Irish Music Finds a Home in Kila

By Beacon Staff

When Keith and Kathryn Bassett opened their “fantastic gamble” on St. Patrick’s Day last year, a group of area musicians performed Irish jams for patrons in the newly remodeled building. Now, more than a year later, the same Irish group has missed their Thursday-night gig only twice. The Cottage Inn is thriving and a small town of about 800 people has its choice of live music six nights a week.

Located along U.S. Highway 2, about 10 miles west of Kalispell, The Cottage Inn makes it difficult to miss the turnoff into Kila – the sides of the two-story building are painted with scenic murals. The wall facing the highway features bears and a mountain landscape, while the westward wall has a more personal image: portraits of Keith and Kathryn’s three children. Inside, is the cozy haunt of many of Kila’s diverse residents.

Keith, a self-described “gregarious hermit,” mingles among it all, chatting politics, literature and religion with locals at the bar, fielding questions from staff and complimenting a young chef on his well-prepared duck. Upbeat Irish tunes emanate from the corner of the room while families and couples dine in the pub-styled restaurant – a betrayal of Keith’s English upbringing.

“I’d say 99.7 percent of this was for the community,” Keith said. “It was a way of saying, ‘We live in the best place, and we love you guys.’”

That’s not to say the past few years have been all Irish jigs, good food and Guiness.

When Keith and Kathryn started, the building that now holds their business was a dilapidated shelter for vagrants, and before that a bar that appealed to a tougher crowd. Because of problems with the septic system it was an unlikely sale; except to Keith and Kathryn who owned the land across the road where they could build a new tank. They took an inheritance that could’ve let them “live life out easily,” and invested it in a “constant fear of bankruptcy and loads of work.”

Keith credits local friends like the Irish music group with helping the business along.

The group – sometimes as small as two or as large as eight – gathers each Thursday for their “jam session.” They play for free and drink for free, happy to have found a place with Guiness on tap and a nice environment for acoustic tunes. Most are members of the Grin and Bear It String Clan that performs around the valley, but the jam session is open to all who want to come and play.

“Irish music is happy music,” Helen Pilling, a Kila resident whose husband Dan’l Moore and daughter Gaelyn were also playing last Thursday, said. “It crosses a lot of cultures and there are so many Irish Americans that it speaks to a lot of people here.”

The sanguine Irish melodies that fill the restaurant on Thursday nights are an example of the high quality music that livens the building the other five nights of the week ¬– an unusual and pleasant surprise in a tiny town.

The Cottage Inn’s Weekly Music Schedule:
Tuesday: Singer/Songwriter Deidre Heaton
Wednesday: Christian Johnson & friends; multi-string instrumentalist
Thursday: Irish jam session
Friday & Saturday: Silver’s Platter; house band, jazz-infused rock
Sunday: Steve Eckels; classical guitar