As the year winds down, local arts and entertainment events of the passing annum begin to take on perspective. A few stand out against the rest—distinguished as wholly original to the local scene, as possible benchmarks for the year to come, or as so simply memorable that the chances of anything like it happening again are next to nil. So it is that with these criteria in mind, the Indy looks back in wonder at the art world’s defining moments of 2005.

Pearl Jam stumps for Jon Tester

Pearl Jam played for more than two hours at the Adams Center Aug. 29 in support of U.S. Senate candidate Jon Tester. The band’s bassist, Jeff Ament, grew up with Tester in Big Sandy and spearheaded the planning for the show, which is estimated to have raised over $250,000 for the candidate. More significant to fans in attendance, Pearl Jam dusted off versions of rare B-sides like “Black Red Yellow” before ending the performance with a flurry of their most popular hits, including “Yellow Ledbetter” as the arena lights came up. Tester will attempt to re-create and channel the concert’s energy during the Democratic primary in June.

Debuts of “The Bachelor and the Bride” and The Tain

In March, The Decemberists—fronted by Colin Meloy, a graduate of UM’s creative writing program and lead singer of former Missoula band Tarkio—released Picaresque to widespread mainstream acclaim. In April, local filmmaker (and former Indy arts editor) Andy Smetanka and film editor Ben Hatfield debuted their video for the band’s 2003 single “The Bachelor and the Bride.” Then, in November, Smetanka and Hatfield followed with another Decemberists project: an 18-minute movie to accompany the conceptual song/EP, The Tain. In both, Smetanka’s meticulous Super 8 stop-motion animation provides a haunting and nostalgic complement to the band’s Olde English lyrics and literary-pop sound. The films are scheduled for release by Kill Rock Stars as part of a Decemberists DVD sometime in 2006.

The largest Total Fest yet

More than 40 bands filled four stages at three different venues and cranked out over 21 hours of music June 24 and 25 as the annual local homage to all things rock, Total Fest, continues to grow. It was the largest lineup yet for the fourth annual go-around, as well as the most diverse: hip-hop, country and electronica were represented in addition to the standard fare of punk, metal and garage. At a time when local music is struggling to find solid footing, Total Fest and its tireless organizers continue to keep the local scene going steady.

Launching The Candidatos

The buzz started around town as soon as the posters and flyers emerged—The Candidatos and the promotion of their original performance, I’m Sorry & I’m Sorry, looked intriguing as hell and wholly original to Missoula. It was, and the independent theater duo—aka Justin Rose and Kevin Wall—used three initial local performances in early June before mostly sold-out and enthusiastic audiences as a launching pad for their absurd dramatic comedy. A revised version of I’m Sorry & I’m Sorry received rave reviews at the Minneapolis Fringe Festival and Philadelphia Fringe before returning to Missoula for more sold-out shows in October. The final performance included Wall and Rose’s announcement of their intention to create an independent local company to produce new work annually and tour nationally.

Big shows at Big Sky Brewing

From 50 Cent to Willie Nelson, Big Sky Brewing became a concert destination this summer, outdrawing every other local venue and establishing Missoula as a viable stop in the Northwest for big-budget, mainstream, outdoor tours. Highlights of the seasonal lineup: the pre- and post-show parking lot scene at Widespread Panic was an epic, patchouli-drenched extravaganza; more than 6,000 older concertgoers got their grooves on (mostly in their lawn chairs) during Crosby, Stills and Nash; and another sold-out crowd braved the rain and cold (and long beer lines) to cheer on Nelson as he closed out the season in September.

Two helpings of Eating Round the Bruise

Shortly before The Candidatos unveiled their original performance, another debut of original local theater took place in April at the Crystal Theatre. Award-winning playwright and accomplished actor Barret O’Brien, a newcomer to Missoula by way of New Orleans and New York City, starred in the production he wrote, Eating Round the Bruise. Produced by Montana Rep Missoula and directed by Greg Johnson, the show sold out, creating enough demand for Johnson to reprise the play in November (this time directed by O’Brien) to kick-off the Rep’s current season; the latest run was so popular the Crystal added seating to meet demand and was still forced to turn away more than 30 people from the final performance. Bruise marks the beginning of a promising relationship between O’Brien and the Rep; another original play written by O’Brien will be produced by the company in May 2006.

Crumley’s love letter

After falling ill and spending considerable time in the ICU at Community Hospital during the writing of The Right Madness, James Crumley dedicated his latest book to the city of Missoula, taking a page to thank those who “stepped up to the mark when things went badly for me.” His book signing in May was held amongst a standing-room-only crowd inside, appropriately enough, one of his favorite watering holes, The Depot.

The rise and fall of the Wild Boyz

While underground hip-hop continues to rise in popularity (see Atmosphere, below), the mainstream rap scene took a hit when stalwarts the Wild Boyz ended their all-night broadcast on WILD 107.5 over the summer. For nine months the DJ collective rented airtime at the station, hosted numerous dance parties around town and were voted best Club DJ by Indy readers in February. But a series of events, including an alleged rape at Club Cabo where the Wild Boyz were working, led to the disbanding of the group.

Unveiling “The Heart of Missoula”

It may not be as punk rock as Total Fest or as cutting-edge as The Candidatos, but downtown’s block-long mural by local artist Hadley Ferguson has one major thing going for it: “The Heart of Missoula” should be a fixture for generations. The seven panels on the north side of the Allegra Print & Imaging building, which were fully unveiled in December, range in size from 2-by-12 feet to 12-by-24 feet, and were commissioned by Allegra owner Rick Bice and the Missoula Public Art Committee to portray the history of the city.

Setting the Atmosphere

When it comes to regularly selling out venues in Missoula, underground hip-hop remains the most popular genre in town. That was never more evident than when the Minneapolis-based duo Atmosphere—comprising producer Ant and rapper Slug—sold more than 400 tickets for a May show at The Other Side in under nine hours. The atmosphere (pardon the pun) created by those fortunate enough to score tickets contributed to a memorable night. Reminiscing about the concert before returning for another local gig in September, Slug told the Indy: “I learned a while ago that Slug, or Atmosphere, isn’t the important part of the equation…I come to your city and rap, right, and all these kids think they came to the show to see me, but it’s really about them; it’s the community that’s created at that moment.”

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