Saturday, May 29, 2010

It wouldn't be Total Fest with out a little Flagstaffery and it's safe to say that we're pretty pleased with what's coming our way this year. Custody Battle is pretty intense in a 90s punk/garage kind of way, which is great and a fantastic fit into this year's line-up. We always have fun with the Flagstaff crowd and since we've been listening to Custody Battle's demo they sent in (recorded to tape by one Greg Casebeer) ... well, it's hard not to get excited.

They're not holding anything back, they're not hiding a thing; they're recording sweet songs, they'd like you to dance. Dearest Missoula, Total Fest IX is proud to announce Custody Battle.

Thursday, May 27, 2010


I'm sure they're out there, but I have yet to meet someone who doesn't like to feel good. Having a good time, though hard to remember at times, is the only thing that makes life worth it. There's a primal element to jettisoning the everyday and allowing ourselves to rattle the cages. Sometimes we need folks to jostle us a little or pied-piper us into submitting to our lizard-brains. That's what Brooklyn-based and Missoula favorites Japanther is there for. Ian and Matt work music like a blender – throw in a variety of delicious parts, set to high and let it whirl (and for those of you lucky enough to have a line of sight last year, you'll remember the actual blender). I still remember the words out of my mouth the first time that I saw Japanther. After the first two songs, all I could muster was “Holy shit.” Since then, I've tried to accumulate everything that they pump out – 2010's Ninjasonik split-project 7” is damn pretty. Their music refuses to be tied down. The differences between albums (take Dump the Body in Rikki Lake vs Skuffed Up My Huffy, for example) demonstrate a solid progression, but also a progression that doesn't sacrifice creativity for the sake of “development.” From power pop to noise, ambient to whacked, their songs stick in your head – how many times have you caught yourself singing River Phoenix or Fuk tha Prince A Pull iz Dum? With our efforts to branch out a bit, we've nailed down a Thursday warm up at the Missoula Art Museum. Japanther will be there; art will happen.

On a personal note, I want to say that Japanther can do no wrong. Back in 2008, when my friend Chad was dying of cancer, Ian and Matt sent him a CD and a poster with “Keep Rockin” sharpied on the back. It was a small gesture in the grand scheme of things, but it was drenched in kindness. They didn't have to do anything. It made my friend smile, and, for the last months of his life, that is all he wanted to do.

I can’t remember where I first heard about Lesbian (capital L), the spacey doom band from Seattle, and I kind of like it that way. Foggy. Hazy. Unclear. “Huhhh?” Lesbian’s music’s been released by the excellent Holy Mountain label, known for telling the world about bands like Om, Six Organs of Admittance, Wooden Shjips, Lords of Falconry, Country Teasers, Blues Control and a ton more of the grey area masters. Bands seemingly living in a different, parallel time, unconcerned with what sort of currency their sounds hold with any kind of commercial audience, but so focused on those sounds that it’s hard not to be completely enveloped by the stuff. It’s murky, evokes the feeling of being somewhere like a rainforest on the slopes of Mt. Rainier, and isn’t in a hurry to do much of anything. Speaking of hurrying, Lesbian are in no rush to dump out releases. According to their Encyclopedia Metallum entry, they’ve just got 3 official releases. A night with Lesbian is a smoky, riffy, loud deal. A bludgeoning deal, with equal parts space and wonder.

Here’s what Aquarius Records has to say: "Definitely another 'heavy' winner from the eccentric Holy Mountain label, fresh from their successes with the likes of Om and Mammatus, two other question-mark-metal bands with heady, hypnotic abilities. Their thoat-torn vocals and the weighty riffage argue for Lesbian's status as metallers, while the many passages of quiet blissfulness reveal a surprisingly sensitive side, just as emotionally effective, each opposed aspect of their music enhancing the power and beauty of the other via Lesbian's devastating dynamics and psychedelic synergy. Recommended!"

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

If you haven’t heard Turner Capehart’s voice grace the airwaves of local college radio in the months since the release of his Fugazi produced album Building Your Own Hidden Fortress, I suggest you proceed immediately to his MySpace and get a taste.

Building Your Own Hidden Fortress
is the first solo album by Turner Capehart, but I refuse to call it his “debut”. It is a full length, nine part story of beautiful variations and intense feeling. This record sounds like a Shoegaze dream of noise and experimental folk, both electric and acoustic.

I saw a Turner perform at a house show this winter with Julie and the Wolves (also playing TF9) and Travis Sehorn and I was thoroughly impressed by the musician-isto that Turner Capeheart has become. His stage presence is modest among his arsenal of instruments and funky spirit. The house show and a later show at the BSMT restored my hope in the local Missoula music scene that seems to ebb and flow in and out of the valley. The local folk scene has been renovated by Turner’s all-inclusive music making abilities. The track “Fire Season” tells a story with fast speech, fast fingerpickin’ and great accent accompaniments.

He has resuscitated the fish-on-dry-land condition of storytelling music with lyrics that could be read like poetry. Oh where will he go with this? Check up on Turner Capehart at this year’s Total Fest IX.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010


I'm still amused by the delicate navigation surrounding Missoula's Fag Rag. Sure, the name “controversy” has blown over, but I still smile over the occasional “homosexual rag” that I hear on the radio – it sounds more like a dance step than a band name. My sensibility finds it more humorous if the play would have focused on ways to adulterate the second half of the band's name, but that's neither here nor there. Perhaps the bleep would be more appealing, but it's all still a bit silly to me.

In spite of the fact that Fag Rag has been playing for a little over a year, I still have trouble disassociating them with Knot Knocked Up. Not in a bad way. I liked Knot Knocked Up – they were brash, noisy, loud, offensive, chaotic, dreamy – and, what better band to open for AIDS Wolf? Chains on metal tubs and punctuated screams? Come on. More than anything, I was happy that Missoula had it. But such chaos can only last as a happening. Fag Rag brings together the anti-melodic and frantic vocals of Mikki with the pseudo-rhythmic stylings of drummer Mat, keyboardist Isaiah and guitarist Jerrod. Underlying all the reactive temperament is a residual calm. Something reminds me of PRE or Divorce, but maybe that's because I've been overdosing on those two bands recently, and I could find similarities with the Black Eyed Peas at this point. Regardless, the similarities stick. Fag Rag is ballsy and fierce, undeniably talented and creative. They border on the brink of chaos but are able to, if only momentarily, ground it and send it spinning all over again. They're challenging to what may or may not be music – if we need to stick to such a dichotomy, and we're lucky to call 'em “Missoula's Own.”

They say you can never go home... unless you plan to meet new friends, play music and become the best music-promoting machine this side of the Yellowstone. So long as you've not been living under a scree slope (or outside of Missoula) for the past 6 months or so, you've heard The Skurfs. Whether you're running a 5K, slurping beers in any one of Missoula's downtown taverns, or tuning in to KBGA... The Skurfs get around. No stranger to Missoula's music scene, lead Skurf, "Donny McBride" dove back in head first upon arriving home from a stint in Austin, TX.

The Skurfs claim that they are the first (that they know of) Ski/Surf band to exist in this world. They draw inspiration from both the exhilaration of winter sporting in Montana and the unique excitement created by the tunes of Dick Dale, Link Ray, Thee Hedons, the Ventures and so on. The Skurfs are tight, fun and ambitious like crazy. (The Skurfs tried their darnedest to break into the 2010 Winter Olympics) It's great to have these guys in Missoula, we're excited as an extra in Hot Dog to add them to this year's line-up! The Skurfs, people. The Skurfs.

Monday, May 24, 2010

These “old fogies” are not old and ignored.
Former Missoula music-scener Dylan White (a Sherlock in his past life) returns from Portland with his merry band of AARP-ers to perform at Total Fest the Ninth. Grandparents are coming to Total Fest to school us with their folk, psychadelia, and world-trip sounds of a well-aged band…perhaps the age of your grandparents. These not-so-senior citizens also serve as the Northwestern Guru of Sitar sounds and tabla rocking.

Grandparents’ tracks welcome you to a tribal ceremony (no induction necessary) ala Jason Spaceman, Allman Brothers Band, CSNY, Brian Jonestown Massacre, and the Byrds. But they are no means a copy, their music is loaded with original lyrics among a collage of organic sounds and synthetic noises. Songs about talking to trees, and herb rekindle the romantically irresistible hippy phase we all went through. The sound of Grandparents is a careful concoction of chemicals and Eastern spices, it’s an aural drug like you’ve never tried before. Upon hearing their album …
dig everything you will leave your earthly body and happily drift into outer space to feel as lost as the Taj Mahal in snow. I do…dig everything and my plants grow much happier while listening to GRANDPARENTS.

There's something going on in Lethbridge, Alberta; it's hard to pin down, but it's the kind of thing that makes you feel like you're late for the party. The small city seems to be pumping out band after kick ass band. A blend of garagey, low-fi-ish pop, Fist City knocks your pants off. Composed of former members of Endangered Ape and the New Danger Kids, Fist City formed in 2009 and hasn't looked back. They've garnered a solid reputation from their live performances and have a full length coming out this summer on Deadbeat Records. Saying that you're excited for every band that's playing starts to lose its effect after the fourth or fifth time, but that's what Total Fest is about – being excited to see bands that you haven't seen mixed with bands that you have, and seeing them all in the same place over three days. So, yeah, I'm damn excited to see Fist City rock a few hundred socks off (not so excited for all the bare feet). You all know how TF works: you nab a beverage, wiggle your way to your preferred position and then shuffle to the next stage. Well shuffle quick and shuffle close when it's Fist City's turn because you'll want to have enough room to cradle your beverage and keep your toes moving.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

What's a Total Fest without a fun-time, punky, drunky, party band? The studio recordings of Coconut Coolouts are one of those records that you throw on a Sunday morning while your trying to caffeinate your brain into piecing together what happened after hours. Each song is infectious with its raucous / pop energy and makes you wish you were seeing it live. I haven't seen the Coolouts, but, by all accounts, they put on one of the most fun live shows this side of the universe.

Listening to their records, there's a sense that each song is finished by chance; they're having such a good time that an explosion is on the horizon. There's nothing like bands that have the time of their lives as they play, and I, for one, am damn excited to see this translated in the flesh. With songs like "I Wanna Come Back (From the World of LSD)" and "We Drink Blood" you can expect the full gamut of joyful irreverence spewing from this 6 piece. Did I mention banana suits? You"ll leave the set dizzy and most likely in a fever, but you'll see the world in a whole new way.

Friday, May 21, 2010

A Google of "Chinese" isn't the best way to narrow your results for this Seattle two-piece of Aaron Campeau and Michael Strenski. The blog-spot is equally evasive; however, I'm impressed with the defense of Showgirls. It's hard to find someone who respects a campy flop as much as I do – even harder to find someone who puts that much effort in defending the movie.

I have to admit that I'm a bit partial to two-pieces. There's usually less ego, less equipment, less posturing, but more rock, more energy and more tantrum. Chinese doesn't disappoint at any level. This guitar-drum pair weave together some awesome, self-proclaimed loud, abrasive, danceably a-rhythmic punk rock noise. We should probably shy away from a-rhythmic, though. Nothing is truly a-rhythmic. Their sustained distortions and quick changes may keep you guessing as the noise congeals into something beyond rhythm. It makes you happy, or, at the least, it should. This isn't saying that you need to go look at yourself in the mirror, but you're missing something if you're not smiling during their set. Seriously.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Bands are a dime a dozen, tight bands are a little rarer, and tight punk bands with good ideas are even rarer. Where are we going with all these uh, platitudes about tightness? That's a good, if rhetorical question. Well, when we listen to the long-awaited full length, debut Fruition, by Olympians via Missoula Chin Up, Meriwether!, we get fuckin' stoked. It's tight, it's punk, it's got good ideas and it's got unharnessed energy that's hard to deny. Chin Up! Meriwether started here in around 2006, in the basement of Missoula's anarcho curry house and bio diesel plant, the Lab. Steve played bass, Aaron, I think, drums. They ruled. They existed here for about 6 months. They put out a tape, wrote a poignant song about Missoula's nasty gay/freak-bashing bullshit culture, played a handful of sweaty, fun, full-on rollicking shows, and that was it. Peter moved to Oly, and Missoula's boom and bust DIY punk scene busted, for the moment.

Peter didn't wait long to find a new rhythm section and start kicking out more bitchin' jams. And now we've got this great document (Fruition LP, on Rumbletowne) of an amazing, fun, bouncy punk band. And while I always liked Chin Up! Meriwether, this iteration has spent more time playing, more time getting good at the songs, and more time honing their craft, so it's that much more incredible. And what exactly is it like? Singalongy, but not cheesy anthem singalongs, poppy, but wonderfully astute and good at crafting songs, not just punk with filed-down edges, and they've got a maniac of a bassist, whose tone makes me think of the Swing Ding Amigos, somehow. While it's hard to figure out how to discuss a band's politics, or err, agenda, without weighing down write-up Chin Up! Meriwether's always been good on content. They've got social commentary galore, and it's all of the personal politics nature, which I dig, and which is a lot more difficult to deliver that "fuck the governmnent/establishment/corporations" variety of content. Gay, ripping, and fun as a midnight game of capture the flag! Chin Up! Meriwether, ahoy!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

I had the pleasure of seeing Broken Water play a show at the Capitol Theater with Japanther and Kimya Dawson in Olympia, Washington in December of 2009. Seeing bands I love away from home is one of my favorite things, ever. I was surrounded by friends, family and a ton of stangers; I had a blast. I didn't know anything about Broken Water, though my two Missoula transplant pals assured me that I was in for a treat. I was reminded that a few years earlier, I had seen BW band members Konoko (drumms/vox) and Jon (guitar/vox) play in another band, Sisters, also with Japanter, also in Olympia, also awesome.

Although it's difficult to touch on exactly what makes this band so great and why I'm so excited that they are coming to Total Fest, I can assure you that they've got the DIY spirit. I anticipate only that you'll love their slighly Siouxsie Sioux/My Bloody Valentine pop psych tunes, low key vibe and groovy live set. Broken Water are one of those bands whose love of the music they make is palpable on the faces of the players. In one of those rare very genuine "we're stoked" kind of ways. Stay tuned to Muffin Tops on KBGA for upcoming Total Interviews with bands like Broken Water. Thurs 5-6PM, 89.9FM."

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The aftermath of this ‘quake will have everyone stranded in Missoula for the duration of Total Fest IX.
SLC’s Birthquake! Is a brotherly trio of music-makers who may or may not be able to tie their shoes, but are sure to make you smile and sway. Their debut album Rejoice the Noise from Salt Lake’s Kilby Records captures a smooth mixture of pop and Tropicana balanced with some heavy riffs and beats that had me rejoicing their brand of “noise”. Nicholas Daniel on guitar, Matthew Levi on percussion, and Gregoree Scott on bass, each sibling dutifully contributes to the percussin’. The brothers three are accented by horns, woodwinds, tropical chants and the type of friendly banter that just makes you feel good. “I love you brother!” was a line I caught in one of their tunes in the midst of yip-yips and ya-hoos. If you like make-it-yerself music and laughing with family and friends then I suggest you give Birthquake a listen and practice your wood block. I’ll be at home polishing some new dance moves for this year’s fest waiting patiently to try them out with the Birthquake! Bros.
Rejoice the noise ye grrls and bois! And abandon any thoughts of looking too cool to dance like you were a three-year-old.

Monday, May 17, 2010


Simply put, Birthday Suits kick ass. Total Fest alums, Birthday Suits are definitely someone we're happy to have back. They pack in aggression, energy, style and passion into their sets as Hideo and Matthew run across the rock n' roll spectrum as well as the stage, floor, and whatever space is available. Their incessant touring keeps this Minni duo fresh in the minds and chests of music fans everywhere. They're pushing out a new album this spring that should provide for some new intensity. The frenzy of motion and music is infectious, and if you haven't seen them before, you'll likely ask yourself, “Where have I been?”

If you're one of those jaded hipsters, then Birthday Suits may be exactly what you need. Their live shows are mesmerizing in their assault upon your cynicism – this is what music is supposed to be: loud, flaring, in motion. Any pretentious, self-aware, self-generated crap is stripped away within seconds of the first sound you hear, and, if you're not swayed by it, then maybe you should go find a mirror and see what's missing.

Unless you've been living under a rock for the past few years, you've probably gotten the opportunity to have had Missoula's own Bird's Mile Home send you on your way completely worn out and unable to get their damn songs out of your head no matter how many times you hum them. What can't this band do? From getting a hall full of seniors shakin' their butts on the dance floor to whipping the kids into a fury with Circle Jerks covers and thrashing originals, these guys bring to mind the best elements of the Minutemen, Fifteen, hell even the Boss. The semi-recent addition of cellist Genevieve Smith completes the picture by perfectly fleshing out the songs and adding a hint of melody to the addictingly gruff delievery of Bird's Mile Home's rolickin' jams.

With lyrics that tell a rollercoaster ride of a story - goddamn I'm a sucker for this kind of stuff - and songs that make it nearly impossible to pinpoint their sound (folk? punk? weird?), Bird's Mile Home's recently released debut LP on local upstart Minor Bird Records (Total Organizer Marty Hill, yes!) sets the bar for Missoula's underground music scene. Don't sit on this - get a head start by picking up the record now and learn the songs so you too can impress your friends by finger-pointing at all the right places and adding your own drunken rendition to the songs' chorus.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Another mind-blowing group from the City of Roses - I tell ya, Portland's ratio of ripping bands per capita is downright absurd - make their way to this year's Total Fest. Arctic Flowers sound like they would have fit in perfectly with their refreshing take on the UK anarcho scene of the 80's and have the intensity and riffs to leave you wondering what decade we're in anyway. Consisting of folks from Signal Lost, Deathreat, Defect Defect, Vivid Sekt, blah blah blah, this is ferocious and uncompromising punk rock that will send your band back into the practice space trying to figure out where you went wrong. These guys and gals have cruised up and down the West Coast already this year and lucky for us things don't look like they're gonna be slowing anytime soon. I've been wracking my brain to come up with more ways to describe Arctic Flowers and have only been able to come up with this: if you don't like this, you're wrong.

Following on the heels of last year's ridiculously great demo, Arctic Flowers have a handful of records coming out this summer that I'm already reserving a spot for on my Best of 2010. I got a chance to see them play a couple of months ago that left me floored and unable to even remember what the other bands sounded like. In addition to all this, it's worth a mention that Stan also records bands at his Buzz or Howl studio on 24-track, 2" analog tape - just finished mixing the new Raw Nerves a few days ago. All you Montana bands take note! So skip school, tell mom and dad to fuck off, and prepare to lose all sense of time in the raging tunes of Arctic Flowers.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

In Dante's Purgatorio, Belacqua sits in the shade of a boulder as he waits out his time. What use is there to ascend the mountain, when Purgatory is transitory and release is on the horizon? Why toil when the promise of Purgatory is that you'll eventually cross through the gates? The issue, of course, is that the goal of the gates is as much of a false promise as is the promise of release. The listless August days of the Missoula summer can make some of us think we're sweltering through some purgatorial period. We crawl from the shade and splash in the rivers waiting for the night to come, bbqs to flare and the pabst to stop sweating out.

Self-proclaimed unintentional musings that sprung from a drunken Portland backyard campfire in 2008, A Coin in the Coffer mixes Pogue-like vocals with marching acoustic rhythms. The grit of the vocals and the playfulness of the lyrics relish in the toothless decay of the world. They snagged their name from the 16th century false promise of the immediate release from Purgatory when the fare is paid: “As soon as the coin in the coffer rings, The soul from Purgatory springs.” ACC's lyrics offer macabre themes that lament against the indulgent excess of society. Don't let that seriousness spill your beer. From all accounts, they pack a celebratory punch and all the playfulness of their live shows give that sense of joy that we all need. So get out of the shade, move your river drenched butt to Total Fest and cast off the chains of false promise. We're all in this together; there's no escape. (Ed. note: one-time Montanan, Ass-End Offend/Squalora drummer Dan Lawlor's in this band!)

Friday, May 14, 2010

Butte, Montana’s a town known for it’s boom and bust past, its labor union support (you can still register w. the IWW in Butte), it’s gaping, caustic Super-Funded pit and the fact that its residents (primarily of Irish, Welsh, Cornish, Serbian and Finnish origins) used to make their livings mining copper. It’s a wild and beautifully vacant town with turn of the century-vintage infrastructure and the capacity for at least triple its current population. We’ve always thought of it as a small version of Pittsburgh (in the Rockies) complete with heavy industry, substantial stone mansions built by various huge money families and the same kind of hard-living vibe. That there’s a young band there called Mordecai which plays desperate, trashy punk rock makes the place all the more alluring. With two brothers, Elijah and Holt Bodish, and a third friend, Mordecai’s deal is pretty noisy, bizarre and excellent. That they come from a place nowhere near anything resembling a hipster (and completely disinterested with hipness) in a part of the world not known whatsoever for the exportation of its punk rock treasure only adds to their charm.

So, yeah. More about Mordecai. If only! I’ve seen Mordecai once, at Dane Fest 2009, at the BSMT in Missoula. They played with a handful other trashy bands (Francis Harold and the Holograms, Myelin Sheaths) and blew my mind with their spartan, blown-out punk. It wasn’t exactly tight or pretty, but it was entirely honest and inspiringly raw. They played for maybe 20 minutes, and when they were done, I didn’t want to see any more bands.

Thursday, May 13, 2010


Thrones is a band whose thunder is incredible. The plurality of the name, compared against the singularity of the band is a pretty interesting thing to think about too. Thrones have always been complex and weird enough to be a much larger entity than just one dude making music. That fact is a testament to the mind of Joe Preston, who is Thrones.

The pronouns and verb forms one normally chooses to describe a band (they, their, them, plural) all point at a guy who's able to conjure up more spirits, more depth and more sound than almost anybody else. Thrones essentially is a guy, a drum machine, bass and vocals, and while that may seem like a spartan set of tools with which to make music that is this epic, orchestrated and spacious, it's a pretty miraculous thing to witness live. One can't overstate the power and catharsis that come when you drop the needle into the groove of Sperm Whale, Alarune, the s/t record, etc.

I saw Thrones for the first time in 1995, at (I think), a winery somewhere in Portland. My brother's old band (the Waydowns) had been on tour with Unwound and Vern had put out the Thrones first cassette. We'd been listening to the cassette over and over, and when we finally got to see the band, I remember being at first a little concerned that there wasn't enough stuff to replicate live what we'd been listening to. Long story short, it was awesome and I'm stoked to still be listening to this incredible music 15 years later. Wish I still had that tape though.

Joe often gets name checked for his bass playing in
other bands, but to us, Thrones is where it's at, and it needs no qualification. Ladies, germs: THRONES!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Wading & Waiting ...

Hi there Total world. Once again, we have the fortunate problem of being armpit deep in submissions. we've listened, debated, stood on our heads, chewed some fingers to the bone, heard you in our sleep, and we're inches -- drooling distance -- close to finalizing the line-up. keep your eyes on the blog and your emails, we'll be notifying and posting the line-up in the next day or two.


josh h.