Editing, Travelling and Opining

I never thought my last semester of J-School would be this busy! Wait, no, this is right on par. Sorry I’ve been away for so long, there have been a few developments:

I’ve been hired on as the (interim) copy editor for the Missoula Independent, a weekly Tuesday shift of slinging AP style and slaying comma splices. Believe it or not, it’s actually pretty thrilling. Or, at least it thrills me. I’ll be there until I start up in Idaho Falls this summer.

Indy Masthead

My Native News project — a yearly capstone class that teams writers with a photo/videographer for a week on one of Montana’s reservations — is well under way. I’ll be on the Fort Peck Reservation over spring break with Samuel Wilson to produce a 3,000-word piece on… actually, it’s a surprise. But you can find it online and in print in the Missoulian and Billings Gazette in June. We’ll have a running Twitter feed and photostream when we get up there, hopefully that will quell some of your curiosity. Just two weeks till showtime.

I’m still writing music too! Here are some of this week’s album reviews: Lo-fi locals Needlecraft have a new lineup and vinyl out and Minneapolis punks Off With Their Heads get a little too clean for their own good.

Finally, there was some fallout from my most recent Keep Missoula Weird column. Which is exactly what a good, opinion-filled column needs to do. Not to mention I wouldn’t trust an arts editor that didn’t have strong opinions about music. I would Storify the Twitter backlash from jam band fans that proved my point, but it’s not exactly Rated E for Everyone.

Oh, and my Twins commentary — we’re a seven-inning team thus far. We’ve blown it in the eighth more times than I care to remember. But at least our records get wiped clean again when we start the real season against the Tigers (gulp) April 1. Until then~

It’s Hard to Mention the Group WHY? Without Extra Explanation

Yet if you read my review of their latest album you won’t worry much. While I first heard Yoni + Co years ago I never thought they would actually remain relevant. But leave it to some clever songwriting and a pretty steadfast musical ethic (get in, make a scene, get out) to create some noteworthy records. They’ve grown. Speaking of…

The first line in my quick review of Missoula’s King Elephant references “growing up.” Can I just clarify that it’s a time (and many places) that I love, and the end result is irrelevant. Really, when are we done growing up? I could go deeper but if you listen to the band you might get what I mean. The DIY ethic in King Elephant is as infallible as my yearning to remain young and I can’t wait to see Tim Goessman’s documentary about their tour.

Wait! Before you go pour another cup of coffee, read about how it affects my little Montana village in this week’s arts column.

As for the Twins, I think they traded some good infielders for a crapshoot of pitchers. Grapefruit League starts on Saturday, so we’ll see what surprises they might have…

Copper Kings (And Queen)

After a few months sitting on this massive feature story, it finally grew legs and ran in the Independent this week. Less massive (cut in half) but more poignant, my final piece from Hank Stuever’s Reporting Pop Culture class tells the story of a successful bar band in the context of the only country bar in Missoula — the Sunrise Saloon. But no more spoilers, read it here.

"Someday I'll be living in a big old city," sings the band from Troy, Mont.
“Someday I’ll be living in a big old city,” sings the band from Troy, Mont.

I should also tell you about our college station KBGA’s Radiothon, as I somehow ended up writing a decent press release for them we ran with in today’s Kaimin. They go about their annual fundraiser pretty cleverly. “We’re asking for money from college students and we understand that’s crazy,” said Ruth Eddy, KBGA News Director. “But you can pledge five dollars, and that gets you a ten dollar gift certificate. It’s not really a donation — you’re making money.” To top it off their efforts they host a party, usually headlined by an out-of-town band, at the Badlander complex downtown. This year’s choice cut is the Toronto hardcore/indie band Fucked Up (whose name I appreciated seeing uncensored in the paper today, as it is a proper noun).

I’ve fixed the broken links on my Kaimin clips: since we changed our CMS the archives have been slowly trickling in (and changing URLs). I may be shuffling them around a bit too, so keep an eye on ’em!

One last important piece of business: The Minnesota Twins start their Spring Training games very soon. Expect commentary.


Sordid Sensation

Down your street | Music | Missoula Independent

©Jameson & The Sordid Seeds

Jameson & The Sordid Seeds just put out the best-produced album to ever sprout in Whitefish, Mont. A mish-mash of blues, reggae and rock with moments of gospelic duets, that year in the studio really paid off.

Still, it’s a bit trite, which is hard to say without sounding mean. But that’s my job, right? Identifying what went right and wrong and why. Balancing a necessary kindness our local artists maybe get a little too much of without sounding like their publicist.

Here’s the best track off the album. Let’s see if our opinions match, eh?

Back to Basics

Back to basics at the Indy this week with a pair of album reviews.

 Kendl Winter | Arts Features | Missoula Independent

The Mechanics of Hovering Flight

She’s got the quirky voice, the lo-fi production and simple poetry all the kids are into these days, but what sets her apart from the trend is the youthful honesty, sans pretention, present in her voice and structures. Check it out: K

Now for something completely different!

House of Quist | Arts Features | Missoula Independent

Here’s rock’n’roll if Journey never happened — these guys (and girl) take on the classic sound getting old on the radio and make it their own. There’s not much for surprises but something likable about it. Something so simple it doesn’t have a name. I’m going to call it…neat.

Seven semesters down, one to go. Time to remember how to read for pleasure and write in private, not just publication. Keep scanning the Independent for my name (and my talented colleagues’) over the winter and be safe over the solstice. The Mayans say it’s going to be a doozie.

Beyond Belief

Beyond Belief | Theater | Missoula Independent

Julie Cajune wants to know if you can name 10 famous American Indian women. Sound too difficult? She thinks so, too.

So starts the first theater review I’ve written without a chance to see the show. A one-night, one-woman show based on Julie Cajune’s family stories and Jennifer Finley-Greene’s poetry, the story behind the show became as important as the production itself.

Julie Cajune
Julie Cajune rehearses a scene from her one-woman show, “Belief.” ©Brooks Johnson

“We all live through disappointment or times of great discouragement or grief that cause us to question beliefs,” Cajune says. “This is a universal story that doesn’t have cultural or gender boundaries. It’s just one way to deal with it. It’s not the way for everybody, but it’s my way.”

A rainy afternoon driving up to the Jocko Canyon in Arlee begot a friendly, concise interview. But because I couldn’t translate their grand ideas into something tangible for the audience, I narrated the process, the journey. Luckily my editor knows I can do better and gave me the right push to tell the story in a more productive way. Just as journalism is a long process of trial, error and feedback in search of a noble goal, so too does theater seek to clearly and cleverly tell the most important stories of our time.

“For me and the work that I’m doing, that means presenting a meaningful and authentic voice and image of American Indian people and American Indian women,” she says. “I couldn’t think of a more meaningful way of doing it than through theater.”