Total Fest VII: August 14-16, 2008
We meet in January or February every year and monthly from then out, generally with a potluck or barbecue as the other reason. This year (2008) we met as an organizer committee to figure out our plans for the upcoming year back in February. Every year there are around 15 of us who work together to pull it together. Lou and Wendy Beard, Dennis Lynch and Mandy Weaver, Jen Sasshole, Dan Weitzel, Niki Payton, Abbie and Carrie Painted Cupcakes, Martin Hill, Timmy Arrowtop, Forrest Knorby, Jim Anderson, Anna Henry, Julie Tompkins, Ross Riddilin and Erin Lambert.
We're all music fans, and some of us are actual musicians. I run a small label called Wantage, and originally started Total Fest as a convenient title to a lucky convergence of my favorite bands back in 2002 (Volumen, Japanther, Mahamawaldi, the Fucking Champs, Drunk Horse, Federation X and the Cherrry Valence). From there, it was too much fun, and well-supported to not consider doing again. Somewhere in the process of thinking it through, we sort of collectively noticed that while our home town, Missoula, had all sorts of festivals dedicated to things like hemp and antique cars, there was nothing that really focused on what we cared about, like an underground/independent/punk music festival. Sure, there'd been botched attempts back in the 90's like North By Northwest, held out at the Lumberjack saloon complex west of Lolo, which was sort of cool, but lacked much focus and didn't stick around long enough to turn into something. Similarly, lots of bands I talked to had a bad taste left in their mouth from the thing, because of its bizarre tiered system of paying groups different amounts, if at all.
Our vision was originally to have a two-day music fest at Jay's Upstairs. Jay's was just big enough to hold the sweaty mass of people who crammed together. We used the upstairs and downstairs, and alternated between the two, so there'd be a huge movement of people up the stairs, or down, depending on where the band was playing.
We've always been lucky enough to get really positive responses both from bands who love Missoula, and Missoulians, who have a huge appetite for this kind of stuff. In around 2004 we started incorporating a saturday record swap, barbecues and some river floating/swimming in with everything else, so it wasn't just an indoor-only event.