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Sound around town
Seems like every year Total Fest incorporates a new venue or two, and TFXII is no different. In addition to the Badlander/Palace complex, Top Hat Lounge and VFW (new to the festival last year), the organization booked the Zootown Arts Community Center and Free Cycles. ZACC’s basement has hosted DIY shows for some time, and opened up for regular all-ages shows earlier this year.
This broad range of venues adds a new challenge to festival-goers who must traverse from one end of downtown to another to catch often overlapping shows. It might require a little bit of planning (see the full lineup on this page), but there’s no reason you can’t catch everything on your wish list.
A long time ago, in the 1990s, Missoula’s own Fireballs of Freedom rocked Jay’s Upstairs, literally. Almost any time the dirty rock band played, the second-floor dive bar bounced like it was a tree house built on one limb.
Back when the Fireballs were still new to the Missoula scene, drummer Sammy James declared to a couple of Jay’s onlookers, “I’m gonna build me a rock and roll wall!” James and the band have been doing pretty much that very thing for nearly two decades. The members moved to Portland, developing a strong following and a deserved reputation for maximum craziness. FOF played Total Fest back in 2005 and was supposed to perform again in 2011, but had to cancel. Now, they return with greased up garage rock laden with “woo-hoos.”
For all the attention heaped on those traveling from out of town, Total Fest offers a chance to discover bands toiling away right in our own backyard. This year there’s a slew of local favorites, including Shahs and Modality. Needlecraft is also slated to play its weird, 1950s-style garage pop. Finally, Mordecai, the young musicians who hail from Butte and sound like the Stooges, return to Missoula. The band has blown away local audiences, but hardly play enough to satiate our needs. Here’s your chance to see them before they get wrapped up in their non-music lives again.
One of many people’s favorite parts of Total Fest is the Saturday show in the Big Dipper Ice Cream parking lot. Ice cream and music go well together, especially after being cooped up in so many bar venues. This year, you can eat your treat to the dreamy guitar loops of Robust Worlds and the fuzz garage sounds of Havania Whaal.
Be sure to bring your records, CDs and tapes to sell or trade at the annual Record Swap. A core group of music fiends help grow this part of the weekend every year. Bryan Ramirez, the Record Swap organizer and brains behind Killertree Records, will be there. Dave Martens, a musician who plays in at least four or five bands at any one time, also often shows up with his collection of LPs and—just for good measure—clothes and knick-knacks. Musician, artist and general curator of curiosities Abe Coley is known to bring electronics. It’s a music-lovers geek gathering that’s as fun to peruse as it is to engage in.
Salt Lake City’s sprawling party band, Vile Blue Shades, has overtaken Total Fest before with anywhere from eight to 13 members playing at once—including three drummers. Over the years VBS accumulated bandmates nonchalantly, sort of allowing any musician who showed an interest to get in on the action. The result is raucous live sets that blur the line between where the band ends and the crowd begins.
VBS broke up years ago, but will come back together for one night of primal jams to help kick off the Total Fest weekend.