Note: In my weekly music print column, I take a different direction. I’d like to share here.
Sorely lacking proper amounts of vitamin D, my heart still somewhere in Seattle, the long road home a soon-to-be distant memory, I sometimes wonder why I call this place home.
The sweet and welcoming sounds of bluegrass that drift from the Kemmick house a few blocks from my front door are my first reminder as I sulk through the days post-vacation. Yet the hours that have passed since my return to work seem especially long; the feeling that I’ve missed some big-city cultural boat looms in the back of my mind.
There seems to be no ice cream as sweet, no cocktail as strong, no Mexican wrestling-themed restaurant as kitschy. In every coffee shop the Pixies blast on repeat, a reminder that music can be simple and delightful and just truly good.
In my pacings across the house I pick up my copy of The Stranger, Seattle’s free weekly alternative arts and culture newspaper — the one I snagged in Missoula’s Rockin Rudy’s. Record stores — independent record stores — are on every street corner in Seattle, appealing to the music addict with alluring posters and the smell of vinyl records left alone in muggy basements 15 years too long.
An ad in The Stranger for Neumos’ upcoming shows only continues my pitiful moping. In my travels I was able to watch the monumental band Isis from the balcony of Neumos as the chandeliers rattled above. Below me, against the stage, a devout fan clung to the speaker as though it was the last bastion between him and the churning pit behind that threatened to consume him into the sea.
Into the unforeseeable future, Seattle surely ushers week after week of bands into seedy dive bars and clubs across the city, each with a crowd, a built-in following with a sense of place and structure and belonging.
I check the Billings calendar. The Railyard Ale House, which I swear I can almost hear amid the din of Sixth Avenue traffic as I walk my dog above Boothill on the edge of Billings Heights, hosts the local ska/punk band Hypocrite Like Me on Friday. Also on Friday Ed Kemmick — whose musical talents are exceeded only by his weekly witticisms in print — brings together some of his musical associates to jam at the Garage Pub, the Gazette’s yearly Relay for Life fundraiser their motivation for gathering.
Known for a philanthropic spirit, the staff at the Garage Pub has always extended their hand for community fundraisers. The annual Music for the Wild, a fundraiser for the Montana Wilderness Association, takes place the following day (Saturday, June 19) beginning at 5 p.m. at the Yellowstone Valley Brewing Co. Hardin-based rock guitarist Jared Stewart and his band are among performers.
A major rock concert is coming to Billings next week:* Papa Roach with Chevelle and 10 Years on Tuesday, June 22. You’ll find the story in Wikipedia: Papa Roach is an American rock band from Vacaville, Calif. Their first major-label release came in 2000 with the triple-platinum “Infest.” Mainstream success followed.
Outside my window the streetlamp pops on; its vintage charm reminds me of the compact streets of Seattle where views of the Space Needle float between miles of cement, trees, and parked cars. Like a dream, you’re never really sure you saw it.
Perhaps my reasons for staying in Billings are all too obvious: There are no crowds for each show, no built-in following to pack the clubs (Alive After 5’s boozy patrons do not count). As if we’re all in this scene together, the choices are limited, but the options are satisfactory. I couldn’t afford a parking place in Seattle, much less a house.
I take one last peek at email: The National announces more tour dates and is wrapping up this latest string of performances in Denver. *Sigh* I drove 12 hours — 10 of which were in rain so depressing that all I felt like listening to was Elliott Smith — to see them. Next week I have a short walk to catch the legendary Charlie Daniels at the Alberta Bair Theater. The instrumental (and excessively good) experimental trio Russian Circles beckons me on July 6, followed promptly by the authentic old-style honky-tonk tattooed cowboy Dale Watson. Stay tuned; it’s only getting better.
*UPDATE: Both the Billings and Helena Papa Roach/Chevelle have been canceled. Refunds available at point of purchase. Chevelle and 10 years will be back in Billings on August 25 as part of the Carnival of Madness tour with Shinedown.