I used to help with Total Fest and this was the first year we didn't do it since 2003. Mostly, that meant I got to do other pretty normal things like go hiking, and enjoy summer. It was sad too because Total Fest was easily as much about the hangouts as it was about the tunes and I missed all of that hanging out (seeing Joe Preston on a BMW motorcycle, drinking Dan Engler's beer) hugely. Fretting over attendance, money, logistics or drama weren't among what I missed.
Second up was the Badlander Complex's Saudade, which seemed a wee bit damned by its unwieldy name and latish publicity, but was otherwise hugely ambitious. Too few Missoulians checked it out, even with some solid headlining by Red Fang and Lee Fields. Hopefully that's just first year blues, and now that they're over the hump they get some momentum. Saudade has a lot of potential to rule, and needs to leverage any an all name recognition in year two and pay some more attention to its curation and it'll be a solid force. The hope I think was to have genre-geared stages, e.g. a jammy stage, a metal stage, a dance music stage, etc. and I think that approach didn't quite pan out as well as organizers hoped. The metal night was a success, but other stages seemed to lack audience. I hope that with the Palace's recent closing as a music venue that the festival won't be effected. It's noteworthy too that the Badlander folks made a sizable charitable donation on behalf of Aaron Bolton, the deceased Missoula musician, promoter and co-owner of the Badlander as part of Saudade.
Erosion Fest also happened in the fall, this was its second year, and first time in Missoula, after launching in Great Falls in 2015. It unfortunately happened when I was away from town so I wasn't there, but the folks I talked with said it was a great event, and was well attended, with Acid King, St. Vitus and a bunch more doom metal acts converging and playing with heavy locals like Swamp Ritual and Stone Elk.
Back onto the subject of venues, it's interesting that recently two pretty solid bars with live music announced they were getting out of the business of live music altogether. First Stage 112 in the Elks Club and recently the Palace Lounge made a similar announcement that their show-hosting days were over. This seems to be ebb and flow of Missoula every few years. To me, speaking from the perspective of indie/DIY show economics: it's a tough racket to make work financially. Even when you've got a band with a built-in draw, there's very little wiggle room left in a door take after paying bands, sound and venue rental costs to cover even basic promotion costs, let alone luxuries like print advertising. In my experience in Missoula, there's a trend of starting a new show space out simply, and then ramping up the production values as a next step. Larger productions come with larger costs that in my experience quickly make modest DIY shows next to impossible financially.
Here are the records I like most last year:
Modality: Under the Shadow of this Red Rock (House of Watts)
CCR Headcleaner: Tear Down the Wall (In the Red)
The Double: Dawn of the Double (In the Red)
75 Dollar Bill: WOOD/METAL/PLASTIC/PATTERN/RHYTHM/ROCK (Thin Wrist)
Nots: Cosmetic (Goner)
Jonny Fritz: Sweet Creep
Big Business: Command Your Weather (Joyful Noise)
Purling Hiss: High Bias (Drag City)
Yass: Things that Might Have Been (X-Mist)
Helms Alee: Stillicide (Sargent House)
Vaz: Pink Confetti (Learning Curve)
Dead: Untitle (We Empty Rooms)
Ngozi Family (re-issue)
The Plastic Harmony Band: Voyage of the Angernaut