Mount Helena Music Fest: High quality, independent music
Published: June 11, 2008
For an urban and eclectic experience, music fans can head to the Capital City for the ninth annual Mount Helena Music Fest. It coincides this year with the Blast From the Past classic car show, the Helena Outdoors Fest and the Trail Fest, which showcases the town‚Äôs many mountain-biking trails.
‚ÄúIt‚Äôs an absolutely jam-packed weekend,‚ÄĚ says Jim McHugh, executive director of Downtown Helena, which organizes the festival.
Ten bands offer two days of wide-ranging sound, from rock to blues, and from Big Easy swing to R&B. In choosing the festival‚Äôs line-up, ‚Äúwe always take some chances,‚ÄĚ says McHugh. ‚ÄúPeople usually find a whole new genre they connect to.‚ÄĚ
As always, the festival boasts a roster of potent blues performers, including Chicago blues diva E.C. Scott on Friday and Oregon‚Äôs Nick Vigarino, referred to as Mr. Blues Collar for his rough and tumble back-alley blues, on Saturday. The Insomniacs, a Blues Foundation award nominee for Best New Artist Debut, also take the stage Saturday; the West Coast group plays vintage instruments and channels a cool blues sound from the 1950s.
Pianist Henry Butler and his New Orleans All Stars headline Friday‚Äôs show. ‚ÄúHis style comes right out of the heart of New Orleans, where he‚Äôs played with the Neville Brothers and that whole gang,‚ÄĚ says McHugh.
Steeped in the jazz traditions of his hometown, as well as classical and blues idioms, Butler is also a master of many instruments, including baritone sax, trombone and especially, piano. ‚ÄúHenry Butler can play like anybody but sounds like no one. He stands alone,‚ÄĚ writes All About Jazz.
Saturday‚Äôs headliners, The Nouveaux Honkies, hail from south Florida, where they‚Äôve cooked up an exciting sound. ‚ÄúThis band just looks and sounds great,‚ÄĚ says McHugh.
Their first self-titled release in 2007, which covered a spectrum of blues and R&B classics, was named best roots-music CD by the Palm Beach Post and caught the ears of critics around the world.
This year‚Äôs line-up also includes Cold Hard Cash, the Mike Bader Band, the Warsaw Poland Brothers and Saul Kaye.
The Mount Helena Music Festival shares its home in Women‚Äôs Park with a farmers‚Äô market, food court and the Art Mart, where more than 50 artists and artisans sell handcrafted wares.
The festival typically attracts around 1,500 listeners, while the surrounding events draw about 8,000 to the park. ‚ÄúPeople really enjoy the interaction and intimacy of Women‚Äôs Park,‚ÄĚ says McHugh.
In addition to a strong following among Heleneans, festival-goers come from as far afield as Missoula, the Flathead Valley, Great Falls and Bozeman. ‚ÄúWe‚Äôre gaining a reputation for introducing good quality, independent music,‚ÄĚ says McHugh. ‚ÄúBut the biggest compliments come from the performers, who say, ‚Äėwe want to be back.‚Äô‚ÄĚ
Entrance is a bargain at $12 a day or $18 for a festival pass; call 447-1535 or visit www.downtownhelena.com for details.