Woolly Breeches bring the goodness to Montana

by Brit Keeton

Our adventure began at Cafe Racer in Seattle, home of the Official Bad Art Museum of Art (OBAMA) where we spent the show being stared at by questionably executed images of clowns, creepy children, Christ, and scantily clad women hanging from the walls. Perhaps the most impressive was the version of “The Last Supper” in which the apostles were dressed as clowns. Luckily the audience proved more welcoming than the wall art, and lo, we left Cascadia with those lovely images burned into our consciousness.

Our next stop was at the Bavarian Village of Leavenworth where we played at the charmingly named Der Heinterhof. When we first booked the show there was a whole lineup of Woolly band – a veritable Woolly extravaganza: Wooly Bears, Wooly Mammoths, and just Wooly. But in the intervening six months between booking and performing, the Woolly Breeches were the only band left standing. There our hosts, Sam and Seth, helped us make strides in the naming of our upcoming first album that will be released this fall. Here’s the top three concepts – feel free to weigh in on our Facebook page if you can top these.

This one is based on the botanical description of the fruit of the Woolly Breech, the herbaceous fiddlehead plant for which we are named: “Egg-shaped Nutletts: Wrinkled and Warty”

The second idea has more of a hipster flair, managing to incorporate both birds and nonsequiters: “Ducks That Like Trees”

The third and final idea is based on our alter-ego feminist punk metal band: “Woolly Bitches: Not Bad For Fifty-Cent Muffins”

Next we traveled to Moscow, ID to play at the Palouse Folklore Society, an organization run by Tim and David – two generous gentlemen who look strikingly similar to one another and bear a strong resemblance to Gandalff. These wizards of folk music rounded up the community for a fiddle workshop and concert. The Moscowans brought a surprising range of instruments to the fiddle workshop, including an instrument I had never seen before called an Alto Violin – played like a cello but appearing to be an enormous violin. Mandolins, concertinas, and another never-before-seen instrument referred to by name as Butternut showed up. Here we also hit on our new favorite tour past-time: postcard writing. In an antique shop we discovered a treasure-trove of old post cards, our favorite being a series pertaining to Abraham Lincoln. They were entitled intriguing names like “Lincoln’s First Burial Tomb” (Lincoln has more than one tomb?) and “Lincoln Deep in Thought.” On the Lincoln series we drafted a mini-novela about a gila monster for a friend with an equally absurd sense of humor. The other charming thing about the Moscow show was that they put us up in the venue – an attic room with a dance floor, mirrors, and a couple of nude statues. It was slightly disconcerting to wake up with a statue of a naked man staring thoughtfully at you, but mildly amusing as well.

After a house show in Spokane and a coffee shop gig in Sandpoint we made our way to Helena, Montana to play at Blackfoot River Brewing Company. There we were hosted by an amazing couple who owns a glassblowing shop. We watched them execute an intricate dance around the furnace and one another, making glass pumpkins – an item they can’t keep enough of in stock. Who knew glass pumpkins were such a hot commodity? In addition to being glassblowers, Terri maintained an extensive garden and greenhouse and Jim keeps bees and pilots a small plane, which he offered to take us up in after telling us the story of how he accidentally crashed it in the nearby lake once. Here we got to watch the honey extraction process. Jim took the slats from the hive and put them in a metal cylinder that spun the honey out – we ate spoonfuls of honey as it dripped from the machine. Then Terri took us on a hike to see pictographs up Hells Canyon. She had been going there for years, hiking up a dry shrub-studded canyon, but in recent years a massive forest fire roared through the area, burning up the trees and increasing erosion. This increase in erosion has degraded the pictographs in her lifetime – rock drawings that have been around since 800 A.D. are crumbling away as a result of the fire.

Our night at Bozeman Hot Springs was the first gig in which I’ve ever played to people in pools. People were persuaded to waltz in the water, but in spite of our amble encouragement they refused to attempt synchronized square dancing. Where are the Bellinghamsters when you need them?

Next stop: Philipsburg, MT. The most adorable little town in America. Somehow this town has managed to maintain its old buildings and antique vibe without being kitchy. Here the people really seemed to care about each other. We were fed elk steaks and green bean casserole and met a feisty three-year-old who will probably be the next champion mountain climber given the speed at which she ascended the furniture. At the brewery we played on a high narrow platform looking across at eye-level at a taxidermied mountain goat. This partially fulfilled Mckain’s birthday wish of the day – she never specified that the mountain goat still be alive when viewed. The only drawback about our mountain goat viewing platform was that the floor had holes in it, and below were buckets of frothy foam from the brewing process. One guitar pick met its untimely death by falling into the frothy depths.

We concluded our travels in Missoula where the crowd at Draughtworks Brewery warmly welcomed us. When we acted surprised that they would pause from their beer drinking and conversation to applaud after every song, they seemed appalled at the idea that people would behave in any other way. Kindhearted folks there.

Kindhearted folks everywhere, really. What the tour most impressed upon me was how generous people can be, and how eager they are to welcome a little magic into their lives. Music creates a space in which we get to step out of routine and remember the joy, and sometimes it creates the space in which we can touch other emotions that are harder to feel on our own. Live music lets people take a brief break from their daily lives to just be with one another in a shared experience. Getting to connect with different communities through song was such a gift!

Now that the Woolly Breeches have returned to hamsterland, our focus is on finishing up our first album. Follow us on Facebook to know about our upcoming release (facebook.com/woolly-breeches) or see our website at www.woollybreeches.com!

Published in the October 2016 issue of What’s Up! Magazine