For five years, Dead Hipster dance parties have ruled Thursday nights. Chris Baumann and Michael Gill cranked out popular numbers at the Badlander for a sweaty mass of amped-up dancers. On the dance floor, time stood still as drinks were drank and booties were shaken, and photographer Abi Halland captured candid and posed moments of partying. Dead Hipster made a few changes over the years, including a brief jaunt at Sean Kelly's before they moved back to the Badlander. But this year they called it quits for good. The group still does one-offs, but their regular dance party nights are over—and Thursday nights don't feel the same.
Even after Winter in the Blood was ready to roll, there was a long buildup to the Missoula screening. The movie, based on the novel by late Montana author James Welch, has a multitude of local ties, including directors Andrew and Alex Smith and several main actors and extras, and it was filmed on the Hi-Line. Still, local audiences had to wait until after it screened at the LA Film Festival in June—where it garnered some positive reviews—before it finally showed at the Roxy in July. The three scheduled nights sold out and others were added at the last minute. In October, during the Montana Festival of the Book, an eager crowd formed a line down the sidewalk, nearly curling around the corner, for yet another sold-out screening.
In late August Pearl Jam revealed its new music video, "Mind Your Manners," with animations by Missoula's own Andy Smetanka. The local artist disclosed the secret to the Indy in time for the video's release, while he was touring through Finland. In 2012, Smetanka received a Kickstarter donation from Pearl Jam bassist Jeff Ament, who had asked the silhouette animator and music aficionado if he would "create some images" for the band. As it turned out, it was a little bit more than that.
Old time rock and roll
Dave Martens, an omnipresent fixture in the music scene (he is often in three or so bands at once) set out on a mission to unearth as many band posters, records, newspaper articles and photographs that he could find of Montana bands dating from the 1950s up through the 1980s. The Lost Sounds Project has been a slow-and-steady task, but in August, Martens got to provide a preview. At the Zootown Arts Community Center, he set up an exhibit of borrowed posters from 1960s Montana psychedelic and garage bands like The Frantics and The Initial Shock. A handful of old rock and rollers from those bands descended on the show, driving to town from surrounding valleys and a few other places, like Butte, to reminisce and listen to records from the good old days.
Every year we have to say "goodbye" to a few good music venues. In March, we ushered out Zoo City Apparel, a retail space where throngs of local and touring acts often played among the racks of 406 T-shirts. It had such a laid-back, clubhouse feel, and it was all-ages—something hard to come by in a town of bars. That all-ages void has been filled more and more by the Zootown Arts Community Center, which now hosts underground concerts and theater events in its basement.
On the bar end of things, the new Stage 112, inside the Elks Lodge, opened and pulled in some buzz-worthy acts like Adventure Club, Little People, James McMurtry and Pickwick. The Top Hat has made a major impact on the music scene since it re-opened after a major renovation. Some of the hottest current touring acts have graced the stage including Sarah Jarosz, Blitzen Trapper, the Polyphonic Spree and Pinback, plus some out-of-left-field bands like Agent Orange. The performances have been sometimes intimate and sometimes sprawling and feisty. The venue has also embraced film. The Big Sky Film Series took up residence at the bar on Monday nights so viewers can sit back with a beer and watch old and new films such as a documentary on the Ramones and PBS's Indian Relay.
The first Missoula Fringe Festival got off to a shaky start when it hit downtown the same weekend as Total Fest. It could have been a disaster—the enormous first-time undertaking by festival organizers meant juggling three days of performances in multiple locations. Bands played down by the river under the bridge and in parking garages. Dancers took up street corners and alleys. More conventional venues hosted one-woman-plays and stand-up comedy. A few bumps in the road—ticketing issues and scheduling—didn't keep small and large crowds from attending, which bodes well for the festival's future in Missoula.
The Wilma Theatre has been up for sale since September 2011, but late this year, without good prospects, the owners finally took it off the market. Rick Wishcamper and Justin Metcalf of Rocky Mountain Development Group bought the historic theater in 2007 and have renovated parts of it. It will continue to host concerts and screen films for now.
Not long after the Wilma announcement, another theater, the Village 6, closed its doors. The Village 6 doesn't have the historic, opulent status of the Wilma but it had its regulars who loved the dive-y space for all its faults. Without the Village 6, the Carmike 12 is the only theater in the city that screens major studio releases.
The Roxy Theater surged to life after sitting mostly underused for several years. Former Big Sky Documentary Film Festival program director Mike Steinberg, along with Chris Sand, spearheaded a major facelift to the historic theater and started screening indie films and cult classics in August (Winter in the Blood, included.) The theater quickly established itself as a place to congregate in a way that older Missoulians might recall of The Crystal. Besides filling the niche for art house, the Roxy has been hosting themed nights, like weekly showings of the series "Twin Peaks," during which they serve local coffee and pastries. And it has hosted live, intimate performances by bands. The eclectic film offerings also include a wildly popular residency from musicians and composers John Sporman and Travis Yost, aka Next Door Prison Hotel. The duo's live original scoring of silent films such as Nosferatu have consistently sold out early.