Though a diversity of national acts book performances in Billings, there are two categories of music that never fail to bring out the crowds: metal and jam. The jam genre came through town last week, with two concerts that drew out many a hippie.
Railroad Earth, a New Jersey-based jam band, performed Aug. 19 in one of the first music concerts in a while at the Babcock Theater, and Boulder’s earthy/crunchy folk band Elephant Revival came through town the following day, performing their unique fusing of amped acoustic Celtic and jazz-inspired pieces. And yesterday, Vince Herman (the former guitarist/singer for one of the late 1980s jam bands, Leftover Salmon) brought his “transcendental meltdown” grooves to Billings.
Railroad Earth commanded an audience of about 500, composed mostly of locals and fans following the band; some aficionados came as far as Florida and the East Coast to groove to the Americana roots jams.
Though the Babcock Theater, located on Second Avenue North and Broadway, has been used for years as a boxing ring, only recently has the theater been available for live musical performances.
In 2008, the city of Billings negotiated a purchase of the building from the late Ruth Moss, who was rumored to dislike live music in the venue. Since then, the century-old theater has been under an approximately $4 million renovation project to restore the building’s exterior and surrounding commercial property, as well as improve the interior of the theater.
Improvements to the property, including restoring the stage and orchestra pit to its original size, were obvious at the Railroad Earth concert, while others had yet to be tackled, such as repairing the art deco highlights damaged by years of neglect and water damage.
The next performance scheduled at the Babcock is Secondhand Serenade, a Dashboard Confessional-style band, on Oct. 7. Opening acts include The Audition and Evan Taubenfeld, and The Rust. General admission tickets, costing $23, go on sale at 10 a.m. Friday, Aug. 28, and are available at Rimrock Mall, Ernie November, by phone at 800-325-SEAT or online at www.jadepresents.com
Chelsea Seth Woodward, lead singer and guitarist for the Pacific Northwest indie rock band Paper Mache, is bringing a notably more subdued performance to Billings on Aug. 29. The Spokane-based rocker will take the stage with just his acoustic guitar as part of a regional tour with Noah Gunderson on Saturday at the Yellowstone Valley Brewing Co.
The two musicians open a performance for Bozeman’s pop/country musicians John McLellan, guitarist and vocalist of the Clintons, and percussionist Josh Keehr, who are touring as an acoustic duet.
The all-ages show, costing $5, begins at 4 p.m.
Billings Clinic Classic
Country music singer/songwriter Blake Shelton, of Nashville, Tenn., will perform at 8 p.m. Saturday at the Alberta Bair Theater as part of the Billings Clinic Classic, an annual fund-raising event for the hospital.
Known for his hits “Home” and “She Wouldn’t Be Gone,” Shelton is touted for his rich baritone voice and sentimental ballads. He’ll be energizing audiences at the Billings Clinic’s street party, which shuts traffic off to the downtown area in front of the Alberta Bair Theater, turning the asphalt into an attractive outdoor ballroom. The event will feature hors d’oeuvres and dancing to live music from two stages plus a jewelry raffle and silent auction.
Last year’s event netted $430,000 to benefit the hospital. Proceeds from the 2009 Classic benefit Billings Clinic’s mother/newborn care, including the Family Birth Center, Maternal-Fetal Medicine program and Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.
For more information, call Billings Clinic Foundation at 657-4670.