Silver Theater collapses
In early February, a week before the Big Sky Documentary Film Festival, the ceiling of the Silver Theater collapsed under the weight of snow. No one was hurt, but the theater, which was purchased in 2015 by the Helen and Morris Silver Foundation, had been slated to serve as a major venue for the festival, and organizers had to scramble to find a new place to screen its films.
For the past five years, Rock Lotto has been a highly anticipated dead-of-winter benefit wherein musicians are randomly put together in bands for one-night-only performances to raise money for nonprofits. Rock Lotto V: The Final Countdown marked the final year for the event, and featured bands playing songs off 1986 albums, including Bon Jovi's Slippery When Wet, Madonna’s True Blue and Metallica’s Master of Puppets. Each band was also given a “secret” song to perform. The joke was on everyone, including the bands, when it turned out every band’s secret song was Europe’s “The Final Countdown.”
Lily Gladstone generated a lot of buzz in 2016 for her role as the pining rancher in Kelly Reichardt’s Certain Women. But it was in 2017 that Gladstone rode the wave of her accolades, attending red carpet events and award luncheons in Los Angeles and spending several weeks meeting with top film and television series executives. In Missoula, we still like to claim her as our own, but the actress belongs much more to the wider world than ever before, as evidenced by her nomination this month for best supporting actress by the London Film Critics Circle Awards alongside big names like Holly Hunter (The Big Sick) and Allison Janney (I, Tonya).
A long-awaited public sculpture park opened in April outside the Missoula Art Museum, featuring works by six artists on the theme of bicycles. The Art Park, a joint project between the MAM, Adventure Cycling and the city, spans Spruce Street between Higgins and Pattee, and includes a fancy public restroom called the Portland Loo.
On July 12, Lyle Lovett and his Large Band broke in the stage for the opening of the KettleHouse Amphitheater, located in Bonner on the banks of the Blackfoot River. The 4,000-capacity venue, a collaboration between the owners of the Top Hat Lounge and Wilma Theatre and KettleHouse Brewing Co., hosted several shows throughout the summer and into fall, including performances by Ween, Pat Benatar, Slayer, Tedeschi Trucks Band and Primus.
Meanwhile, Big Sky Brewing Co. unveiled its own new amphitheater, in collaboration with promoter Knitting Factory, and inaugurated the new stage with a performance by Trey Anastasio. Big Sky’s major event, though, took place in August with Travelers’ Rest, a two-day festival curated by and featuring the Decemberists, along with acts including Belle & Sebastian and Sylvan Esso.
In January, the Palace Lounge, one of the few venues still hosting DIY shows, closed its doors to undergo remodelling as a billiards hall. The blow to the town’s independent scene spurred a handful of promoters to start the Basement Fund, an organization based out of the Zootown Arts Community Center. The group hosted touring bands and local artists, and helped with big events like Camp Daze, a three-day music festival featuring favorites like Rozwell Kid, Vundabar and Great Grandpa.
Festival of the Dead
Rumblings of discontent about Missoula’s Festival of the Dead started last year and resurfaced a few months prior to this fall’s activities. On social media, several activists called out the festival as cultural appropriation. Organizers responded by meeting with some of the activists and cutting workshops that pulled directly from Mexican traditions (like decorating sugar skull cookies). But the issue continued to be contentious, with a few protesters showing up to various festival events, including the Festival of the Dead Parade. On parade day, the ZACC announced it would back out as fiscal sponsor of the festival going forward, but promised to help if others decide to take it on.
On Aug. 9, in honor of its 80th anniversary, the Roxy officially lit up its new art-deco marquee—a vibrant red sign with bright yellow letters, glowing in fluorescent pinks and blues. The vintage sign, based on the Roxy’s original, provided the cherry on top to a handful of theater renovation projects this year.
Barb Theroux retires
Barbara Theroux retired after 31 years of running Fact & Fiction, the storied downtown independent bookstore. A major supporter of the literary community, she brought in countless authors for reading and signing events and was a major driver when it came to the Montana Book Festival, an event she’ll continue to work on.
Peter Rosten, CEO and founder of MAPS Media Institute, died April 17. The filmmaker started MAPS in Darby in 2004 and built it into an award-winning program for young people to learn the technology and tools of the film trade.
Artist, filmmaker and writer Simone Ellis died July 18. She spent her early years making art with famous Beat writers. In Missoula, she served as president of Missoula Community Access Television and became an unofficial den mother to young and emerging Missoula artists, who spent time in her living room discussing art and politics.