Billings’ favorite girl group, Maxie Ford, has played its second-to-last gig. With summer taking various members separate ways and the fall taking a few to college or other adventures, their last hurrah may very well be at Magic City Blues in August. Not a bad way to wrap up a one-year career.
Formed last August by two daughters of two stalwarts of the Billings music scene, the group of five to six high school students garnered much community and local media support that seemed to build at every turn. The combination of talent, unique instrumentation, eclectic song selection, and adorableness, culminates with an opening slot on the third day of “Montana’s Urban Music Festival.”
Guitarist and vocalist Katy Kemmick’s father, John, is known for his resonator guitar work with the Longtime Lonesome Dogs, the Muddy Warblers, the Peach Pickers and as a duo with his brother, Ed (who made a guest appearance on blues harp at this show).
Guitarist, vocalist and ukulele player Hannah Haberman’s father, Doug, has played bass fiddle, mandolin and guitar with the Elk River Ramblers, Longtime Lonesome Dogs and the Firehouse Band. Both girls are known in the local scene through guest appearances with their dads while growing up, so it was a welcome development when they combined forces to perform with a group of musical friends.
What has helped to set them apart are the instrumentation and set list. Grace Lamdin plays double bass, mid-year addition Jenny Long plays trumpet, and percussionist Nolee Anderson plays tap shoes. That’s right: tap dancing instead of a drum set. Plus, she occasionally raps. Everyone else, except Katy Kemmick, plays a bit of percussion here and there, as well.
Last Updated on Friday, 24 May 2013 00:23
Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros had good success with its first CD. The group’s acclaimed debut, “Up From Below,” featured the single “Home,” which got widespread exposure in commercials, movies and television shows.
It might seem that the acclaim and success would have given frontman Alex Ebert and his bandmates plenty of confidence heading into album No. 2, the recently released “Here.”
But that wasn’t the case, Ebert said, because the band dynamic that had developed during three-plus years on tour behind “Up From Below” had changed in significant ways shortly before it was time to start work on the new CD.
The reason: the departures of guitarist/keyboardist Nico Aglietta and keyboardist Aaron Embry – two key members of the group. Aglietta, in particular, had played a key role, co-producing “Up From Below” with Ebert and taking the lead on technical/engineering aspects of the project.
“I’d rather not talk about why (Aglietta and Embry left) exactly, but it was just sort of a part of the process, I suppose,” Ebert said. “Whenever things feel like they’re crumbling and you’ve been working really hard at something for a long time, and the feeling of it is getting a little wearisome, you start to question exactly what you’re doing and where is this going. And I think that we all had probably, maybe not all of us, but to have a moment of sort of repose where you’re allowing the question to sit with yourself for a second.
Last Updated on Friday, 24 May 2013 00:21
The second Texas in July CD, “One Reality,” caught the band in a period of transition. In the very early stages of writing that CD, which was released in April 2011, guitarist Logan Maurer left the group.
Maurer had been the main music writer since the band’s inception in 2007, and with guitarist Christian Royer joining drummer Adam Gray as the main music writers, “One Reality” ended up being a bit of a departure from the group’s independently released 2009 debut CD, “I Am.”
“We were all in a weird place with like changing a member,” bassist Ben Witkowski explained in a recent phone interview. “We love the record, but it definitely did tone it down as far as riffing and wild drums. And just overall song structure for a couple of the songs was very mellow. This is just how we were at the time. We were taking on the challenge of writing a record without a huge piece of the band at the time. It was like losing a brother.
“We definitely noticed after it was released that the fans were like ‘Woah, where is the riffing? Where is the shredding, all this type of stuff,’” he said.
The band spent part of the summer recording its self-titled third CD with producer Machine. The album was released on Oct. 9, and Witkowski, who is the group’s primary lyricist, said the album marks a return to more of the early Texas in July.
Last Updated on Thursday, 16 May 2013 20:06
Two Montana American Indian musicians won Native American Music Association awards (NAMMYS) at last weekend’s 14th annual awards show in New York. Joseph FireCrow and Gary Small, both members of the Northern Cheyenne Nation, each won one NAMMY.
FireCrow was awarded the Flutist of the Year NAMMY for his album, “Night Walk.” Small and his band, the Coyote Brothers, were awarded the Best World Music Recording NAMMY for their album, “Hostiles and Renegades.”
Both men are multiple NAMMY recipients going back over a decade.
Both of these talented musicians were nominated along with four others for Artist of the Year. They were the only two nominees from the same tribe in the running for the top award.
The sold-out event was held at the Seneca Niagara Events Center in Niagara Falls, N.Y. Initially scheduled for last November, the ceremony was postponed until May 10 after Hurricane Sandy hit New England shortly before.
Last Updated on Thursday, 16 May 2013 20:04
When three of the earliest members of Primus decided to take its reunion to a new level by following up its 2010 tour with a new album, “Green Naughahyde,” the band turned into something that many fans might not have expected – a truly collaborative trio.
To be sure, bassist/singer Les Claypool remained a prime force when it came to songwriting. But guitarist Larry “Ler” LaLonde and drummer Jay Lane also made significant contributions to the music on “Green Naughahyde.”
LaLonde, who had contributed to the music before, but never written all of the music for any Primus songs, wrote the music to two of the new songs (“Eternal Consumption Engine” and “Hoinfodaman”) and has a co-writing credit on five other tracks, while Lane contributed music to five songs.
In a recent interview, LaLonde explained how his sudden outburst of music happened.
“Most (earlier) Primus albums kind of came from, we tour, tour, tour, and then get off tour and go in and start making an album,” he said. “You’ve got to go into the studio with not having a lot of ideas and start writing in the studio and coming up off the cuff with a lot of stuff. This time, since there was a little bit of a break before this album, I had stockpiled a lot of song ideas. So I’d come in there and go ‘Hey, I’ve got this song idea.’ I had a lot of song ideas. There was time to sort of get them together.
Last Updated on Thursday, 09 May 2013 00:32
My wife had just one complaint about Venture Theatre’s production of “And I Know …” on Sunday afternoon – no Kleenex.
Turnout was small – only a couple of dozen people for the matinee performance – but she wasn’t the only viewer left in tears by the end of the Project Homelessness show.
The play is set in a somewhat fictionalized homeless shelter in Billings, and viewers get a long and unpleasant look at the poor decisions, unfortunate circumstances and plain bad luck that can leave people without a home. Ryan M. Gage and Shad Scott wrote the script from interviews conducted by Jessie Obee and Amy Dixon, who have been here since July working on Project Homelessness as AmeriCorps VISTA members.
Both hung around to talk to viewers after the play, and Ms. Obee, who is from Wisconsin, said that much of the dialog came directly from the transcripts of the interviews they conducted. But one of the situations was somewhat fictionalized, one character was a composite, and the character of the chaplain was based on a real person, but not anyone in Billings.
For all of the tugging the play does at the heart strings, it isn’t exactly dripping with dramatic tension. Characters come and go, tell their heart breaking stories and then move on from the shelter to the rest of their lives – or not. Sort of like real life.
Last Updated on Thursday, 02 May 2013 20:24
When Aaron Bruno finished “Megalithic Symphony,” his debut album as Awolnation, he felt something he’d never quite experienced before.
“I was extremely proud of the record I had made, more than ever before,” he said in an early March phone interview. “I just felt I really did something unique and special and original that truly for the first time in my life I had no regrets, nor did I really question any of the parts.”
That’s not to say Bruno thought this would translate into a hit album.
“I didn’t have any expectations of commercial success, because that’s the business side as well,” he said. “Just because you have a song that 10 strangers could get in a room and all agree ‘You know what, this song does sound like a hit song to me,’ that doesn’t mean that it will be.”
Bruno had good reason to temper any thoughts about chart success or radio play for his new music. His two previous bands failed to make an impact, even though they seemed positioned for success.
Last Updated on Thursday, 11 April 2013 21:44
Since the odds of the three living members of Pink Floyd ever performing on-stage again are slim-to-none, the most fans can hope for are tours by guitarist David Gilmour or bassist Roger Waters.
While there are Pink Floyd tribute bands across the United States (indeed, both of the Americas, Europe, South Africa and Australia), Billings is not on most of their tour itineraries.
Fortunately for Floyd fans in the Magic City, there is a highly acclaimed tribute ensemble based in Bozeman. Pinky and the Floyd is a 10-member band made up of the cream of Bozeman’s professional musical crop. They are bringing their Pink Floyd Retrospective Tour to the Babcock Theater this Friday, April 5.
Most of the members are familiar to Bozeman fans, but Billings jazz fans might recognize keyboardist Chris Cundy, as well as Jake and Jeni Fleming of the Jeni Fleming Trio. Other members include guitarists and vocalists Luke Flansburg and Dustin Tucker, keyboardist Joe Kirchner, bassist Sean Lehmann, drummer Adam Greenberg, vocalist Krista Barnett and Drew Fleming on samples and percussion.
When she was still Jeni Ramseth, Ms. Fleming represented Billings as Miss Montana in the Miss America Pageant. Her performance for the talent portion of that competition was classical piano, but she has mostly made a name for herself as a jazz vocalist. She and Jake have since divorced amicably (“best guy I could’ve gone through a divorce with”) but have continued to share a revitalized musical relationship.
Last Updated on Thursday, 04 April 2013 17:41
BOZEMAN – Marching percussion specialist Bill Bachman, orchestral percussion specialist Keith Lloyd and drumset percussion specialist Adam Greenberg will conduct master classes during the annual Montana Day of Percussion to be held Saturday, March 23, at the Montana State University School of Music.
Registration begins at 9 a.m. in MSU’s Howard Hall, followed by clinics throughout the day.
A showcase concert featuring MSU Percussion Ensemble, MSU Youth Chorus and Lloyd is set at 7:30 p.m. in Reynolds Recital Hall, which is located inside Howard Hall on the MSU campus. All tickets will be sold at the door.
Bachman is a prolific author, world-class performer, clinician and educator, but also an inventor and touring/recording drumset artist. A graduate of the Berklee College of Music, Bachman toured for 12 years with several award-winning marching percussion groups including the University of North Texas drumline, Cadets, Bluecoats, Blue Knights, and Carolina Crown.
He is the author of several Row-Loff’s drum instructional books and is a columnist for Modern Drummer magazine. An inventor, he designed Vic Firth’s Heavy Hitter Pad series and the Vic Firth signature “Billy Club” drumstick for tenor drummers. He is also a freelance drummer in Nashville.
Last Updated on Thursday, 21 March 2013 14:38
“How many of you set the alarm for 3:30 so you could watch the royal wedding?” asked Anne Harrigan, conductor of the Billings Symphony. My hand went up. AND I bought the commemorative People Magazine issue.
I was in good company. In April 2011, more than 1 billion people watched Prince William and Catherine Middleton say “I do.”
Last Saturday, with “A Royal Celebration,” the Billings Symphony and Chorale performed music from the 2011 wedding as well as other imperial events.
Not only was the concert a royal celebration, it also showcased the miracle of the human voice.
Under Maestra Harrigan, every word sung by the chorale came through clearly. The quartet of soloists for Mozart’s “Celebration Mass” also was a joy to hear: four virtuoso voices who created a perfect blend of sound.
Last Updated on Thursday, 21 March 2013 14:36