Embarrassment of riches 

Your discerning musical guide to First Night Missoula

What’s the musical scoop on First Night, Missoula’s ninth annual drug- and alcohol-free New Year’s celebration? Please allow me, Captain Calendar, the Independent’s distinguished arbiter in all matters of musical taste, to pull your coat to what’s really cooking this year.

If Missoula’s First Night has a veteran team-player coming off the bench, it’s got to be John Floridis. This Missoula recording artist has been entertaining First Night crowds for seven years running now. The guitarist is the fearless leader of the John Floridis Trio, specializing in blues and folk-rock. And for First Night, you can bet that the trio will be in an extra-improvisational mood. The John Floridis Trio proudly takes the stage at UM’s University Theatre at 10 PM.

“Outlaws! Trains! Death! Love gone wrong!” No, this is not a Cliffs Notes summary for a film class solely dedicated to High Noon.

Rather, these are the subjects of the songs of the Frederico Brothers. And hey…here’s something to talk about: the band’s first gig ever found them opening up for Bonnie Raitt at the Wilma Theatre way back in 1974. The brothers Frederico have honed their vocal harmonies and are constantly writing clever original songs. Currently, they’re working on their first CD project. Better late than never, right? The Frederico Brothers perform at UM’s University Center Lounge at 9:30 PM.

“Ay, lassie? Wotcha been doin’ with me grog? It once was black and tan and now ’tis no more.” If this type of talk appeals to you, perhaps Dublin Gulch will as well. Named after one of Butte’s historic Irish neighborhoods, this quartet won’t need the luck of the Irish to please the crowd. Featuring Mick Cavanaugh on guitar and tin whistle, Tom Powers on the bodhran (a traditional goat-skinned Irish drum), Jim Schulz on mandolin, Irish bouzouki and guitar and John Joyner on banjo, fiddle and mandolin, Dublin Gulch can craic up any audience with a wide array of instruments—not to mention some fine Celtic harmonies. Word is that the band encourages audience participation, and the conspiratorially-minded among you will be well-chuffed to know that the goat skin used on Powers’ drum did not come from the poor goat that was mysteriously trapped inside UM’s LA building a few weeks back.

What happens when you put a retired English teacher turned Great Falls swim instructor in the same room with a high school science teacher who also teaches swimming? Well…uh…they play banjos! Yeah, that’s it. Bob and Chris McKinnon have been dueling away on their banjos for almost thirty years now, performing at fairs, jazz festivals, community concerts and with symphonies, choirs and staged musical productions. What draws swimming instructors to the banjo, or vice versa? There’s only one theory that makes sense: Gilbert Gottfried. Last year, these banjo masters performed in Las Vegas for the National Greyhound Pets of America Convention, because the only thing greyhound owners like more than owning fast dogs is listening to the talents of banjo players who are also swimming instructors. Look, I should probably just quit talking. Come check out those talents at Bagels on Broadway from 5:30–6:30 PM.

It’s only a matter of time before the rest of the world discovers what the people at the Symes Hotel in Hot Springs already know: Radoslav Lorkovic and Lee Zimmerman are effin’ awesome. Lorkovic has toured all over the country (literally—we’re talking both Inuit villages and Carnegie Hall) and has played a splendid piano with the likes of Greg Brown and Bo Ramsey. At the Symes Hotel, Lorkovic met the wicked-talented cellist Lee Zimmerman and the rest, as they say, is history. This is improvisation at its best, and you can witness it all firsthand at the First United Methodist Church at 7:30 PM.

Chances are, you haven’t heard this much saxophone since your fourth grade band try-outs when Billy, Jimmy, Eddie, Ernie and Suzie all wanted to play the same instrument. Rather than competing amongst themselves, however, Tango Nouveau has found a way to make several saxes jive together. The group is an offspring of the brainchild of Argentinean composer Astor Piazzolla, whose life dream was to develop the tango into an art form. He has succeeded.

Combining soprano, alto, tenor and baritone saxes with some lively drumming, Tango Nouveau adds a touch of South American flair to the First Night festivities. Prepare for an all-out saxophone invasion at UM’s University Theater at 5 PM.

Amy Martin delivers a potent mixture of naturalistic folk songs delving into the spirit of Montana’s wilderness along with politically-charged anthems of social justice. Martin’s third consecutive First Night appearance will be a freshet of cool spring water to anyone looking for some good ole “made in Montana” folk music. She performs on the third floor of UM’s University Center Theater at 7 PM.

The Missoula Community Chorus first wowed the city with its performance in the aftermath of Sept. 11, and stepped into the spotlight again on Sept. 11, 2002 to perform Mozart’s Requiem at Caras Park for the one-year anniversary of that tragic day. Now, at long last, the chorus gets to perform as part of a celebration instead of a mourning. Made up of over 100 area musicians, the community chorus accepts all who wish to participate, and singers range in age from 12 to over 70. The highlight of the celebratory First Night performance is sure to be the chorus’s stirring rendition of John Rutter’s “Magnificat.” The concert begins at 9 PM at the First United Methodist Church.

Anybody who’s shared the stage with Tim O’Brien will likely be just fine in any bluegrass fan’s book, and that’s a claim that the Watercarvers Guild can proudly defend. Using guitar, mandolin, bouzouki, piano and bass, the Watercarvers’ music has been compared to that of Simon and Garfunkel, but with a pinch of bluegrass and a dollop of Celtic flavor. See them do what they do best at the UM’s University Center Theater from 9–10 PM.

Strap on those sensible dancing pumps for the Big Sky Mudflaps, Missoula’s longest-running jazz, swing and R&B cabaret act.

Perhaps the most widely-lauded of Missoula musical groups, the Mudflaps have appeared on “The Today Show” and “A Prairie Home Companion,” shared the stage with Ray Charles, Dizzy Gillespie and Dave Brubeck, and even got written up in The New York Times and the Village Voice on an epic tour across the eastern United States. They’re still homebodies at heart, though, and you’d be a fool to miss one of their rare hometown live performances, 8 to 11 PM in the UC Ballroom.

Cocinando bring a splash of Latin sauce to the First Night buffet, specializing in mambo, cha-cha and merengue rhythms married to be-bop jazz to produce a sound that appeals to both serious jazzheads and serious rug-cutters. Not that you can’t be both. Catch the Coc in the UC Commons, 9 to 11 PM.

Speaking of serious rug-cutting, you can’t get much more serious than an 18-piece jazz orchestra. The Ed Norton Big Band’s repertoire includes all the traditional big-band heavies—Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Glenn Miller and Benny Goodman, to name a few—as well as the work of modern masters like Charlie Parker and Sonny Rollins. Like the sandwich bag advertisement says: it don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that cling...er, swing. Get it on with the Ed Norton Big Band at the UC Adams Center, 9:30 PM to 1 AM.

The Levitators are old hands on the Missoula scene. Guitarist Bob Zimorino (of Red Pies pizza renown) used to be in a band called Spinal Pizza with a downtown chiropractor. Spinal Pizza...get it?

Another of his old bands was called the Tirebiters, but we’ve been unable to ascertain if it included an orthodontist or a tire dealer. Um, anyway, the Levitators pool the talents of three former Tirebiters with guitarist Brooke Corr and keyboardist Mark Lohr. Lots of original tunes and a wide selection of covers, too. See the Levitators (wait, does that have anything to do with tossing pies?) in the Hellgate High School New Gym from 8 to 10 PM.

You’d think that a saxophonist who wrote a suite for the victims of the 1949 Mann Gulch fire might not be the good-timingest cat in the world, but Wilbur Rehmann and his Quartet are here to show you otherwise. Sensitive jazz standards, fiery solo style and loads of be-bop, ballads and blues—plus a Stevie Wonder tune or two snuck up in there. You sank my battleship, Wilbur Rehmann! 8:30 to 10:30 PM in the MCT Blue Room.

Finally, where would any New Year’s be without a little youth upheaval? Flare 84 will be belting out the pop-punk in a Blink 182/Green Day vein at the Boys and Girls Club from 8 to 9:30. Before them, from 6 to 8 PM, Missoula born-and-bred songster Jesse Lai is going to try and strike a chord in your heart with his quiver full of pop, rock and R&B arrows—past and present hits as well as originals!

Last but not least—though probably loudest—Sunder rolls over your head like a Panzer division with an ultra-aggro nü-metal sound.

Should auld acquaintance be forgot, at least you can always claim deafness as your excuse. 9:30 to 11:30 PM.

First Night buttons, which entitle you to attend all of these musical events, can be purchased for $8 ($10 day of events) from over a dozen outlets in the Missoula area. For a complete list of participating button dealers, please see advertising spread in this issue. And hang onto that program!

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