as a smashing example of community spirit. People who were there that night still talk about it as a goosebump-inducing experience.
This week, Boone will host another benefit for Mountain Home Montana and the Missoula Poverello Center called “Different Steps on the Same Track.” It’s a release party for the new album and the A Tale of Gold concert DVD. But don’t expect the same cheery feeling. These days, Boone wrestles with anger and disenchantment. Despite his persistently enthusiastic musical collaborations and his work toward what feels like it could be an annual extravaganza, Boone says he’s burning out. He just finished his eighth album, The State of the Union, but the prolific songwriter hasn’t actually written a new song in a year, choosing to work on building his house instead.
“I almost feel like I’m at the end of what I have to say,” he says. “It sounds weird, but I feel a winding down.”
Boone’s an established Missoula coffeehouse folkie, a heart-on-the-sleeve guitarist. Last year’s A Tale of Gold departed from his usual acoustic style, but The State of the Union signals a darker, angrier Boone.
“A Tale of Gold is kind of that hopeless romantic, optimistic side of me…the world that I would like to see,” says Boone. “But The State of the Union is the world I see. It’s the discouraging elements, the contradictions.”
A Tale of Gold included a multitude of musicians on both the album and in concert, but it still represented Boone as a solo artist. The State of The Union, however, showcases a full band with the aptly aggressive name The Mercenaries. Max Allyn (who helped produce both A Tale of Gold and The State of The Union) plays guitar and the other Mercenaries—drummer Checkers Barker, bassist Brandon Barker, percussionist James Wasem and vocalist Sarah Condon—worked on the album from its inception. With the rock-heavy lineup and cynical material, Boone expects the energy at the Wilma will be decidedly different this time.
“I think it may be shocking a little bit if people came last year and they’re expecting the feel-good community collaboration,” he says, laughing. “I think this one’s more of a feeling like strangling people and punching them in the gut and saying, ‘Don’t you see what’s going on around you?’”
Figurative violence only, Boone assures us, but it will certainly change the concert’s tone. Some of Boone’s past records—especially the acoustic Hard Enough to Bend—included glimpses into dark subjects. But those were somber leaps into Boone’s personal past, not the angry indictments of present day social policy like in The State of the Union. The usual suspects of poverty, greed and apathy have gotten Boone down—in particular, the fairly recent and highly publicized beating to death of a homeless man, Forrest Salcido.
“I used to walk down the river trail and there was a fellow who would read a book on the bench there, and we’d always nod at each other,” says Boone. “And he was the fellow who was killed in the random act of violence. I’d seen him a couple days before [the murder], and he was reading his book right there near that bridge on the river path. And it just was really upsetting.”
The mistreatment of homeless people resonates with Boone. The issue inspired one of his first songs, “Burden”—which appears, reinvented, on his new album. Living in Spokane as a 16-year-old, Boone found himself on a late winter night at the greasy spoon Dick’s Hamburgers talking with a drifter.
“He asked me if I could buy him some burgers so I sat down with him,” he says. “He told me about how he was the last one left in his family. It was a real conversation for a 16-year-old to have, and I left thinking what it would really feel like to sleep with concrete as a pillow. And I wrote this song. After Forrest Salcido passed away…I brought it back to life.”
Boone’s discouragement with the world seeps both stylistically and lyrically from The State of the Union. In “Heaven’s Falling,” Boone punches out a startling one word for every second of the two minute, twenty second song, inducing a sense of urgency. And “Ode to the Princess” satirizes the fairytale lesson that young girls receive when they’re told they can be anything they want to be.
“We still teach girls to be dependent…to be the cheerleaders for the Dallas Cowboys. There’s a nugget of truth [to the fairytale],” he says, “but people mean it within a certain parameter. They mean, ‘You can be all that you can be, as long as you are this particular thing.’”
Boone says he’ll finish one more album—an acoustic one—and then he might be done altogether. He has a house to build, and, he says, he promised himself never to force a song. These days, the songs just aren’t coming easy.
“I’m constantly disappointed,” he says, “and I think it drives my art, but it’s also exhausting. If you’re always looking for heaven on earth and, instead, what you see around you is this, it can be very lonely. But a part of me hopes there’s still ears out there that want to hear.”
The benefit concert “Different Steps on the Same Track” featuring David Boone and the Mercenaries begins at the Wilma Theatre Friday, Feb. 27, at 6:30 PM with Jacob Kuntz opening. $18/$16 advance.