Monday, December 28, 2015


This thing was on top of our year-end list.
2015 was a year that went by entirely quickly, but when I sat back to think about what new music stood out I came up with a decent list pretty quickly. In Missoula I think we were lucky to have a major renovation done to our largest real-deal, non-sports hall live music venue, the Wilma Theater, which had been in dire need of it. The Wilma was always a funky and sweet place, and while I tend to prefer my buildings well past their prime and dingy to new and shiny, you can only see Yo La Tengo so many times with sub par audio and not start to wonder. So, thanks to the Top Hat's Nick Checota, the place sounds and looks great and here's to a sweet roster in 2016.

Additionally, this August's Total Fest was the last one, you can read about why here. I think it was the correct way to wrap it up, and I encourage people to direct a good amount of their live-show attention to smaller and mid-sized venues like the ZACC, VFW, Palace and Stage 112, all of which are helping keep Missoula vibrant with affordable shows chock-a-block with great locals, and amazing touring national talent. Camp Daze will happen June 2-4, 2016 and I'll be there.

V/A Long Time Comin': Lost Sounds From the Treasure State
Unquestionably, this double LP is at the tip top of my listening heap for 2015. This thing took Dave Martens (Best Westerns, Magpies, etc. etc.) many years to assemble, and his hard work digging up the great, never-released, or long-forgotten gems included on here speaks to a garage rock past in Montana that had scenes from Sidney to Kalispell and all points in between. It fascinates me that Montana bands were getting national air time and attention via the more democratized and culturally important radio. There are as many stories behind this record as their are bands, and the copious liner notes help contextualize all the great stuff that was going on about fifty+ years ago. The first pressing is selling through quickly. A+ stuff.

Dan Deacon "Gliss Riffer"
Dan's ideas continue to push electronic music and pop music in general, and I continue to really dig what he does, as indescribable as it can be.

Broken Water "Wrought"
This great band just called it quits, after probably 8 years of doing it. I always found their sheets of sound mesmerizingly hopeful and great.

Ciudad Lineal  "El Nuevo Hombre"
Spaniards (or I think actually Catelonians) Ciudad Lineal from Barcelona make decidedly 80s Cold War synth jams. Kid of Cure-y, I guess, but a little more awkward and eastern euro vibed.

Hammerhead "New Directionz
Duh. Hammerhead regrouped fully and officially this year, with Jeff and Paul's return to the snowy and windswept prairie of the north. And they self-released a full-on return-to-everything-you-loved LP.

Shahs "The Bodyguard"
Missoulians Shahs released a great full length this year, and it's a progression from their mostly Tom Helgerson dreamy tropical synth to something a little more layered and complex. Sorry this sounds like Wine Spectator. Trust me, mon.

DIÄT "Positive Engery"
Australian two-piece living in Berlin, making decidedly un-modern sounding and cold post punk/new wave. I hate saying the words "post punk" as much as you hate reading them, but I think they're pretty close to correct here. Damnation is this great. Heavily, heavily rotated.

Benjamin Von Wildenhaus "II"
As the title says, this is Benjamin Von Wildenhaus's second LP, and his first was a revelation. This one continues to mine the same great vein of subtle and wild, uh, guitarscapes. Uggh, right? Who said that word would be okay?

Miss Lana Rebel and Kevin Michael Mayfield "The Midtown Island Sessions"
Most of these are in no particular order, but this record is my co-top record of 2015. We'd been waiting impatiently for the next phase of Lana and Kevin's output, following up on their excellent A Real Subtle Beauty, and this album rings true to all the greatness of their songwriting and performance abilities. Heavy rotation.

Flesh World "the Wild Animals In My Life"
More stellar, depressed but frenetic kind of post punk, this time from somebody from Limp Wrist. I really dug this.

Swamp Ritual "S/T" 
Heavy Missoulians whose riff mastery became pretty clear in 2015. Riffin' bong-rock at its finest, with only a bass and drums behind it.

Shopping "Why Choose"
British band whose sound is like a kind of modernized Gang of Four. Super LP.

Nots "We Are Nots"
Memphis band on Goner who played here. Niki saw them and gave me the CD, I loved it.

Sleaford Mods "Key Markets"
British (I guess) hip hop that's so smart and political that it's kind of creating its own world around it and their documentary Invisible Britain is apparently great news too. Here's hoping that Big Sky Doc Fest or the Roxy get it next year.

John Carpenter "Lost Themes"
Arguably, the thing I waited most anxiously for in 2015, and it didn't disappoint one bit.

Shannon and the Clams "Gone By the Dawn"
I always have a blast watching this band. They're incredibly good musicians, and songwriters and something about them just makes them transcend so much of the rest of what's out there.

Fireballs of Freedom at Total Fest.
Red Fang at the Palace.
Big Business at Total Fest.
Earthless at the Top Hat.
The Whip at Total Fest.
Dead at Total Fest.
Black Cobra at Total Fest.
Built To Spill at the Badlander.
Humpy at Total Fest.
Everyday Sinners at Total Fest.

I think I'll need to get out of the house more this year.

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. 


Guest Blogger: Andy Smetanka. Photos by Dan Engler.
Mike And Rick
Until a few years ago  I carried at least one apple box full of old, poorly-organized cassettes, virtually none of them with cases intact, from one house to the next in Missoula, every time I moved. I'd been doing this for over twenty years until I just said just said the hell with it: I'm not even going to look into the box this time. Not going to get sucked in again. I'm just going to leave the box out in an alley with a FREE sign on it.

Have you ever found a lost or discarded collection (perhaps in, ahem, a “cassette caddy”) of someone else's mix tapes and listened with guilty pleasure to the unfolding psychological profile, in music, of a complete anonymous stranger? I know I have. When I was ten or twelve, my dad found a suitcase full of pow-wow cassettes in the parking lot behind his office: one-off recordings of Crow, Kiowa, Northern Cheyenne and Blackfeet drum music from various Montana tribal gatherings throughout the '70s. Maybe eighty of them. That blew our minds, mine and my younger sister's. We listened to lots of them. We were also excited about recording things off the radio, but we promised our dad we would not record over any of these Indian tapes. I hope that suitcase is still in his vast collection of old stuff somewhere.

Well, somebody found my old apple box full, because the next time I looked into the alley it was gone.  I felt confident and relieved in this great gifting of magnetized tape to a random stranger—a budding young cassettologist, one hopes, who will keenly tuck in—because I reckoned there was no longer anything irreplaceable in it.

The irreplaceable has been gradually set aside. Over the years and between moves, I've gradually sifted out anything Made in Missoula and moved it to a separate and much smaller box. Hard choices: a couple of mix tapes from old girlfriends or prospective girlfriends held on in that Missoula box until that last fateful change of residence, but in the end it seemed sort of lovely to turn those musical mash-notes loose into the world again, anonymously, fluttering like windborne smooches, and each one a kind of spore with another chance to find purchase.

Dan Strachan, Oblio Joes  ca. mid '90s
But the Missoula stuff: I dug it up it last month while moving again, and it's pretty much all I've been listening to for two weeks in my new deluxe North Side garage studio/basic man-cave. What kind of cassettes am I talking about? Let me name ye a few: a rare copy of the Oblio Joes' first recorded efforts: the 1993 Christmas Break four-track sessions. It was clear within a few seconds of popping it it into a tape deck that the recording was still crispy and crunchy and perfectly preserved after its two-decade sleep. Right beneath that, I found a cassette copy of Johnny Joe's four-track solo album, Can't Think What I'm Saying, recorded under the name Johnny Apple. Not widely released, to say the least, but it's great navel-gazing stuff. The first track (it must be called “I Don't Know What I'm Going to Do Today”) is a favorite: virtually guitarless. except for a lazily heroic solo that sounds like J. Mascis playing through an itty-bitty Peavey Rage.

I have these things on CD as well, but tape is way better. It's got muscle and period authenticity. The wearisome debate between MP3 and vinyl etc. etc. completely discounts the fact that some music is best heard through a shitty tape deck, be it in a man-cave or a weaving Subaru driving up to the sledding hill after the bars all closed.

Humpy. Denis O'Brien, Andy Smetanka and Dave Parsons
Also rescued from oblivion: rough cassette mix of songs from the unfinished (i.e. barely started) 1999 Humpy LP, with vocals on about half the tunes.  Also a copy of the Povstock! compilation, featuring a couple songs apiece from the nine or possibly nine million bands that played a chaotic all-ages benefit show for the Poverello Center in February, 1994 while just down the street Roxy Theater was burning to the ground.

Also: The only existing recordings (so far as I know) of Bastard Squad and the Grilled Cheese Sandwiches (two bands, although it would be a good name for just one band). A tape marked “Fiorello” in handwritten block letters that turns out to be a boom-box recording of a Phantom Imperials practice. The only song I could name was “O.J. Simpson,” but it all sounds fantastically loud and noisy--again, like it's just yesterday and you didn't mean to interrupt practice, you just wanted to drop by and pick up some handbills for this show coming up. Heart Breaker!

Treasure, I'm telling you! The oldest of these cassette recordings predate, by two or three years at least, any of our wildest notions that a Jay's band could make a CD. Records seemed more within the realm of possibility, but expensive, and recording options were few compared to today. Most of us weren't familiar with the process, didn't relish the idea of paying for it, but were grateful when a couple of people (Abe Baruck in particular) finally came along and said: Hey, I can do that, and cheap! But at some point everyone recorded themselves on a boom box, and in many cases there's still only that one copy. I seem to have a lot of those only-one-copies in my small collection; I'm happy and relieved they've survived two decades of indifferent storage while they were in my care, and I look forward to returning many of them to their original creators at the year's Total Fest--with the condition they burn me a CD copy in return. Once, or if ever, they figure out how to do that.  On second thought, maybe I will just hang on to them.

So. I am gradually arriving at my point. In listening to all of this vintage Missoula rock glory (the better to get primed for the last TF, of course), I'm struck by how many good songs Missoula bands wrote in the '90s (and here I must also mention the Rat Boy's Choice cassette by old-school, pre-Jay's hippie misfits Judy Rosen Parker, which continues to amaze). More so, that all these bands seemingly wrote and played them under the understandable assumption that few people outside the valley—indeed, outside a very small group of locals—would ever hear them. Struggle to imagine this, young people: we didn't have bandcamp or the internet at all.

It's debatable whether the mass distribution of music by internet has diluted away any discernible trace of a regional sound to set Missoula apart from Any Other College Town, USA, but then, it isn't accurate to say there was any particular Missoula sound back in the 1990s, either. I suppose we all aspired to Fireballs of Freedom levels of showmanship and reputation (“greasy” was about the highest accolade you could hang on a rock band in 1995) and envied the Oblio Joes their gift for girl-hypnosis, but taken together it was more like a defining spirit. In Jay's Upstairs, at least, between 1993 and 2000 or so we had a unifying place—had it all to ourselves, in fact—where just about anything was allowed to thrive. As long as you rocked somehow and weren't a bunch of dicks, you were in. A lot of people still think it was some elitist rock clubhouse, but really it was as simple as that.

Almost of these old “Jay's bands” had at least one signature song, a crowd shout-along or a standby set-closer by which to flicker on in Missoula rock posterity. But not just every Jay's band had a bona fide anthem. That's true of bands everywhere, of course. How do you describe an anthem? I dunno. But you know it when you hear it, and wherever in the ethers anthems come from, not just every band manages to summon one. You don't just sit down and write a rock anthem, do you?

The Oblio Joes
Perhaps it's a problem of abundance. Take the Oblio Joes. This is just my personal bias, of course, but as much as I love the Obes, particularly their early days, no one song of theirs stands head and shoulders above the others as a crowd-unifying anthem. In any set, the Oblios had at least five songs that were anthems if only for the evening—tunes that were just woozily, belovedly, 100% perfectly them, but supplied the soundtrack to our own lives at the same time. On any given night at Jay's between 1993 and 1998, just about any Oblios song might ring like a personal anthem to whatever you happened to be feeling. One of my happiest memories of Jay's is one of bringing a new girlfriend (a non-scene type, which was how I preferred to keep things) to her first Obes show and feeling the squalling guitars of “In Love and Insane” washing over us, just for us, whacking our ears and hearts and genitals with a giant romantic indie-rock tuning fork! I can tell you with certainty that “In Love and Insane” is exactly what it sounded like to fall in love at Jay's Upstairs in the fabled Summer of 1995.

Then again, “Sometimes I Wish You Were a Girl,” another crowd-melting Oblios show-ender from that era, was actually an ecstatic testament of Platonic love between Johnny and Stu. Never mind: it still had the most joyous audience vocal participation of any song in its day. Still, if I had to nominate one Oblios tune for special anthem status, it would be “Space Opera,” a song set in space that nonetheless taps into an intangible but very earthly longing, and adds a guitar solo that peaks in a shower of starlike twinkles. I can see I must move on here.

You'd think a band as swaggeringly self-aware of its own mythology in the making as Fireballs of Freedom would have anthems by the bagful, and to a certain extent you'd be right. Most Fireballs of Freedom songs are, of course, anthems to the Fireballs of Freedom and their exploits, and their lyrics would probably read like an encrypted version of every side-splitting band story Kelly Gately has ever told you—if only, you know, you could tell what in the world the brother was singing about. (Gately, for the record, insists he has handwritten copies of all his lyrics.) For me, Fireballs songs are anthemic only in those places where Gator's worldview is somehow made available to me (to be fair, I'm terrible with picking out lyrics in loud music), and on that score there's no touching the chorus of “The Dart Song,” which is as anthemic in its celebration of youth and freedom and the right wheels as a chorus can be: “When I'm driving down the freeway/I always get stoned/When I'm driving in the Dodge Dart/I'm always at home.” In my alternate rock universe, Fireballs of Freedom write the music for all Super Bowl advertisements.

At this point, having dispensed with my two cents re: anthems, you might be asking yourself if I would nominate any songs by my own band, Humpy, to be considered for this status. To the extent that one can make these calls about one's own band, I would say: No. The song most attached to us, the one with the loudest sing-a-long factor and almost invariably our last song of the night, is the rare song we did not actually write ourselves: “You Make Me Sick.” Anthemic it might be; ours it was not, despite the fact that we undeniably put our stamp on it. We didn't even hear the original version bySatan's Rats first: We had a cassette copy of a soundalike version by the German band Upright Citizens, passed to me on a trip through northern Finland and Norway by a gaunt exchange student named Jörn, and the reason the Humpy version came out like it did is probably that we only ever listened to it together once.   Unfortunately, I never bothered to learn the lyrics—or, indeed, any consistent lyrics at all—which shortcoming alone must disqualify our version from top-tier punk anthem status.

Mike and Rick
To the point, then: There is really only one Missoula song, in my estimation, that transcends the personal and the microcosmic and the self-mythologizing and really reaches the rarefied atmosphere of the regionally, if not quite universally, anthemic. That song is “Sunset on Evaro,” by Mike and Rick.  Not a duo, Mike and Rick was/is actually a three-piece, with none of its members named Mike or Rick. They are, in fact: Tim Graham (guitar, vocals), Joe Mudd (bass, vocals) and Dave Knadler (drums, vocals).

In the halcyon mid-to-late '90s they inhabited, Mike and Rick's aesthetic seems to have reached them by budget time machine from the Missoula County Fair, circa 1985: local culture at its most gleefully trashy, fast-forwarded for ironic rockist reconstruction in 1997, complete with name-checked Z28s and some crayzee weerd-spelled titles on tha Prince/Slade/Poison typp 2 boot . Not a gimmicky band by any stretch, but definitely into exploring territory equally authentic to Missoula and its environs. By the time they released their own CD in 2000, Who's Gonna Kick Your Ass vol. I, their penchant for riff-rockin'  arch-drollery had whisked them quite away from any familiar trucker-chic trappings of retro irony to follow, of all things, in the steps of Lewis and Clark with a brilliantly tongue-in-cheek retelling of the slogging Expedition as a lonely, horny effort with an unaccommodating Sacajawea everyone's only hope of heterosexual coitus. And just in time for the Lewis and Clark Bicentennial! “Pride of America” is also an anthem of a sort, a damned catchy and daringly irreverent song (given the bicentennial milieu), and pound for brilliant pound probably the Mike and Rick track I most admire. 

But, like I say, nothing quite compares to “Sunset on Evaro.” From the molasses-thick opening guitar blast, it is anthem WRIT LARGE, rolling on unstoppably through hand-clapping, foot-stomping singalong to a shaggy jazz-chord comedown.

Evaro, of course, isn't a place where you'd think to go to watch a sunset unless you lived there, and very few people do. It's a little cluster of a town at the top of Evaro Hill, north and west of Missoula on Highway 93, and for that reason a kind of first landmark when you're getting out of town and headed on northerly adventures. In Mike and Rick's case, probably in a fully tricked-out stabbin'-cabin of an orange shag-carpet lined Ford van with sunsets airbrushed on the sides. In any case, the sundown is more figurative than literal, here, used more in the sense of curtains falling on something. The protagonist seems to be leaving Evaro to start his life again elsewhere---in Turah, to be precise, which is just priceless.

Mike And Rick
It's the almost haphazard mention of these places  (plus the Wilma and the Oxford Cafe--“No better place,” goes the triumphant chorus, “to get fucked up!”) that hints at the mystical alchemy of how anthems are made. It hardly sounds fussed-over; from the opening chord, you simply ride along with Mike and Rick, almost like they're extemporizing their private tour of the town and its environs, the places fixed in our local and mental geography—even unassuming old Evaro. If you know the places—and all Missoulians do—you become passenger, participant and proud booster in the musical version. And even if you forget the words once or twice, there's the chorus to redeem you: “Sunset on Evaro/Keeps calling me to my home...”

To redeem us all. You will never hear a Missoula crowd sing along louder and more ebulliently with one of its own. We're home and we know it (even those who no longer live here), and this is the song that sums it up perfectly. Missoula, this is your anthem!

Mike and Rick songs
Garden City Woman
Cobra Glow

Monday, August 10, 2015


"Punk" and "Billings, Montana" typically aren't three words that get paired up that, errr, regularly.

Montana's "Magic City" is a place of commerce, a place of Republicans, a place of canyon rims, a place of lots of things, but one doesn't typically just kind of think, "Jeesh, Billings. What a town for some punk music!" And I guess I should qualify that by "one" I mean "I." But, Billings has got its good music, frankly. The guy who wrote "Hippy Hippy Shake" is from Billings. His name is Chan Romero and he's got that track on Dave Martens' soon to come out Lost Sounds Vol. 1 compilation!
 And then there was Noise Noise Noise and the Budgets from out there, who were both really great. And Megagiant. Unquestionably, Billings has got some weirdos bashing out some tunes. And for that, we thank them. It's a tough row to hoe in a place like Billings, with its nu metal and new country obsessions and car show culture.

A couple of years ago Richard Dreyfest came around, and it was the Idaho Green fellers, and a handful of others that made it happen. I've never been out, but both Marty and Kate have, and they report it's an absolute blast of a time, with great tunes, good vibes and plenty of parking. The set of bands they put together for this year's Dreyfest was awesome, and the vibe was thoroughly all-ages and DIY. Sort of just popped out of virtually nowhere, too. all of a sudden, you were thinking, "Man! This isn't nu metal! What's up, Billings?" 

And, anyhow, that's my way around an introduction to Idaho Green, with whom TF just inked up some contracts. Idaho Green play something akin to the of shambolic high plains pop punk (Godammit Boyhowdy, King Elephant, Reddmen, Noise Noise Noise)  that I've grown to both accept and love! When they put out their first 7", they were kind enough to send one over the the Wantage HQ and I was pretty thoroughly blown away by the fact that the band was pretty tight, played short songs, and had their thing pretty damn well dialed. That's what you call a debut, as far as I'm concerned. Roll all that forward by six or so years, and Idaho Green is a force!

Wednesday, August 5, 2015


Hammerhead ca. 2015
When you've already written a piece about one of your favorite bands of all-time, and tried to provide as much context and explanation as possible, it makes the task of writing up the band for a second time a little bit interesting. Whoah is me, right?

So, in addition to being an excellent '90s vintage noise rock stalwart, Hammerhead is very much a current band disinterested with comeback circuits and just playing their "hits" from twenty years ago. That said, as a man just as subject to bouts of occasional nostalgia as the next, I've got to say that I played most of 1994's "Into the Vortex" on my radio show last week, and it's every bit as good as I remembered. There was one LP that followed it (1996's Duh the Big City) but I've always had a special place for the focused desperation, amazing bass and guitar tones and drum sounds, and overall momentum of "Into The Vortex." It's for my money, as good as AmRep ever got. It's a great album that captures most of the amazing live power that Hammerhead commands.

Hammerhead ca. 1994
Since 2010, Hammerhead has released a couple EPs, (Memory Hole, etc.) and is on the verge of releasing its second LP called "New Directionz." I'm just a few listens into the new LP, but it's all Hammerhead, MXR distortion and weird high plains space desolation rock, done impeccably well. Sector 5 is pretty spot-on "classic" Heammerhead, and honestly I like every bit of the new LP.

As an update, Jeff Mooridian and Paul Erickson recently moved themselves, and their other band Vaz, back to the Twin Cities where third member Paul Sanders lives. So it will be interesting to see Hammerhead again with the benefit of regular practice space availability.

So, we'll leave it at that. Total Fest is honored, stoked and happy, all simultaneously, to be offering Hammerhead up this year. See you there. Neck stretches, limbering up, etc. to commence now.


Tuesday, August 4, 2015


Guest Blogger: Izaak Opatz
I first encountered Jonny Fritz (then Jonny Corndawg) at a screening of Stray Dawg, a short documentary that captures Jonny's wry, exuberant personality and his unique and self-wrought life, as he trains for a marathon and tours the country with a guitar and amp strapped to his motorcycle. I happened to watch Stray Dawg at the Big Sky Documentary Film Festival just after seeing a long documentary about a grueling year in the life of the dour violin wunderkind Andrew Bird. Many of my friends swooned at Bird's virtuosity and tragic manner, which evoked that of a sickly, cloistered 18th-century composer, but it really got me down about the pleasures of being a musician.

Jonny lives his life in stark and refreshing contrast to this somber vision of the artist at work - from rollerblading from Philadelphia to New York, performing prostrate at Bonnaroo in a neck brace, or dancing in front of a desert sundown with Roman candles blasting off in his hand (see his music video for "Goodbye Summer"), Jonny always looks like he's having so much fun. His music is immediately approachable (if you have the stomach for off-the-wall double entendres about cunnilingus) and no less intelligent - the first song of his to get stuck in my head and grab me lyrically was "Exercise", a country song that features the line "Drink water and juice with a little slice of lemon/ eat a raw clove of garlic every once in a while/ meditate, appreciate, learn a foreign language,/ and understand that immigrants have the hardest lives". As with my favorite country singers, from Roger Miller to John Prine to Johnny Paycheck to Dwight Yoakam, Jonny rejects the notion that his songs have to be either funny or serious - each song, whether about heartbreak or longing, dogs or trucks, is imbued with humor, and not just for the sake of a laugh, but simply because humor is the language Jonny uses to connect with and color his world.
Jonny Fritz plays Total Fest's opening night, Thursday, August 20th at the Zootown Arts Community Center. The Best Westerns provide the backing.

Monday, August 3, 2015


Since they opened their doors, which seems like maybe getting on 6 or so years ago, Black Coffee Roasting Company has generously given Total Fest a pretty significant bunch of cash and coffee. But, fundamentally, I think if you need a reason to drink Black Coffee, you should look no further than the product they offer: that's locally roasted, small-batch, organic coffee. And, I'll go one step further and say Black Coffee took me, a guy who thought of himself as a coffee fan, to a whole new level of enjoyment. Their stuff is simply more fresh, more delicious and more varied than any roaster for miles and miles in any direction.

So, what's going on with them and Total Fest this year? Well, Black Coffee typically does a special roast called Total Black to help celebrate Total Fest. They've done that again this year, and it's on sale currently in Missoula. Also, if you stop into the shop, which is located in Missoula at 525 E. Spruce, and buy a bag of Total Black directly from the source, you have a pretty strong chance of winning a full Total Fest pass in your bag of coffee. They're releasing five of the Total Fest Golden Ticket this week, and the only way you can win one is to pick up Total Black from the source.

That's only happening this week, Monday, August 3rd through Friday, August 7th. You know what to do.

Saturday, August 1, 2015


Guest Blogger: Becky Hensley

Moving to Missoula was a transformative part of who I have become.

I was coming down off some seriously bad vibes from living in a small town in Wyoming and the only answer seemed to be moving to Montana and shacking up with my boyfriend who had moved there months earlier to live with his brother.

I didn’t know it at the time, but I was moving to the Volumen house. The first one, actually.And from the moment I pulled my car into the city, packed with everything I could fit in a beat up ’86 Buick Century, life was different.

My gut told me that the boyfriend wasn’t going to pan out, but I stuck it out hoping I’d find a friend or two to help make sense of staying in Missoula.

The Volumen dudes suggested I meet up with Sasshole.
A phone call came in, ”Meet us at Squire’s Pub” - I could hear laughing in the background and for a moment I felt like it might be a prank.
I had heard about these Sasshole ladies and what I had heard scared the living shit out of me.
Stories had filtered through emails from my boyfriend about these women. Kia, Jen & Milli would go harder and faster than anyone else out there. They’d put cigarettes out on your face, drink you under the table…literally, and if you couldn’t keep up…GET THE FUCK OUT OF THE WAY.

Sitting across from them, I was nervous - trying so hard to be cool. They wore chokers, smoked cigarettes, wore ringer tees paired with sparkling vintage jewelry, and swallowed back bottles of beer in such an elegant and effortless way.
They were rebel girls. They encapsulated every part of how I had idealized Riot Grrrl culture and they were immediately the queens of my world.

After our first encounter, I found a home with these weird and wonderful and sometimes fucking terrifying women. They made me laugh, got me into parties, shared their beer with me, and became my very best friends. They supported me to pursue boys and be confident, they didn’t get mad when I puked on their butts or slept on their couches, and whether they knew or not, they enabled me to grow into an empowered woman.
They were passionate about their lives and they lived every moment like it was about to explode.

This passion and insanity plays into every part of what Sasshole is as a band.
Sasshole is silly, horrifying, offensive, dark as fuck, and always irreverent. They never take themselves too seriously, but you can always tell when they’re proud of the arrangements they’ve put together or a song is particularly well crafted. Because that part is important too…but they don’t really care if you know or not.

Kia’s voice is urgent and mewling and it’s sexy as hell. Her stage presence feels a little off beat, but always ends up connecting with the rest of the pieces of the band.

Milli is a force to be reckoned with. Her rock stance on lock, she plays her bass hard and she stares down the audience. Her voice punctuates the places where Kia’s falls away. She’s a powerhouse.

Girl drummers rule and Jen is no exception. She kills it and manages a flourish or two while rocking a serious brown lip and throwing her curls around. She is cute and dangerous and doesn’t have anything to prove.

And although I’ve fan-girl’d the heck out of the ladies of the band, Dave is one of my favorite guitar players in Missoula. He’s serious and deliberate and he shreds. He’s the straight man, literally, to this wiley crew and it’s always a treat to hear Dave shout along with Kia and Milli.

To say Sasshole changed my life would be an intense understatement. 
People talk about the soundtrack of their lives and I can say without a doubt that the music scene of Missoula in the early 2000s was mine.

I tried to use the present tense to talk about Sasshole as a band because in my heart they never broke up. They never took a break for kids or jobs. They’ve always been a band to me. And even after this last show, they still will be.

I’d recommend you not miss their set at Total Fest this year. And don’t be surprised if you end up covered in corn or peanuts or kitty litter.
It’s happened before.

Ladieeees and gentlemen! Preeeesenting: JENNIFER LEAH TACHOVSKY and her band!
Posted by Lee Conway on Saturday, April 30, 2011

Wednesday, July 29, 2015


Back when I was a wee lad of eighteen or nineteen years, in about 1992, newly arrived in Missoula, wet behind the proverbial ears and taking my first set of classes at UM, there were a handful of interesting punk and underground bands going in a time that otherwise you couldn't really toss an Oly stubby without hitting a dreadlocked, Birkenstocked, Phish-logo'd New Jersey license-plated Four Runner-drivin' bro 'round here. Luckily, these culturally resistant types were charting their own courses, going against the prevailing grain of the time doing their own thing, irrespective of audience size, whether many folks really cared, money, or whatever else sort of extrinsic gains there might have been.

Bands like the Phantom Imperials, Judy Rosen Parker, VTO, Hughes, Sasshole, The Banned, Honky Sausage, the Jolly Ranchers, the Oblio Joes, and Humpy (etc.) defined my first handful of years in Missoula, and had it not been for them, god knows if I'd have fallen in love with the place like I have. There also was a classically jerry-rigged and decrepit place called Jay's Upstairs that was centrally located, and which regularly hosted all kinds of weird stuff on its stage, including the first two Total Fests.

And as I broadly dismiss these '90s "hippies" I don't want you to think I'm a stunod who doesn't get that the original hippie movement was a countercultural, antiwar outfit with some great music associated with it. I'm just saying there was a particularly annoying set of entitled youths in Dead and Phish wear, primarily, roaming places like Missoula in the 1990s, and their contributions were of a somewhat limited scope. That's all I'm saying. Thankfully, Missoula's always had that kind of counter cultural vibe around, in the early days from the hippies, artists and weirdos, and more recently from artists, musicians, punks and weirdos. But anyways, in those days, there were a lot of folks in love with jam/cover bands and with a kind of Dead breakup hangover, crowding bar stages from Boulder to err... Ballard. And Missoula had its fair share of whatever that deal was.

In the middle of it all, there were some dudes from unlikely zipcodes like Havre and Billings who had located each other at UM and decided that their shared interests in SST bands, Australia's Sheaf Stout beer and noisemaking made them well-positioned to band up. And lo, Humpy was born. Their lore has it that for a while, they had two or three members simultaneously playing guitars and bass through the same cruddy Sunn amp, and used a soup ladle taped to somebody's foot to provide rhythm before they figured out a drummer... who knows how much of that is true, but it makes for good copy, eh? Humpy's music had a least three pretty distinct periods, the first of which was punctuated by the extremely woody bass-tone of Denis O'Brien. That period featured some pretty wild and diverse rock and roll. Occasionally they'd hunker down and knock out a ripper, but the band was very comfortable making its own distinct and varied racket.

Over time, longtime Jay's Upstairs sound reinforcement officer (and former Texas deathmetaler, and Kiss memorabilist) Justin Lawrence became bassist, and Humpy grew into a pretty straightforward, excellent hardcore band, and always played fast. But it didn't start that way. Humpy's done a handful of post-break up shows over the years, but when they brought Denis O'Brien out of the dugout for the Jay's reunion show (organized by Lawrence) a few years back, health problems kept the line up from getting to play live. We at Total Fest sure hope we can reconcile that this year, and are stoked to get to see that very first lineup one more time.

Here's a nice piece about Humpy, and some lyrics from Dave who runs One Base on an Overthrow.

This below may be all you need to know about Humpy:

Tuesday, July 28, 2015


Not to be all Wikipedia or anything, but when you tag yourself as "progressive crust," my ear hair perks up. You're willingly throwing yourself into the ring with some of the best bands in the history of the planet, (quibble if you want) Crass, Nausea, Antischism, Neurosis, Disorder, Disrupt, Discharge, Tragedy, Man is the Bastard, Capitalist Casualties, Iron Lung, No Statik, Replica, Exilent, etc. I've obviously dated myself with this list, and, admittedly, this is a shallow list and maybe some of those stretch the genre, but we're not really concerned about that. Crust is one of those mesmerizing genres that even with the weight of consumerism trying to appropriate its aesthetic, the music continually shuns the shackles. Big talk ... maybe. Seriously, fashionistas may adopt the drapery, but there is no way the lifestyle, the ethics, or the music can be easily translated into something that your Screeching Weasel or Katy Perry fan is going to embrace.

At its best, crust serves to keep the rest of the punk rock / DIY community honest. Enter Salt Lake City's Cult Leader. They're brutally honest, unapologetically heavy, and trench-tested dissonant hardcore. Pushing at the boundaries, Cult Leader moves away from the straight up political by turning it inward, allowing for their individual perspectives to do the talking more than the, at times, canned and often repeated slams against an opaque and distant system. As always, it's refreshing the more abrasive it is, openly challenging you to embrace and live the ethics you've chosen. With tracks ranging from around a minute to close to seven minutes, they span the entire crust spectrum. You get it. I know. You wouldn't be looking at this if you didn't. Whatever my family and friends listen to when they throw my ashes into the proverbial wind or off the proverbial cliff, you can bet the aggressive, no-prisoner, oddly pacifist, atheist-in-a-foxhole blend of bands like Cult Leader will be on the playlist.

So that's it. I used a band to massage my ego. Rather than writing while I listened, I strolled down a few soggy / foggy memories of alleys and skateboards, of venues with shoddy doormen, of basement and backyard shows, of friends that I've lost contact with or lost completely, of those bands that lasted a minute or those Wordsworthian bands that didn't end soon enough, of the countless the-world-is-going-to-be-okay-because-we're-still-angry smiles that bands like Cult Leader bring to my face. Why every cynical remark I make is layered with hope. In the end, it's not up to me or you or some blogger to tell you what's up; it's up to the music. Cult Leader shreds, and they aren't about to let you wave some anarcho-banner or flaunt your patches without coaxing you into feeling why reality is worth it, why unhinged anger and frustration have a place, or why we all feel that faint glimmer of hope when music offers you the potential that everything cannot be commodified. Thanks for shattering our shackles, Cult Leader.

Thursday, July 23, 2015


Bob Marshall's dank pizza place.
It's the final year of Total Fest and that also means that yes, it's time to announce our final Total Feast. This is something we've come to look forward to every year. It's a time where we partner with one of our most stalwart supporters, Biga Pizza, and go nutz with an all-out all-you-can-handle pizza buffet. This year, all that pizza sets you back $12 and it runs from 5pm to 8pm. Know that a big portion of those proceeds goes towards making this last best fest something to remember. We're still a non-profit, volunteer-run enterprise so we rely on fun events like this to pay all those bands you can't wait to see.

Biga is one of our (and Missoula's) favorite restaurants in town. The place is run by Volumen and Bavon and Egg member Bob Marshall and he's been tossing brick-oven-pizza for years now. The menu has some pretty creative topping choices (the Flathead cherries, the marscapone, all so so good) but they're just as solid with your regular sausage, pepperoni, and cheese. There's always been a few gluten-free pizzas popped out for you celiacs and there will be plenty of salad for all you Yoga instructors.  We love Biga and we're extra super totally elated to be doing this again, even for the last time.

To reiterate: TOTAL FEAST runs from 5pm to 8pm on Sunday, August 9th and like I mentioned earlier, it's only $12 for all-you-eat pizza and salad. PBR is available as well as Biga's regular beverage menu. The Ole Beck VFW Post #209 is available next door for overflow seating and booze-drinks for the 21+ set. This event is 100% FAMILY FRIENDLY and we can't wait to see you there.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015


My introduction to Black Cobra's music in any real way is thanks to the Total Fest Record Swap.

That's our Saturday fandango at Big Dipper Ice Cream on Higgins curated by Bryan Ramirez and which features amazingly delicious and hugely gratis iced coffee from Black Coffee Roasting Co. Typically, there's around ten or fifteen folks with anywhere from 25 to a few hundred LPs and other formats they're looking to offload at low, low (Lolo) prices. I'd read a fair amount and heard of Black Cobra, and they even canceled last minute with Torche on a house show at Niki's old place on Front Street. To be fair, this was probably 2004ish, I think it probably was a thirteen hour drive from their starting point to the show, and the show might have paid each band $63. So, really, it's water under the bridge at this point, dudes. #WUTB.

This just got into a weird tangent. All of it in good fun. Back to the seriousness: So, I'd heard of this Black Cobra band. A two piece with a huge sound. Playing metal. Big sound. Great band. But I hadn't picked any recordings up. So it was a Total Fest Record Swap. Maybe six years back now, and somebody showed me their pile of records. Among the stack was Black Cobra's "Feather and Stone." I picked it up for six bucks or something, just thinking, I need to check this out further. I remember distinctly the gnarly, feral metal that started filling the room when I first played it. Jason Landrian's guitar tone is so excellent. Unprocessed, gnarly and just right for the songs. It's the kind of tone that once you hear it, you kind of start judging other metal by. I think the only contemporary band that touches it for my money is Megasus.

Between Rafa's drums and Jason's riff's, it's hard to deny the sheer burl that is Black Cobra. And that's why they're playing Total Fest XIV, man. Okay?