From rookie artists to three-round acts, musicians reflect on links with the festival
Halladay Quist prepares to cash in on a bet with herself. Since Under The Big Sky festival came to the Flathead Valley in 2019, the Bigfork-based musician decided not to attend until she could perform.
This year, Quist’s attendance requirement was met after his rock band MYNXX was among local artists selected to perform at the three-day festival, which is due to take place this weekend at the Big Mountain Ranch just outside Whitefish.
“We’re definitely going to have a blast,” Quist said. “We like to be a little wild on stage. This is what we do.
With over 30 different artists scheduled to perform over the three days of the festival, July 15-17, it’s inevitable that Under The Big Sky and the opportunity to perform in this slice of Montana will mean different things to different musicians.
In the case of MYNXX, the group will have the chance to push the capacity limits of local venues, which can reach a few hundred people, and perform at a festival capping daily attendance at 20,000 people, many of whom could hear them. for the first time.
“We aim to play festivals like these or open for bigger bands,” said bassist Erica von Kleist. “And so, getting your feet wet at a big festival like this happening in our home valley is a great opportunity.”
MYNXX has only been around for a year, and while the members behind the fledgling glam rock band – Quist, von Kleist and drummer Sarina Hart – view the festival as a potential launch point for future opportunities, more established bands like The Silent Comedy see it as a chance to reconnect and perform on the kinds of more meaningful stages they seek.
At the heart of The Silent Comedy are brothers Joshua and Jeremiah Zimmerman. The band describes its sound as a kind of “gross, expansive American rock and roll with dirt under the fingernails and whiskey on the breath”.
Joshua Zimmerman said the band had been on hiatus for years. The band’s last “real tour” was when they arrived in Europe in 2016, he said. In the years that followed, Zimmerman spent some of his time working in the film industry, including directing television shows such as “Vikings” and “Wild Crime.” The group did not perform at the start of the pandemic and made their return to San Diego in late 2021.
“I think touring is a pretty tough thing for a lot of people right now for a lot of reasons. We’re trying to get back into the live world in a way that’s sort of sustainable,” Zimmerman said, adding that are interested in smaller tour stages and “not just on the road forever”.
Coming to Montana matches that vision. One day before the festival starts, The Silent Comedy will play a Paradise Valley show with fellow UTBS performer Paul Cauthen at the Old Saloon in Emigrant. The band are also set to play an after party show on Friday night at the Remington Bar in Whitefish.
There are also plans to visit family. Zimmerman said her mother was born in Whitefish and most of her extended family still lives in Montana. His grandparents are deceased, but he said he has fond memories of visiting them at the house they built outside Bigfork on the shores of Swan Lake. The Zimmerman brothers grew up in a family of missionaries and moved around frequently, which meant that, for Joshua, Montana — and in particular Swan Lake — became the closest thing to home.
This year will be The Silent Comedy’s second time playing at the festival, with their first performance taking place at the inaugural festival in 2019. For fellow band, Nashville-based Hoglsop String Band, this year’s performance will mean they played at the festival. every year it has taken place.
They will be coming off a tour of the southeastern United States which has involved shows in Virginia, Kentucky and Tennessee; shortly after the festival, the band plans to launch a series of European concerts in Denmark, Sweden and Norway. After that, the band plans to come together to write and record songs for a new album.
Guitarist and vocalist Gabe Kelley (also known as The Hogfather who says he’s about 100 pounds heavier than his next biggest bandmate) said the band were “kind of a weird mutant of a few genres different”, including regular string band music, rock and roll and American. The group also plunges into more psychedelic rock, sometimes through covers of the Grateful Dead. Alongside Kelley, they have Kevin Martin on fiddle, Will Harrison on mandolin, Daniel Binkley on banjo, and an individual known as “Pickle” on bass. It all comes down to what Kelley called “the Hogslop sound.”
The band has a show in Thompson Falls scheduled for July 14, then will play UTBS, as well as several after-party shows at the festival. Kelley said he would shake off something like five performances in four days.
Fans who enjoyed the band’s combination of music and antics, like firing bacon into the crowd, can expect the same this year. Kelley said at last year’s festival, three people in pig costumes walked through the crowd to piss people off. As for how they found people to wear pig costumes, it’s a combination of having friends over and playing at a popular festival.
“We have buddies who say to us, ‘Hey, we can get you into this festival, but you have to wear the pig costume. “”
While MYNXX lives in the valley and The Silent Comedy has family roots, for Hogslop String Band, the connection to Montana is only through the UTBS festival.
“Our whole relationship with Montana, we’ve developed over those years. We really weren’t going there as a band before,” Kelley said. “We really fell in love with it.”