“How did you get my espresso machine?” (The Montana Folk Festival)

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If you haven’t watched “The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou” I highly recommend you make it a priority. Even though it got not-so-great ratings at the time, I find the film to be poignant, ridiculous, hilarious, and visually compelling in so many ways.

There is a building in Butte called the Hennessy Building. It is large, regal, grand, and recently restored. As we walked to it I told Logan we must go inside and steal an espresso machine, a nod to the film mentioned above. The annual Montana Folk Festival was in full swing around us, and we saw the streets full of warm bodies on a ridiculously hot day.

Usually Butte is a fairly cool place temperature (and other) wise. However, the town was so toasty that the asphalt on the streets was literally melting, so wheelbarrows full of sand were being carted around dutifully to keep people’s feet from sticking to the pavement. Nonetheless, thousands of people like ourselves reveled in the live music, delicious food stands, and people watching that Butte always affords. I saw old bikers, young hipsters, way too many infants without sound protection, and a general sampling of humanity.

The Montana Folk Festival this year brought us a marvelous Afro-Venezuelan group, Betsayda Machado y la Parranda del Clavo, to one of the stages. Venezuela is, pardon my language, a shit place to be right now, with triple-digit inflation, lack of basic medicines, and general upheaval, and as we listened to the amazing sounds of the group, I wondered what it was like back home, and how these musicians were doing, if they would return home to the awfulness, and what it must be like to be in an old mining town in Montana introducing us to their sounds. As we watched Logan told me the music reminded him of the music in Bahia, a northern state in Brazil, and he said that it felt “like home” with the heat, the sounds, and the colors.

Earlier that week as we listened to Montana Public Radio we got to hear the most amazing cover of “House of the Rising Sun” croon us as we made dinner. The musician in question who made this masterpiece was Doreen Ketchens, hailing from New Orleans, and we got to see her at the Folk Festival as well! She played the clarinet, her daughter played drums, and the music that rang around the old part of Butte from her stage gave me goosebumps, I swear! Something about the clarinet can make sounds that are eerie and tingling, and I loved hearing her play songs like “Minnie the Moocher” and other classics I had only heard from recordings decades old.

The heat ultimately defeated us, though. We took shelter in a few breweries and bars to escape the omnipresent film of sweat that covered us all. Butte’s bar scene is eclectic, and at one establishment the bartender sassed me aggressively for not ordering a double gin and tonic. “What is the point of being at the Folk Festival if you’re not getting folked up?!” he hissed at me, and I begged him to just give me a single, as I was not looking to be a plastered creature at 5pm. He finally gave in but I’m sure he thought I was pathetic- and definitely not from Butte, where drinking is a hyper-common hobby. The open-container law also allows residents to get drinks “to go” to enjoy as they go about their merry ways.

Overall, this year was a blast. Despite the heat and the sun and the swaths of people (and overpriced beer tickets- $5 for a tall boy of PBR is just a bit too much) I cannot say I regretted it one bit. We passed out later that evening thoroughly exhausted, and I was still humming Ms. Ketchen’s version of “House of the Rising Sun” at the end of it all.

I wish I could dance and other Folk Fest things

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When we saw Mwenso and the Shakes featuring Brianna Thomas there was a couple dressed in 1940’s garb swing dancing their hearts out, and I thought I really wish I knew how to dance. Thoughts of horrid, hyper self-conscious line dancing in middle and high school gym class came forth- sweaty palms, limited eye contact, and my inability to pass over control to my awkward dance partner. I never, ever have been a decent dance partner for this reason- I cannot let somebody just put their hand on my waist and anticipate their moves.

While I was bemoaning a certain lack in a specific skill set, we watched this incredible group of musicians make exquisite sounds. The Folk Festival is all about several things- running into people on the steep Butte streets, eating at the food stands, catching whisps of different sounds on the air as they travel from the multiple stages, and learning more about the world we live in. The fact that we get to do this in Butte, Montana, is awesome, and somewhat random. If you were to tell me that musicians and artists from all over the world in the 2000’s were going to gather in a former mining town as famous for its copper as it was for its red light district and fill it up with global sounds I would have said you were crazy.

Yet, knowing Butte, it makes sense. Butte reveled in its immigrants- Serbs, Croations, Chinese, Irish, Germans, Russians and Poles all made their lives here. The very foundations of Butte are steeped in multi-faceted cultural exchanges, and the Montana Folk Festival is all about continuing this tradition. What a good weekend! I have multiple rolls of film coming, and I cannot wait to put them up.

 

New Year’s Eve with Detta and the 45’s

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My friends make music and occasionally they do so in public. When they do, I bring a camera and document.

It’s hard to make words. I’m headed back to Victoria and missing them all already. My flight’s been delayed and I am trying to start on reading for school, but blogging seems to lift my spirits more.

Friends and family all gathered at the bar to watch these guys play. Everybody was excited, and for some reason it seemed that every girl was wearing lipstick, which I loved. We were all in a good mood, and I was hopeful that the camera’s battery would last long enough for me to photograph my friends well (in the end I made a total of 693 photographs- good job, Canon!).

My beautiful friends played with an energy that enveloped their loved ones. We watched them smile and jam and have fun and fed on that energy. It was almost a new year, and ending 2015 with people you truly care about is always worthwhile.