by Jeff Kirby
on Mon, Aug 24, 2009 at 2:53 PM
Aw Total Fest, you’re the best. You know how to throw a real party - it's Monday and I'm still spent. The people of Missoula put a lot of work into getting this festival together, and they really do a hell of a job. The vibe of the entire weekend is entirely positive and fun, and the lineup proved to have something to satisfy the tastes of everyone who came. The nights started light with pop and twang, then moved into heavier territory as the evening progressed and alcohol was consumed en masse. There were a lot of Seattle bands I had never seen before that made great impressions, particularly the heavy psychedelia of Wildildlife, the wasteland rock of Atomic Bride, the grimy grind or Filth Mattress, and the stripped down punk of the Blank Its. Despite the drum set falling apart every song, Tacocat was so undeniably fun they started a huge dance pit and crowd surfing - one of the best responses any band got all weekend. Lozen and Helms Alee elicited massive headbanging, especially with their new songs, which sounded amazing. I missed Sandrider’s set, but virtually everyone in the building crammed into the downstairs Palace stage to check them out. Black Elk kept all their clothes on this year, opting to hand out naked men playing cards to all the women in the front row instead of duct-taping their penises to their thighs. As is their want, their set was gnarly and abrasive.
There were several great acts from out of town I was introduced to this year as well: Youngstown, Ohio’s Rebreather had some excellent loud doom in the vein of decade-old Isis; Denver’s Git Some (featuring two of the dudes from Planes Mistaken for Stars) played raw, thrashy punk; and the LA/PDX duo Glassell Park 3 used a 6-string banjo and a kick drum made out of a wooden box to wail out some tasty blues garage rock. At the outdoor record swap I got a chance to see Why I Must be Careful up close, and they quickly transfixed everyone around them with seriously technical and bizarre jazz. With so many bands playing it’s hard to catch everything you want to, and I’m sure I missed out on some awesome stuff (specifically Flagstaff’s This Runs on Blood, which I have already been informed I am an idiot for missing).
Why I Must Be Careful
The only beef I had with the festival was the room sound for a couple of the stages. Unless you were standing close enough to hear the band’s amps directly (which was hard to do a lot of the time), the PA mixes further back in the room sounded like muddy poop more often than not, especially on the second stages both upstairs and down. It’s hard to know if the problem was gear or the guys running it, but it’s something that should probably be addressed. Really though, it’s minor gripe on an otherwise unparalleled music festival. The bands, atmosphere, and energy at Total Fest are completely unique and organic, thanks in no small part to the tireless citizens of Missoula who volunteer countless hours making sure everything runs smoothly. It’s exceptional, and unfortunately all too rare in music festivals these days.