Monday, October 5, 2015


The 1990's were a curious time. Folks interested in underground music were hugely record label-conscious, or at least I and most of my friends were. You got a lot of stuff just because Bruce Pavitt and Jonathan Poneman, or Tom Hazelmyer had put it out on their Sub Pop or Amphetamine Reptile labels, respectively (or SST, CZ, Kill Rock Stars, Boner, etc.). I thought of places as having their own sounds. Seattle always sounded very much like halfway between Mudhoney and Gas Huffer to me. The Twin Cities sounded like Hüsker Dü, Boise like Treepeople, Olympia like Beat Happening, Ellensburg like the Screaming Trees. It didn't make a ton of sense in retrospect, but so it goes, right?

All that has largely faded with the advent of ala-carte song purchasing/stealing courtesy of the internet's "here's everything, no waiting necessary." and youtube to MP3 capabilities, etc. My point isn't to say anything was better about the old way, just to kind of set the tone for how Hammerhead came onto my radar. Missoula was somewhat of a stopping point between the Twin Cities and Seattle, and we hosted a lot of the bands who's music got released by Tom Hazelmyer's Amphetamine Reptile or "Amrep" label. We had the Cows, God Bullies, Janitor Joe, Steel Pole Bathtub, and probably several more I'm not remembering through town. And regardless of whether anybody knew anything about the band or their music, there was some kind of a cache that came with being associated with this label that had put out all this raw, weird, angry noise.

Hammerhead were different, though. They had a paranoia and desperation about their music that just kind of set them apart, and made the others seem a bit like more of an act. Hammerhead were from Fargo/Moorehead, and came with the full-on endorsement of North Dakota transplants the Fireballs of Freedom who helped add to the super-human mystique that surrounded the group. It didn't hurt that Hammerhead were and are a spot-on tight power trio, with great musicianship, better tones and huge volume. They stopped playing or broke up, not sure what the exact story is, right at the end of the '90s. Jeff Mooridian and Paul Erickson went on to form Vaz, which has been very productive for the past 15 years, releasing some of the decade's best music, from my vantage point.

Roughly five years ago rumors started that Hammerhead was reforming, if ever so briefly, to play the Amrep 25th anniversary show. They also used the occasion to record a few songs for an EP, called "Memory Hole." We got them out for a Total Fest set shortly after that, and they continued to play sporadically, recorded an album called "Global Depression" for Learning Curve. This summer they released a record called "New Directionz" and are doing their first tour in something like 15 years to support. They're coming out with the band Qui, who played with the Jesus Lizard's David Yow for a while. Both bands and Missoulians Naked Limbs play tonight, Monday October 5th at the VFW in Missoula. Show starts at 9PM, $6. Here's a nice video to whet your appetite.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015


Red Fang.
Arguably, Red Fang and beers go together like very few things. Like jalapenos and cream cheese and deep frying. Like chocolate and peanut butter. Like uh, coffee and donuts. Why do I always, only think about food? Well, like beers and metal too, right?

Anyhow, tonight, Sept. 30th, Wednesday in Missoula City, Montana, Red Fang plays at the Palace, but not until after Total Fest's  North Side Kettlehouse Community Unite pint night. We'll be giving any bucks we raise to our pals at the Zootown Arts Community Center, because they rule. Join us, won't you?

The Kettlehouse event goes from 5:00 PM to 8:00 PM, on N. 1st St., at the North Side Kettlehouse. The Red Fang show doors open at 9:00 PM at the Palace Lounge, and there will be tickets at the door. It's gonna be a good time. All of it. So come and say hello.


Tuesday, September 8, 2015


Andy Smetanka
Total Fest friend, musician, writer and filmmaker Andy Smetanka just announced that he's raising money for a new project: the documentary about Missoula. Yep, that's the correct article. He's planning to make the definitive film about this weird vortex where five valleys intersect. And my guess is it won't have much to do with trout fishing. I guess we also should add that he's the one responsible for Total Fest's cinematic debut, and only actual made-with-film Film that we know of about Total Fest. Total Fest Forever captures the important part of Total Fest that happened at the river, and in backyards: the hanging out, conversations, laughing, potato guns.. It makes us a little teary-eyed watching it!

 The film's crowdfunding page is here, and deserves a generous action on your part. A large part of the Missoula we love has to do with people like Andy, who, god love 'em, really want to make movies about World War I (And We Were Young), Volumen, the Fireballs of Freedom, Bukowski Stories, and Missoula. We know you might get a little tired of us encouraging you to direct your business this way and that, mostly toward our sponsors and friends, but we do think it's a worthy thing. We actually think you should be eating at the Burns St. Bistro, drinking Black Coffee while listening to Ear Candy vinyl and wearing a Betty's shirt and thinking about going to Big Dipper, and then Kettlehouse while your Subaru gets fixed at Kent Bros. We truly believe all that. And, likewise, we truly believe that getting in as a shareholder on a Smetanka film is a unique and special thing. It's a modest budget in the grand scheme, and we think this is the art and culture that matters, and we sure hope you agree with that.

This is Andy's second crowd-fund. The first was the beautiful stop-animation World War I epic And We Were Young, which debuted earlier this year and has been screening steadily since. So, Smetanka does what he says he's going to do and has a record of completing what he sets out to. He has officially stuck his neck out out to raise the modest sum of $25,000, largely to buy and process Super 8 film to make a movie about Missoula. We encourage you to spend what you can afford to make this happen. Thank you.


Monday, August 31, 2015


Vaz, picture by Amy Donovan.
Well, it's been a week and a half and somehow my ears are still ringing. Is that normal? I wore earplugs! Anyway, we wanted to say thanks to the bands who played Total Fest. There were almost fifty of you and I think I got to see at least 65% of them this year, which I'm excited to say. We've all got our highlights reel, but mine's definitely chock-a-block with newcomers and old timers. Naomi Punk were a revelation. Shahs made me think of Richard Thompson and Sandy Denny. Hot Victory blew my mind. Jonny Fritz was amazing. Volumen never missed a beat. Humpy. Fireballs of Freedom. Black Cobra. Big Business. Big Business with Joe Preston playing Whip songs. Vaz. Hammerhead. Dead. Bad Future. Miss Lana Rebel. C Average. Clarke and the Himselfs. The Best Westerns. The Bugs... It's just a ridiculous thing to try to inventory.

Before I get to far along, we've heard that lots of people didn't get to buy a shirt before we sold out. To remedy that, we're going to keep orders open for September, and place an order to be printed in early October. You can go to the Total Fest Merch. button up above if you want to get something you missed.

Lana Rebel. Amy Donovan picture.
I think most of you know Total Fest XIV marked our last year of doing Total Fest. Certainly, I've got mixed feelings about that. It's been a good run and some of my best friends, strongest relationships, and certainly favorite music have come from Total Fest. I wanted it to go out on a high note, vs. burning out on it, and starting to resent the work that goes into it. Thanks for understanding that. I'm sure at some point, we'll want to do something else, and we'll let you know. While we like to think that Total Fest was a "special" thing, I'd like to submit that it's something that a dedicated group of people can make happen very similarly, right here in Missoula. Or wherever, I guess. Our formula was this: keep your eyes on the mission (ours was: great music, short sets, all-ages, noncommercial, diverse), divide tasks, keep at it. Our final year I forced a rule called the Simplicity Test. It just said if it was too complicated, we didn't do it. I recommend that because often times you need to check in with the basics. Total Fest has leaned heavily on direct relationships with bands whom I've (and other organizers)  worked directly for years, and I think in most cases folks trusted us to do what we said we would, which was promote the thing and get an audience there so the show was great.

Jonny Fritz with the Best Westerns. Picture by Amy Donovan.
If I'm allowed to editorialize a little, I'd like to encourage folks thinking about setting up a music fest to charge a fair price for good music. And you folks going to hear that music: pay what they're asking. Typically that's going to mean more than a standard punk show. It's hard being in a band, and nobody really wants to pay correctly. Show entry for DIY/punk/underground shows hasn't really adjusted for inflation ever. Cheapos still balk when I set a door price at $6. I was paying $5 or $6 twenty years ago to see music. It just means that bands you love are getting paid less in 2015 than they ever have been. That's bullshit and is unsustainable. You don't have to be in love with capitalism to know that there can be ethical business models, and at the core of that is setting a fair and competitive price that takes into account some of the input costs. With Total Fest, we never had a guest list, and the expectation always was that everybody has something to contribute. Either music, a volunteer shift, cash or some other support. If we were giving our time for several months as volunteer organizers, why exactly should somebody get in for free? I still love that.

I think a huge acknowledgement needs to go out to Missoula, and the people who patted us on the back, gave hugs, bought passes, came and had pizza, told their friends, and more than anything, showed up and came and had a good time over our fourteen years. Few communities are like Missoula, especially in its support for music, art, and a party. And I love those facts about this place.

Some things that make Missoula great:
Volumen. Amy Donovan photo.
Zootown Arts Community Center. Nonprofit that has an all-ages show space, Girls Rock Camp and low-cost and free opportunities for Missoulians to make all sorts of art. They're a great organization, and if you do any charitable giving, we recommend adding them to the folks you support.

Ear Candy Music. Is a record store, but also one of Total Fest's longest supporters. They've always sold passes and have never gotten paid for it. They keep their prices affordable, and maintain a very diverse stock. I think they are why Missoula is an exceptional place for Music, in lots of ways.

KBGA. Is 89.9 FM, Lots of great music, DJs and awesome shows are regularly getting pumped out on KBGA. KBGA's been behind TF since the first one.

Camp Daze. New, and in the same vein as Total Fest as far as nonprofit, volunteer run, and
Total Fest posters.

Obviously, that's a ridiculously short list. And without all of our sponsors (all Missoula small businesses) listed along the right hand side of this page we would be a lot more modest affair. Please give them your business, if you can.

Thursday, August 20, 2015


Jeez la-wheez, Total Fest is finally here! It starts tonight, Thursday at the Zootown Arts Community Center on North 1st St. in Missoula. That happens to be right next to the Kettlehouse's excellent N. Side tap room, so if you get there before 8:00 PM, have a beer! So, today: we've got two pretty "mega" announcements we need to make: the first is that legendary south Puget Sound metal blasters C Average are playing Total Fest. Like the Champs were, C Average are a band of serious chops, hugely driving melodies and parts that K.K. and Glen and Tony could've/might've written, had they grown up in the land of tall cedars. And, it's got all of the excellent D and D and Tolkien references you'd expect.

We emailed them out of the blue, and it took a while for the emails to get to the right address, but lo and behold, we got results! And how. If you haven't experienced what C Average does, take a minute and spin the youtube link down below. I think you'll be pleasantly surprised. C Average started as an instrumental two-piece, and have recently added a bassist, and are transitioning into having a singer. So, expect so standard C Average, and some new material.

Second up, we learned recently that Big Business will grab Joe Preston from the Thrones, and they'll be playing the the two songs from the Whip 7" that Wantage released. The Whip existed for about a year in the early 2000s, and were the first non-Karp project that Jared Warren and Scott Jernigan did
The Whip
after a few years apart with Warren in the Tight Bros from Way Back When. Joe Preston rounded out what has to be one of the essential and classic power trio lineups of all times. I got to see them once, and it was just barely enough. The band ended because of Jernigan's death in a boating accident in 2003, and his loss both from the drum stool and as a person is a hole in the lives of lots of us to this day. So when Jared from Big Business told us they were going to grab Joe and play a couple of Whip songs, it was a pretty emotional deal, and one we think makes a lot of sense as a tribute to Scott's life and the amazing music and memories he left behind.

Finally, we will be selling full-festival passes and single entries at the main entry door of Total Fest each night. We'll also have a card reader at the door. See you there! Please give business to our sponsors, if you can. They help us immeasurably.


Thursday, August 13, 2015


So, some big news here, we'll try to do it an condensed set of bullets:

1) Opening night (Thursday, August 20) of Total Fest will be at the Zootown Arts Community Center and will feature art installations from Michael Workman, Lish Harteis and others, as well as great bunch of bands like Jonny Fritz with the Best Westerns, Miss Lana Rebel, and a bunch more!

2) Did you see we've got a schedule up now?

3) Some bands have been added recently, they are: Hammerhead, Sasshole, Humpy, Mike and Rick, Holy Lands, Midnight Hot Dog and C Average and Idaho Green. Jeesh, that's pretty bitchin'.

4) Some bands have come off the schedule recently, they are: Weedeater (entire West Coast tour cancelled), Benny The Jet Rodriguez (broke up), Toys That Kill and the Underground Railroad to Candyland (medical emergency), Novacron and the Funeral and the Twilight.


Tuesday, August 11, 2015


Where do you begin with a band that seems to intentionally defy categorization? Here's the never-graduated-from-college try: Missoula's Holy Lands is, to me, equal parts prog-rock, Red Medicine/End Hits era Fugazi, Faith No More(?), Arto Lindsay's post-DNA work, and stoner psychedelia. Every song careens a different direction but somehow is anchored by their own weird amalgam of sounds. Every song is still Holy Lands, no matter how different it might be juxtaposed against the others. These guys are truly unique in a way I, and you, probably never expected. They're weird as hell and we're happy to announce they're one of our final invites to Total Fest XIV.