The first Travelers' Rest festival hosted by Big Sky Brewing and The Decemberists was an immense success. Montana is now officially on the music festival map!
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The companion piece to this recap is AudioHammock Podcast #75; listen to AudioHammock staff relive some of their best escapades of the weekend. Featuring music from Real Estate, 1939 Ensemble, and Khun Narin.
" You're going where for a music festival?" a friend asked me prior to the road trip from Seattle. "Missoula", I answered without hesitation. "You should check it out sometime". Missoula is located conveniently on Interstate 90 and for bands traveling west towards Seattle and Portland for gigs it makes the perfect mid-week destination. With a blossoming music scene thanks to the Wilma Theatre, and the Kettlehouse and Bikg Sky Brewing Co amiphitheatres Missoula is attracting some serious talent and now finds itself with a college scene full of enough music fans to back it up.
Enter the Decemberists and Big Sky Brewing Company. What could be better than a team of indie-folk's most quintessential bands and a widely-well known brewery from around the Pacific Northwest? The resulting pairing is Travelers' Rest; a two-day music festival on Big Sky Brewing grounds curated by The Decemberists themselves. The stage was set, The Decembersists called some friends and rest is now history! Read on for year one and prepare yourself for what we hope will be an annual event.
Travelers' Rest featured an incredible lineup and the top billing went to The Decemberists. Playing a set each night, Colin, Chris, Jenny, John, and Nate took the crowd through an expansive tour through The Decemberists 7 album collection. The festival came to a close the second night with an appropriate and glorious rendition of "The Mariner's Revenge Song".
From New Jersey and admittedly playing their first show in Montana, Real Estate provided the vibrant summer guitar tones and relaxing vibes that fans of the band have known them capable of for years. With songs like "The Bend" off of 2014's Atlas and new hits from this year's fantastic release In Mind, Martin Courtney and company had the had the crowd bobbing heads all afternoon on Sunday. Fans lucky enough to line up directly after the set were treated to an autograph signing by the band held by Ear Candy Records (vinyl fans check it out next time you're in town). In fact most bands were graceful enough to hang out and sign records throughout the weekend. Chill vibes indeed. Check out Real Estate on their official website.
Many fans who lined up early on the rail of the main stage to wait for Real Estate were treated to a beautiful set by Julien Baker. Armed with only her Fender Telecaster, Julien's voice rang true with a setlist full of gems of new tracks and emotional songs from her 2015 album Sprained Ankle. Identifying as both a lesbian and a Christian, Baker's soft finger-picking guitar parallel's well with songs that feature an abundance of soul searching over lost love, self-identifying, and fitting in. A visibly nervous Baker was introduced by Decemberists band member Christopher Funk but after that first note rang true you would've thought Julien was a seasoned touring veteran. Julien's set stopped time and and it was a rare ocassion at a music festival where I looked around and saw no one in the aisles or standing by in idle chatter. If you came to Travelers' Rest not knowing about Julien Baker you left with her at the top of your "artists I need to check out" list.
Whether playing solo with his guitar, suitcase kick-drum, and tambourine, or with drummer Chris Boosahda, Shakey's stage presence is felt with his jovial attitude and blues-rock esque folk tunes that oose adventure and narrative. Saturday was no different as Shakey played a handful of live classics before bringing out Boosahda and the rest of his band for a fuller sound that included tunes off of 2014's And The War Came. Go here for our full album review before checking out Shakey's official website.
One of the more interesting bands on the lineup due to their unique origins and instrumentation, Khun Narin is an instrumental psychedelic band from Thailand. The main draw here is the 3-stringed lute that the lead guitarist Beer plays. Ramped up by a sweet set of pedals and effects, Khun Narin's sound is both exotic and harmonic in a way you might not think possible. Fore more on their unique story check out the podcast or the Innovative Leisure website.
An instrumental jazz and rock quartet from Portland. 1939 Ensemble uses a keen amaglation of post-rock and ever present drum beats that parallel what looks to be a xylophone with more chops than a Harley Davidson factory. The result is a sound that will have you wanting more and when all the members of the band swap instruments mid set it makes the experience even more unique. Check out 1939 Ensemble on their bandcamp page.
Travelers' Rest featured a lot of indie and folk music so the inclusion of electronic based Sylvan Esso was a great score for the festival. Mixing it up with Amelia Meath's (vocals) and Nick Sanborn's (DJ) talents served the festival well on Sunday as the whole crowd seemed to be brough to its feet for a massive dance party. With hits like "Hey Mami" and "Coffee" off their 2014 self-titled and "Die Young off of this year's What Now, it's hard to argue the success this band brought the festival and the amount of new fans they surely won over.
Who did you see this year at Travelers Rest and what did you think of the festival? Let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org and we'll read your email on an upcoming episode of the AudioHammock podcast.