2017 Flathead Lake Blues Festival (day 1 – part 1) – live performance review

We love discovering new bands, and this year’s Flathead Lake Blues Festival proved the perfect location for doing just that.  We were unaware of this amazing festival, and discovered it by accident.  One of the bands slated to play on day 2 of the Festival was the winner of the Best Blues Band category in the LA Music Critic Awards for the first half of 2017.  We had earlier decided to present certificates to all the award winners, and we thought it would be a great idea to present it to the band in front of a crowd.  We contacted Steve Pickel of Anderson Broadcasting, the organizer of the Festival, and he was ecstatic about it.  He invited us to come up and be VIPs for the entire weekend.  Thank you Steve!!!

The first day of the Festival was subtitled “Montana Musicians Review,” and featured 10 Montana bands over a six hour period – very ambitious, but somehow it all came together and only ran about an hour and a half over the schedule.  This review will cover the first five bands to perform, while part 2 will cover the remaining five bands and the special events.

The first artist to take the stage was Missoula’s Andre Floyd and Mood Iguana.  Floyd is an amazing original blues artist who shares his craft throughout Western Montana.  His band included the prolific Dave Griffith on guitar, organ and keys, Ron Reeves on bass and Don Caverly on drums.  Griffith also lent his talents to several other bands throughout the day.  Floyd’s sound is progressive roots-based blues and he brought his best to this performance.  We especially loved his jazzy rendition of the classic song “Our Day Will Come.”  You can catch him playing the Draught Works Brewery stage later this month.

Next up was the Mike Murray Band, who took the music up a notch with their seriously funky style.  Composed of Murray on lead guitar and vocals, Christopher Krager on bass and backing vocals, Marco Forcone on drums and Ryan Wickland on keys, pedal steel and guitar, they joined awesome vocals with some amazing guitar riffs to bring the funk to the Festival.  This is a band that we could see everyday, and never get enough.  They closed their set with a blues number that showed off the funky keys and guitar, and firmly established themselves as a force of music.

The first female-fronted band was next in the person of Halladay Quist, a multi-instrumentalist who completely  wowed the crowd with her stage antics and her incredible mastery of guitar, banjo and electric stand-up bass.  The daughter of musician and would-be politician Rob Quist, Halladay is a ball of energy that never stopped her entire set.  She was joined on stage by her father on acoustic guitar, as well as Dave Griffin on keys and sax, Leif Christian on electric guitar and Bally Lopez on drums  Halladay’s vocals are truly beautiful, and she shares them on music that ranged from country blues to bluegrass to classic rock, including a stunning cover of Jefferson Airplane’s mega-hit “Don’t You Want Somebody to Love.”  One of the highlights of the set was watching her father grin from ear to ear at the talents of his daughter.  Halladay has just released an album that will be reviewed shortly on this blog.  Prepare to be blown away.  She performed several of the new songs during her set, of which we really loved “Let it Burn,” especially in light of our Montana fire season this year.

Leif Christian didn’t have far to go when he finished playing with Halladay, as his band, Ticket Sauce, was the next on the stage.   Joining with his long-time bassist Nathan Talley and substitute drummer, Collin Scott, the Sauce brought it all together with their healthy blend of rock, funk, blues and soul, with a special topping of cool.  They are a party band, and are guaranteed to get any gathering off to a jamming start.  They were especially incredible on their covers of Jimi Hendrix’s “Isabella” and Led Zeppelin’s “Black Dog.”  They also write some great jams, including “Alone.”  They closed their set out the way they began, funky to the end.

The fifth band to take the stage, and the last one we will cover in part 1 of this review, was Off in the Woods, a dynamic six piece band composed of Jon Schumaker on guitar, Layne McKay on saxophone and guitar, Kyle Daugherty on trombone, Kia Abibzadeh on keys, Kai Salmonson on bass and Nathan Noble on drums.   This band is a true local icon, as their members come from Polson, home of the Festival.  They have a very funky jam band sound, with a touch of reggae.  Some of their best songs included “Blue,” “Early Summer Rain,” and “The River.  The band will have a new album out in the near future.

We’ll be back soon with part 2 of this review, followed by our review of day 2.