Named for octogenarian Montana broadcast legend, (pic below) Vi Thompson (RIP), the Vi Thompson Overdrive -now simply "VTO"- sprang out of Charlie Beaton's need for a band that did something different than what his other band, the Banned, had done. The Banned were, for an 18 year old Knowles Hall (dorm) resident named Josh Vanek in 1992, the first Montana punk group. I think the first Banned show I saw was them opening for Seaweed at UM's Copper Commons. It was excellently, awkwardly punk in every way from the cruddy mosh pit, to the mohicans, and docs and Skinyard shirts. The Banned were excellent, in a pretty theatrical, good at their instruments, rippin' crazy punk kind of way. And they had this kind of weirdo high pitched Jello-esque front guy who sangs songs like South Canada and Hippie's Got a Gun and who occasionally threw hot dogs at the (rather thin) crowd. The Banned had been around since the later '80s, released what I think is safely Montana's first punk 7". They probably had four or so pretty distinct lineups with the core of Charlie singing, Pat Phylmm/guitar and Mike Vanecek/bass being the band I'm most familiar with. They broke up at some point in the latish '90s when Pat moved to Seattle to pursue a dance/music/wild man career. Pat's another story, but I think the first time I saw somebody cut himself intentionally was Pat, at Jay's Upstairs, with a razor, ... across his forehead. Still gives me the shivers.
The Banned reunited for Total Fest IV, that sweaty affair at the American Legion Hall in 2005. During college, Charlie was the guy who'd organized shows for (touring behind Margin Walker) Fugazi, and (Kerplunk-era) Green Day. He'd get the bands like Schlong and the Too Many groups (two VTO songs reside on Too Many comps) to come to town. Charlie's always been that rare kind of dude in a place like Missoula who's excited about punk to the point where he took an active role in making it happen with shows, bands and releases. Between then and now he started up Big Dipper, the great ice cream place that's always hosted Total Fest's Saturday Record Swap, and a family, and some of the active punk stuff took a back burner.
But, a handful of months ago, VTO reformed, and with about half of their original lineup intact! It's rad to see guys in their 40s (or close) playing country punk in Missoula in 2012, it's the sort of lifer move that I think helps keep a place like Missoula unique compared with say, err, other similarly sized towns. I think "country punk," as much as I don't love saying it, is pretty apt handle. I know Charlie and Yale listened to a lot of Jonathan Richman's Goes Country record when they were starting. I went and saw them play in Helena the other weekend and it's thoroughly great, the same vibe as before, lots of fun, well rehearsed and a good time. Sounds like the '90s, man.