Elton John announced last week that he is not coming to Kalispell.
Well, not really. Our city wasn’t actually mentioned in any announcement involving the knighted singer. But he is coming to Montana and has chosen to sidestep the Flathead Valley. The list of those who have done the same before is a lengthy one: It includes Kid Rock, The Rolling Stones and Motley Crue; and judging by the glut of local throwback haircuts, there is a large Crue fan base here. Tommy Lee didn’t care.
Predictably, Missoula and Bozeman – both home to thousands of college students and populaces rife with far more hipsters – landed John, who belts tunes about tiny dancers and why people are named Levon. But for those unwilling to drive two hours and fork over a wad of cash to see a 60-year-old sing about subjects few understand, don’t fret.
It’s best to stay above the Interstate 90 fray. John, himself, avoided shrieks by opting to play shows in both Bozeman and Missoula on back-to-back nights. If he had chosen one over the other, one or the other city would be griping about hippies or yuppies. That’s what they do down south. We’re in the midst of an ongoing competition between Missoula and Bozeman over who is more attractive. Each year, after re-primping and re-pressing, a new beauty is crowned,
A decade ago, it wasn’t even close, as Missoulians started acting decidedly cooler than the rest of Montana. They rode long boards, ate sushi, held protests and were just two years removed from their beloved Grizzlies winning a national championship in football. It was good to be them, alone, attending Pearl Jam concerts.
Yet Bozeman soon discovered money, grew at a breakneck pace and began attracting performers and lecturers who hop-scotched its neighbor to the west. Bozemanites bought Audis, built a multi-million dollar library and began holding signs themselves – proving Missoula had no monopoly on the every-weekend-protesting market.
In the last two years, the cities have run neck in neck. Both are certainly hip. And both harvest locals who believe nothing good happens in the opposing Interstate 90 city. In Bozeman, where the hometown university graduates engineers and biologists, the thinking goes that Missoula is a haven for anti-capitalists who would rather talk about how smart they are than actually get their hands dirty being smart. In contrast, Missoula virtually ignores Bozeman’s newfound stature and views it as pompous as the private ski resort, the Yellowstone Club, located just down the road.
Both towns are apt to make several subjective lists and proudly boast about them. In 2006 Bozeman was named the No. 1 city for quality of life by Bizjournals. I lived there at the time: Who knew I had it so good, eating Ramen in a small rented room in a dilapidated neighborhood. Missoula is also rank with rankings. Men’s Journal once called it the No. 1 small town in the nation. Obviously, there can be only one No. 1. Thus, the towns bicker and John decided that both were equally worthy of the Crocodile Rock. Good thing.
Admittedly, I enjoy stoking the flames of this oft-bitter rivalry. I do so from a comfortable position, seated on a nook in Northwest Montana – a nice place to judge other cities and stereotype them unabashedly. But when John’s upcoming performances are statewide news, it’s nice living in the Flathead, a place that’s comfortable with itself.
The shows will sell out and each town will be armed with more bragging ammo. Meanwhile, I’m planning my next vacation to Hutchinson, Kan. It also made some lists: as the most boring town in America. There, I’m still considered cool.