It was then I heard the sounds of local jammers Miller Creek‚ ripping through an impressive take on the '80s classic "Eye of the Tiger." With their amateur jam-rock styling‚ the group was as good as a local entity can get. But‚ that's not to say the listener wasn't interested.
Rainclouds began to lift and the night stars became visible‚ hovering above the raucous crowd. Mud splattered everywhere as beer spilled from cups and cigarettes tumbled from overeager mouths. While Miller Creek noodled away on random cover songs and a few of their own‚ a local painter splashed his canvas in unison with the notes from the stage. The audience seemed to fall into place nicely as the weekend commenced.
LOLO HOT SPRINGS SALOON - Friday‚ 10:45 p.m.
Wandering across the street‚ I came across the conveniently placed saloon. With gambling slots lining the walls (which is allowed in the state) and cheap shots of Jim Beam or Canadian Club filling stomachs‚ LP and the Federales (now called Pluto's a Planet) graced the hardwood dance floor that had seen better days.
Slugging from a bottle of cheap red wine‚ the singer had a tone reminiscent to Raine Maida (Our Lady Peace) and appeared to have a broken arm (which he later used to play rhythm guitar). Between one song‚ he explained how he injured himself at the local skate park in Missoula a few days earlier. The band definitely had that late-'90s alternative rock sound‚ but it never once seemed lame‚ as my attention was held for the entire performance -- a refreshing find amongst the usual Montana demographic of music (folk/jam/bluegrass/country).
MAIN STAGE - Saturday‚ 12:00 a.m.
Back through the mud‚ I slowly slithered my way through the masses and into the front row for Brohaha. With a Fat Tire from the nearby New Belgium Brewing Co. in hand‚ I relaxed and closed my eyes.
Their sound had an eerie‚ Twilight Zone feel with feedback bellowing in every direction. The set took on a funk-jam comparison to New England gurus Moon Boot Lover‚ as the lead guitarist‚ who resembled the Marlboro Man‚ abused the chords into solos that grabbed hold and whisked the listener into the night‚ or outer space if the chance presented itself.
12:45 a.m.
I was about the head from the main stage to the springs when my ears were struck by the raw energy of Arrows to the Sun. The Missoula group's mixture of Elvis Costello rock and Cold War Kids clashing harmonies amounted to the musical highlight of the entire festival‚ for me at least. "Fascism v Apathy" and "Hail Man Well Met" had heads banging and arms flailing into a frenzy‚ with numerous tempo changes in just a single tune and unique melodies belted out by lead singer Gavin McCourt (a shoe-in for a Buddy Holly lookalike contest).
NATURAL HOT SPRINGS - Saturday‚ 1:30 a.m.
Strolling down the path from the main stage‚ a need of a night-cap wade in the hot springs brought me over to the spa‚ which by now was filled with dozens of those as naked as the day they were born.
The water‚ reaching 103 degrees or more‚ soothed the body as others passed around wine or whiskey bottles that floated by and by. Not one single garment of clothing‚ not one single care in the world. The springs themselves spewed around us as the night sky projected above‚ cooling our shoulders.
GEODISIC DOME - Saturday‚ 2:15 a.m.
Noted as the late-night rave tent‚ local DJs spun their webs around the minds of those toting glow sticks‚ sporting wild attire or even just a curious notion as the tent lit up the woods like the spaceship in Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Screens of Madness radiated extreme ski footage amid the fluorescent strobes and the random leather couch placed within. A bonfire immediately outside the dome attracted an array of faces as conversation over the upcoming Burning Man or the best Widespread Panic (they are huge in Big Sky country) show one ever witnessed bounced around the heated circle of humanity.
CAMPGROUND - Saturday‚ 3:00 a.m.
Pipes passed to the left‚ banjos feeding off of each other‚ a warm blaze and storytelling between transients over whom‚ what and where. The campsites and bonfire drum circles created the optimal ambiance to end the day's endeavors. Though mainly of Western origin‚ folks popped up from the darkness‚ overhearing of someone from the East.
"You're from New Hampshire? Where? … Oh‚ really? Yeah‚ I used to go to summer camp up there…" Voices trailed off.
PARKING LOT - Saturday‚ 8:47 a.m.
Awaking to the sounds of humans impersonating roosters (always a festival staple)‚ I drearily opened the door of my truck and stumbled out into the great wide open. It seemed I may have been the only one to sleep as those amongst me leaped around.
SALOON - Saturday‚ 9:18 a.m.