Tyson Ballew is bringing back Tummy Fest. Ballew started the music festival six years ago as a way to relaunch his music label, Tummy Records. The local promoter and musician is known for his folk-punk solo projects, including Old Shoes, and for his bands, including his most recent, Cat Heaven. The all-ages Tummy Fest showcased 16 bands and ran for two nights at the now-defunct Raven Cafe in downtown Missoula. Both nights had a solid turnout of older scenesters and bright-eyed youth with quirky 'dos. Bellingham, Wash.'s Black Eyes and Neckties were decked out inyou guessed itneckties and ghoulish black eyes. Other regional favorites, such as Racetrack (dream-pop punk rock), won over the crowd, and several locals killed it on stage: Scott Kennedy (of the band This Is a Process of a Still Life), The Sharktopus (emo-rock), The Quiet Ones (pop, anti-folk) and Duel (Missoula promoter and DJ Nicole Vanek's two-piece band).
Not ringing a bell? Well, it was six years ago.
"All that is ancient history," says Ballew. "Only people who have been around for 10 years remember the Raven or these bands, because most of these bands broke up awhile ago."
Ballew had every intention of making Tummy Fest an annual event, but the Raven closed not long after the festival and other venues didn't fit his vision, so he let it slide. The festival's revival at Zoo City Apparel this week makes it a sextennial eventbut nothing to sneeze at. Ballew will be selling back-catalog merch, including We Like to Kick Ass, the compilation from the first Tummy Fest. The money he raises from the festival will go toward putting out a 7" for local band King Elephant, he says.
Most importantly, the 20-band line-up this year is a curious mix of Missoula, Hamilton, Seattle, Olympia and Minot, N.D., acts. A few reasons not to miss the action:
1985 is the only band playing Tummy Fest that also played the first Tummy Fest six years ago. Matt Fu, the brain behind the Seattle project, takes the DIY-lifestyle seriously, traveling by Greyhound bus to tour all-ages venues, singing politically and socially conscious songs and recording lo-fi bedroom albums, as well as well-crafted concept albums. Rachel Corrie is a big deal to this now full-on band, and that's fine. Fortunately, Fu (founder of Masa Records) isn't preachy. He makes his point via smartly nuanced, pretty folk-rock melodies with the wistful undertow of Beirut. Plus, the latest album is called Back to the Future. You know, like the 1985 movie.
One reason to attend Tummy Fest is to finally see those local bands you keep missing. Needlecraft (a Mikki Lunda project), King Elephant (ex-Goddammitboyhowdy) and Ancient Forest (Kalen Walther's Middle-earth soundscape) are three must-sees. For the rock crowd that's been around the scene since the dinosaurs, Mahamawaldi should be extra exciting; they've only played a couple of times since their five-year hiatus. The only metal band on the line-up, the group hails from Hamilton and slays. You can try to get on their MySpace page to listen, but their non-promotional, misterioso lifestyle means you gotta come see them to believe them.
Seattle's Kenneth Piekarski, aka Slashed Tires, creates loops featuring tribal drumming, coy trumpet, dance melodies, echo, reverb and funky bass lines. He plays on the streets and broadcasts live music performances on his video series. He has a wild crop of curly hair and glasses that make his eyes larger than life. Ballew describes him as a clever, accomplished and odd experimenter. There's an improv jazz feel to what he's up to; kind of Beat mixed with noise rock. It might take some patience for those in love with verse-chorus-verse conventions, but as far as weird dudes go, he's authentic rather than pretentious.
Bobby Lee Springfield
If this were "Sesame Street," Bobby Lee Springfield might be the "one of these things is not like the other." And that's what makes his role in the Tummy Fest lineup so cool. The Missoula-based rockabilly and country singer-songwriter has shared the stage with Jimi Hendrix, Billy Haley, Lee Dancer, George Jones, Merle Haggard and Tammy Wynette and has written songs for Marty Robbins and The Oak Ridge Boys. He made a video for the song "Chain Gang," in which he says, "Well, I'm independent. What have Republicans done for affordable health care? Nothin'. Look, it's me, Bobby Lee. Your next president."
One of my favorite bands that ever came through Missoula was Bellingham's USS Horsewhip, who sounded like if The Knack's "My Sharona" chugged a bottle of whiskey and peeled out on a motorcycle. Bust!, of Seattle via Chicago, has that gleeful edge (similar also to Scared of Chaka) with a big-booted, mosh-pit trajectory and miniature breakdowns that tip and turn the song like spinning donuts on the lawn.
$10 at the door or $15 two-day pass with a free copy of the We Like to Kick Ass compilation.
Tummy Fest lineup
Friday April 27:
Ancient Forrest, 6:30 p.m.
Bird’s Mile Home, 7 p.m.
Genrifus, 7:30 p.m.
Atrocity Singers, 8 p.m.
Japaniel Flatsen, 8:30 p.m.
Buddy Jackson, 9 p.m.
King Elephant, 9:30 p.m.
Slashed Tires, 10 p.m.
Needlecraft, 10:30 p.m.
Mahamawaldi, 11 p.m.
Saturday April 28:
The Scribblers, 6:30 p.m.
P.D. Lear, 7 p.m.
Go, Fight, Win!, 7:30 p.m.
The Whoopass Girls, 8 p.m.
Bobby Lee Springfield, 8:30 p.m.
Blanket Truth, 9 p.m.
Bust!, 9:30 p.m.
1985, 10 p.m.
iji, 10:30 p.m.
Cat Heaven, 11 p.m.