Some make a mockery of Missoula's liberal leanings, saying the best part about the city is that it's only 30 minutes from Montana. Those same critics rag on the neo-hippies who flock here from the East Coast, driving old Volvos with bumper stickers naming their elite New England liberal arts alma maters and blaring Phish.
Well, maybe not Phish.
Judging by last weekend's screenings of the jam band's new film, Phish 3D, it seems Missoula area Phish-heads have taken to new waters.
Only 13 people came to the Carmike 10 Saturday night for the 7 p.m. showing of the film documenting last year's Halloween-weekend Festival 8 concert in Indio, Calif.
Matt and Elenie King, both 24, were the first to enter the theater, shocked to find it empty. They're "newbs," as veteran Phish fanatics would call them, because they've only seen one Phish show. But they're dedicated. Matt and Elenie, who currently live in Kalispell but are originally from the East and Midwest, respectively, bought tickets to the film online well in advance, and trekked from the Flathead down to Missoula.
"We thought it would sell out," Matt said, holding his 3-D glasses as the previews rolled.
With only 10 others trickling into the theater, the scene wouldn't come close to matching the vibe of most Phish concert films aired in theaters across the country. Phish fans are known to dance and yell out song requests in jest as if at a live show. At the Carmike, heads barely bobbed. Even trippy 3-D balloons and puffs of smoke that appeared on-screen failed to elicit a response. Two attendees abruptly left during the opening notes of an acoustic version of "The Curtain With," missing the selections from Phish's "musical costume," during which the band covers the Rolling Stones' Exile on Main St.
It wasn't a total flop. Theater manager Richard Taylor says the film did much better on Friday, when 147 tickets were sold to the two screenings. He blames Maggot Fest and BrewFest for the small crowds Saturday night.
Regardless, Saturday's die-hards left satisfied. Matt and Elenie loved the film. And Brian McKernan, 35, who's seen a few dozen Phish shows, said the band, which returned last year from a five-year hiatus, sounded tight.
"They definitely got their groove back," he said.