In our Montana Boy Makes Good Department: He didn’t come home with the coveted golden gramophone statuette, but it sounds like Grammy-nominated pianist Philip Aaberg had a blast anyway at the 44th annual music awards ceremony in Los Angeles. The Chester native had been nominated in the Best New Age Album category for Live From Montana, a CD recorded live at a Chester High School all-school reunion. Though he lost to fellow nominee David Darling at the Feb. 27 event, Aaberg confessed to staying at the post-ceremony Biltmore Hotel bash “until the last dog was hung” and reported a number of other personal highlights on his Web site,

“Well, I tell you what,” he writes. “If I ever get a Grammy, I'll be there to receive it! It was really fun, except for the part about Enya.”

Aaberg, who was also selected recently to write a piece about Montana for the Continental Harmony Project to be premiered in 2003, was accompanied at the ceremony by wife Patty and sons Mike and Dan. Among their collective favorite moments: “Steve Vai playing solo accompaniment to Nelly Furtado, Joshua Bell making the high notes sing, the Soggy Bottom Boys, Mary J. Blige (especially her drummer), and Mike Greene’s speech about ripping.” Geh?

“You know,” he concludes, “The cliché about it being ‘an honor just to be nominated’ was very true for me. It felt wonderful to be among such a great group of music people, and a real validation, in a way, for me. However, I really like the way that little gramophone looks! Wouldn't mind having one at all.” Congrats anyway, Philip.

One step forward, three steps back… Whenever Montana gains even a smidgen of national respectability that might diffuse the common misconception that we’re populated by backcountry mail bombers, anti-government paranoids and white separatists, along comes the latest pack of Neanderthals like Kalispell’s Project Seven to drag our good reputation kicking and screaming back to the 19th century. According to Flathead County Sheriff’s Office, the militia group had been stockpiling tens of thousands of rounds of ammo, weapons, explosives, body armor and other assorted party favors with the intention of killing as many law enforcement agents as possible.

More news from Montana’s hate watch: Last week six members of a skinhead group known as the Montana Front Working Class Skinheads were sentenced to prison terms following their convictions on federal civil rights charges. The six were charged with conspiracy to interfere with the rights of minorities to use public parks in Billings. Five were also charged with inciting or participating in an attack on an African-American man, a Hispanic woman and a Hispanic man in a public park in Billings on July 29, 2000. Reportedly, the skinheads chased the victims out of the park while yelling racial slurs and threatening them with clubs, chains, bats and metal bars.

Finally, a report that former Ku Klux Klan member John Abarr has filed for the Republican primary in Cascade County’s House District 43. According to recent report in The Advocate, Abarr served as an organizer for the KKK and wrote fliers encouraging the deportation of gay men, lesbians and Jews to create a racially pure “Realm of Montana.” GOP Chairman James Parker Shield told The Advocate that the Republican Party will not help Abarr in any way and will actively recruit a candidate to defeat him in the primary. Man, must be something in the water lately.

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