Our first show was in Great Falls, Montana at Machinery Row. The owners are very supportive of the band after seeing us play 12 years ago in Las Vegas. They’ve been doing a good job bringing in regional and national touring acts. James McMurtry and Tony Furtado are two recent examples. Being a Friday night we were hoping for a good turnout and we were not disappointed. In fact, I would say we were pleasantly surprised that it was a full house and a fun night of music. Here’s to live music in Great Falls!
On Saturday afternoon we did the pleasant and beautiful drive over to Helena for a Halloween party presented by Exploration Works. We had played the same event back in 2008 and it was whole lot of fun. Little Orphan Annie, Sarah Palin, ghouls, goblins and pumpkins all made an appearance that night. We were looking forward to being back and reacquainting ourselves with our Helena friends. The event was held in the ballroom of the Best Western and the place was really well decorated. We had a little time to mingle while they were doing the charitable auction. Dressed up as a bowler, Roy told us he dislikes Canadians almost as much as people from Iowa. We worked on him through the night and he eventually came around and big burly hugs were exchanged. A tip for next year’s party: If you dress up as a bowler you can keep a six-pack in the bowling bag!
We dressed up as lumberjacks, rockers, power rangers and the icing on the cake was the intriguing Nascar man. Show was a blast and everyone had a good time. For some weird reason the band was banned from the hotel when we stayed there in 2008. All I know is I went to sleep. Someone must have had a loud party or maybe staff thought someone in the band was having a loud party. I blame a former drummer…So yeah; we are a pretty badass band I guess. A badass band that plays “You Are My Sunshine” three nights out of four… So we set up a tent in the alley and caught our 40 winks.
Sunday was a short drive up to Pray, Montana where Chico Hot Springs is located. It’s a really charming historic lodge. We’ve been playing there a couple of times a year for ten years or so. It’s always a blast. Lots of people road trip from other places in the state to see the band, have a soak in the pool and spend the night in the lodge. Apparently room 349 is haunted. Jason stayed in that room and no paranormal activity was reported. However, he is a deep sleeper…
The show was the usual high-energy affair. It was a pajama themed party so we all wore robes to fit in. Pale Canadians in white bathrobes. Worth the price of admission right there. Montana is a hotbed for celebrities. Almost as many famous people as grizzly bears at last count. We’ve seen Jeff Bridges and Dennis Quaid up at Chico. This time it was National Geographic bear expert Casey Anderson. Rebecca spotted him with her eagle eyes. One of the nice things about playing in the saloon is we get to sleep pretty much upstairs and we don’t load the gear until morning so we get to hang out with the staff and some of the friends we’ve gotten to know over the years. In the morning we loaded up and headed towards Billings. We stopped in Livingstone and I ran into the owners of Chico at the Subway. We played Mike’s 75th birthday party 5 years ago already. It reminds me once again how fast time is flying.
We got to Billings around 4 and checked into the hotel. Met a nice young woman from Bulgaria in the lobby. It occurred to me as we were talking that I really don’t know anything about Bulgaria. In fact I probably couldn’t point it out on a map. Just another place that would be incredibly interesting to visit. They appear to be a good-looking people based on my limited experience.
So we loaded in at the Yellowstone Brewery. It’s become a great place for us to play in Billings. George, Donnie, Randy and the others run a really great show there. They make gin the good old-fashioned way along with really tasty brew. It’s an all ages concert so it’s nice to see a mixture of people having a good time together. On this particular evening it was a benefit for an initiative to build a new library in Billings. I don’t know much about it but encouraging people to read books can’t be such a bad thing. If I read more I’m certain my writing would quickly improve and I wouldn’t need to think so hard when called upon to spell a word like necessary or extra-terrestrial. Speaking of reading, I’m back on the bandwagon with the Keith Richards bio and the classic On The Road. Quick Keith Richards’ factoid: He had a pet mouse as a kid called Gladys. See, reading is good. I never would have known that if I hadn’t dug into his book. It’s actually a really fun read. So many stories and anecdotes and hilarious British slang and wit.
So we played the show and it was fun. David Cleaves from local band The Sons of Billings joined us on mandolin for the second set. We finished up around 8:30. Lots of people were in costumes. We asked Wonder Woman to join us at a local pub down the street where some other friends were hanging out too. A couple of us went to Karaoke at the Crystal later. The Crystal is a bit of an experience on an ordinary day but seeing as how it was Halloween the interesting factor was tripled at least. If you haven’t heard Frankenstein, Raggedy Ann and Sarah Palin sing The Girls Just Want To Have Fun, well quite frankly you haven’t lived. It’s a must see in life. Kind of like seeing the Grand Canyon, The Pyramids or the Taj Mahal. Head on down to the Crystal in Billings, Montana next Halloween if you get a chance and you’ll see what I mean.
So we said goodbye to the Bulgarian, Billings and the Best Western and headed on down the highway to Butte America. We’ve been playing here a couple of times at year for the last ten years or so, normally at the Silver Dollar. There is so much character in Historic Uptown Butte that it’s off the charts on the character meter. I’ve had so much fun over the years and have met so many wonderful, earnest and humorous people. The shows are always fun too. Sometimes the place is packed, sometimes the numbers are a little thin but Butte people know how to have fun anywhere. Anytime.
For the show itself, we played a lot of up-tempo barnburners but we also tried 9 or 10 songs that we rarely play anymore so that was pretty fun. The energy was loose and festive and we kept her going pretty late. It was a cold walk back to the hotel. Fall is definitely giving way to winter temperatures in these parts. We got up and headed to the Dollar to pack up our gear on a gloriously sunny day and did the three-hour drive to our next stop: Idaho Falls.
We had a night off and posted on Facebook that we were looking for fun things to do. Lots of great suggestions but we ended up watching three hours of Storage Wars. I fell asleep at 11:30. Unheard of but I sure felt great in the morning. Karaoke in the hotel lounge will have to wait until next time. I took the van in for a wobbly tire and ended up with a whopping bill three hours later. The cost of doing business I guess. Can’t get to all these places with a broken down vehicle. This current van has been great. 520,000 kilometers and still going strong but I dream about a new vehicle almost every night
Back in the day we would play at DB’s in Idaho Falls a couple of times a year but they stopped doing live music for a time. But now the bands are back and the locals seem to be enthusiastically showing up. We did an epic four sets of music. Everyone had a sweet time and we played until the wee hours.
So then it was off to Pocatello for the weekend. We normally play every summer outdoors at Idaho State University, and once or twice a year indoors at The First National, or The First Nash as the locals call it. We’ve got our load-ins down to an almost perfect science. We can be unloaded, set up and sound-checked with our own PA system in 20 minutes or so. Unfortunately for the show itself, it was the first snowfall of the year and that seemed to keep people at home. Don’t get me wrong, it was a fun crowd but not the crushing numbers we have come to expect. We made a few uncharacteristic blunders on stage but recovered to have an OK night.
Saturday was super relaxing at the hotel. Slept in, caught up on some computer work, ate a few slices of pizza, had a bath & a shower and left for the club at 7. Night was off to a much better start. Weather was mild and the town showed up. It was a nice surprise to have banjo player Jason’s family show up ready to throw down and party up a storm. Because the clocks were scheduled to fall back at 2 am, we determined that we would keep the music going until 3! That’s the latest we’ve played in a long time. Band was a little tired by the end of that odyssey but it felt like a fitting way to end the tour. 6:30 wake up came early the next day let me tell you…