When musician Alex Athy moved from Los Angeles back to Kalispell, he was greeted by a neighbor’s bumper sticker: “Keep Cali out of Kalispell.”
The 2000 Flathead High School graduate wasn’t totally surprised – “There’s a definite stigma here toward that state,” he said – and in many ways he doesn’t disagree. After all, he left the California city earlier this year sick of the jaded crowds, cutthroat music scene and hectic lifestyle, eager to clear his head and refocus on his music in Montana.
But Athy, 27, takes a more integrative approach to the two area’s starkly different cultures and, through music, hopes to bring a little of the good from California back with him.
“I don’t want to scare the valley off with too much of California,” Athy said. “But I think it’s important for people to have events where they can dress up, go out, look good and feel good about themselves and have a good time. And there’s not a lot of places to do that here.”
Having returned to Kalispell just this past February, Athy has moved quickly to promote his own music career and set up entertainment for the valley. He’s compiled a band with three other local musicians, is working on finishing his first CD and hopes to film another version of his music video, “Destined,” with the new group.
“These guys are so talented, just absolutely amazing musicians,” he said. “I’m pretty lucky to have gotten hooked up with them so fast.”
Athy, who plays guitar and piano and sings lead vocals, describes his music as a blend of “Whitefish and Motown,” combining rhythm and blues with the storytelling, folk quality of Montana country music.
On May 15, he’ll perform his first local concert, “A Night to Remember,” at Red’s Wine and Blues in Kalispell. Doors open for the event at 5 p.m.; the show starts at 7 p.m. There will be a $10 cover charge at the door.
But Athy, with an obvious penchant for big events and flair, didn’t settle for having his Montana debut be a one-act event. Limos from Wild Horse Limousine will set the scene outside the bar and offer rides to event-goers. Hot Springs singer Shawn Michael Perry and DJ Q will perform interspersed with a fashion show featuring clothes from local businesses DeLovely, Mimi’s Bridal and Spirit skate shop modeled by local residents. A videographer will record the show and simultaneously play the images live on a big screen.
The scene was chaotic but upbeat at a fitting for the models at DeLovely last week, as young women passed dresses over the top of dressing room curtains and debated accessory choices. Most took a relaxed approach to the event, saying they got involved because they were friends with Athy and thought it would be fun to be part of something different. For Jacqueline Hodge it’s an opportunity to work at what she hopes to make her profession.
“I want to get into modeling, so it’s good to do a little hometown thing like this and then hopefully I’ll be in Paris one day,” Hodge said.
Athy talks of big plans for future entertainment in the valley: starting talent shows at the area high schools, a Fourth of July party on a yacht on Flathead Lake, a Woodstock-style music festival in August. Meanwhile, he hopes to get back on track with his own music career.
“In California, you’re essentially playing for one person – that one agent or promoter who might notice you,” Athy said. “Here, I can play for me, for the crowd and for the love of music. I hope that I can get back to that.”
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