Total Fest tattler! 

Good news, bad news, gossip and tips on the summer's gnarliest rock event

Two times makes a tradition when it comes to rock festivals. A year after its successful Missoula debut, Total Fest is back—three times bigger, three times louder, three times as much to see and hear. Also three times the price of last year’s, but you get what you pay for: two solid days of wall-to-wall rock action with nearly 30 bands, mostly from the Northwest, but also from around the country and of course a good showing of homegrown goods. There’s even an all-ages matinee this year for folks who can’t get into the 18-and-over events at Jay’s, plus movies, barbecues, record swaps and all kinds of other stuff.

It’s a little overwhelming, frankly, and tough to find a handhold on this rock mastodon to climb on top. But here follows a festival companion of sorts, packed as best it can be with the kind of behind-the-scenes info you might not be able to find anyplace else.

Life’s little mysteries explained: There wasn’t room to address it in last week’s Fireballs of Freedom article, so why not take this opportunity to clear up a long-standing quandary for Missoula rock fans: Why don’t Fireballs of Freedom records ever come with lyrics?
“I don’t know!” says guitarist Kelly Gately, sounding genuinely perplexed. “I guess nobody’s ever asked us to. No one’s ever given us a sheet in the liner notes. We’ve always tinkered with the idea of throwing in a photocopied lyric sheet, but come on—you can never read them when they’re on the inside of a CD where the print is so tiny. Maybe a mouse could read them or something. And it’s really too bad, because nobody can understand the lyrics, but I actually think they’re pretty good. I mean, I’m no roadside scholar, but when I read other people’s lyrics I’m like, sheesh, I’m almost teetering on Shakespearean compared to some of these corndogs. I say, hey, if you want the lyrics you can write me. I’ll fax them to you.”

Subject to change at any time: No-shows, TBAs and RIPs
At least one band originally scheduled to perform at Jay’s Upstairs the week of Total Fest has had to pull out—too late to stop their being touted on the nice silk-screened posters with the monkey and the Colosseum. At press time, the appearance of Spokane/Seattle garage glamsters The Makers was still contingent on successful negotiation of a standing contractual guarantee, while Seattle sci-fi speed-metallurgists BlöödHag were forced to cancel on account of a non-negotiable court date (not appropriate to go into here; suffice it to say nothing criminal is involved).

In other bad news, heavy-as-hell Olympia band The Whip have had to cancel a show scheduled for the weekend after Total Fest due to the death of one of its members. Whip drummer Scott Jernigan, 28, was killed in an early-morning boating accident on June 10 on Seattle’s Lake Washington. The 24-foot cabin cruiser in which he, his girlfriend and two others were riding rammed a dock near the University of Washington crew house and collided with a tree at around 4:30 a.m., killing Jernigan and injuring the other three individuals. The King County Medical Examiner’s Office officially listed liver lacerations sustained through blunt-force trauma as the cause of death. Alcohol was reportedly involved; at the time of this writing, blood tests had been conducted to determine whether the 27-year-old man piloting the boat was drunk at the time of the accident.

Jernigan, who prior to joining The Whip was the drummer for Olympia rock band KARP from 1993 to the band’s breakup in 1999, is remembered by friends and family for his happy-go-lucky attitude, sense of humor, constant laughter and, of course, his monster drumming. Even in Missoula, where KARP performed several times at bars and house parties, his presence will be missed and fondly remembered. A KARP retrospective will appear in next week’s issue of the Independent. Cavalcade of superlatives!: Smetanka’s picks for maximum rock satisfaction
This year’s Total Fest should offer more than just something for every rock taste, but for those of you who are still grappling with where to start—and what to elbow your way to the front to get a good spot for—here is my contentious list of possible highlights:

Loudest: Tie between the Fireballs of Freedom and the Hellgate Stranglers. Loud isn’t always purely a matter of decibels; bands like the Fireballs give the impression of loudness even when they’re only cranked to ten and a half. The Hellgate Stranglers, on the other hand—that’s just plain loud.

Softest: The Joggers. It’s not that they really play unduly softly; it’s more that their guitars are somewhat less distorted than those of most of the other bands, and they leave plenty of room in the mix for their unusual squawky vocals to take front and center. Hence an impression of softness. They’re still wicked bad, though.

Could possibly be confused with bluegrass: Joggers side-project Cajun Gems, whom organizers were at last word still trying to finagle into performing at one of the semi-private band barbecues on Friday and Saturday evening. Dazzling fretboard finery, though not really bluegrass at all.

Most life-affirming: No-Fi Soul Rebellion. Simple youth, complex youth, youth of many creeds: all handily won over by Mark Heimer’s show-stopping, erm, showmanship. Can make a show with five people in attendance feel like 50. Watch the most jaded visiting band members warm up to them after just one song!

Most Champs-like: Actual Technology, who are actually two-thirds of Olympia band Quarterhorse, who have also played in Missoula a few times before and are also scheduled to perform this weekend. Since Champs guitarist Josh Smith announced his departure from the band earlier this spring, fans of the Teutonic metal sound are advised to start looking elsewhere for new Helloween-style harmonic kicks until remaining members Tim Green and Tim Soete find a replacement. Quarterhorse are right up to snuff and, like the Champs themselves, are 100 percent bass-player free!

Most stoner-friendly: Minneapolis combo The Bloodshot. The name should tell you something (“What? I’ve been swimming!”), as should the fact that festival organizers themselves describe them as “stoner-psych.” Your mileage may vary.

Biggest spectacle: For pure theatricality, there probably won’t be any beating Portland’s Starantula, featuring FOF guitarist Gately and fronted by Seantos, a porn star trapped in the body of a Mexican WWF wrestler moonlighting as a decadent light-opera performer. Smart money is on Seantos himself in the category of Most Likely to Still Be Awake and Eating Steak at 6 AM.

Scariest: JonnyX and the Groadies. Also perhaps the most introverted bunch of band members offstage and probably the most overly serious about their music, which, at the end of the day, is basically just ear-numbing grind with a drum machine, Cookie Monster vocals and freaky keyboards. I’m not saying it isn’t scary, though!

Swap ’til you drop!: Tips for the Saturday afternoon record swap
“No kidding? They still make records?” This was basically Montana Today host Monte Turner’s reaction when Wäntage Records boss Josh Vanek presented him with a Volumen single last week on his popular morning show.

No harm, no foul. But a little discouraging nonetheless to music fans like Vanek and the scores—maybe more—of like-minded vinylphiles around town who still avidly buy and listen to new recordings on this seemingly inextinguishable format. The thriving Wäntage label alone has, in its roughly ten years of existence, released nearly 20 records locally on vinyl, significantly fewer on CD.

One of Total Fest’s many sideshow treats this year is a record swap to take place from noon to 2 p.m. on Saturday in the parking lot of the Big Dipper. If your own collection has been giving you cabin fever lately, bring the lot down to the Dipper and see if someone is willing to trade a few of theirs for a few of yours—hell, they might even buy ’em off you! Vinyl connoisseur (and frequent Indy contributor) Bryan Ramirez, who organized the record swap with his wife Julie, offers the following guidelines for Saturday’s meet:

No buzzards! Buzzards, Ramirez explains, are the obnoxious collector-types who leap to the front of the line, rifling through bins at warp-speed in their mindless quest for collectible records they’ll never even get to listen to. The life of a buzzard (Julie’s term), he says, is a soulless, joyless and paradoxically worthless one, for these are people who cannot truly love music.

Records are extremely sensitive to heat! It’s supposed to cool down over the weekend, but if temperatures are still in the 80s or higher, says Ramirez, they’ll try to move the swap into the Boys and Girls Club. Other than that, he advises, keep those platters out of direct sunlight and maybe even consider bringing a beach umbrella, tarp or some other kind of portable/jury-riggable source of shade.

If someone is interested in one of your records but you don’t feel like trading for theirs, you can gently suggest an outright purchase. Let the prospective buyer make an offer, suggests Ramirez, and dicker good-naturedly as necessary. Strike up an acquaintance. Have enough bills on you to make change.

“Have fun and enjoy your music!”

For a complete listing of Total Fest bands and events (including the 2 p.m. Saturday matinee lineup), consult the calendar in this issue, the ubiquitous posters up around town, or log onto Two-day passes to the festival are $25, available at Ear Candy: 542-5029. All-ages matinee (with short films shown between bands!) is $6, or $5 with pass.

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