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The Art of Evolution

By Beacon Staff

For the band HumanLab, it may be true that the only consistency in life is change, that situations and circumstances evolve to send the members down new paths with new experiences. For Michael Medlin, one of the band’s founders, it’s as simple as viewing change as moving forward.

HumanLab went from a million-dollar record contract with Atlantic Records to falling casualty to the record label’s collapse and subsequent bankruptcy; from recording in London with world-famous mixers to a self-built studio in Northwest Montana.

Sometimes, that’s just the way life goes, Medlin said. The band moved its Huntington Beach, Calif., roots to this corner of Montana after Medlin met and started dating musician Miriam Folk, who was living in Polebridge.

“We all fell in love with this place so we moved up here and built a studio in Haskill Basin,” Medlin said.

The most-recent lineup for the band consists of Medlin, Folk, co-founder Marco Forcone, Flathead native Luke Mace and jazz musician Don Caverly. They play a mix of folk, rock and soul, with lyrics focused on the positives in life, rather than the negative.

HumanLab got a record deal through Atlantic Records in 2004, and the band went to England to record with some heavy-hitters in music production. They were ready to roll out the new album when they got back to the States, Medlin said, but were soon informed that Atlantic was going bankrupt and merging with a larger corporation.

Two years of legal wrangling followed, during which the band members parted ways, Medlin said. He and Forcone, who have been best friends for years, stayed together and invested the money from their contract into building a recording studio.

The band wrote and recorded its EP, “Love,” in Huntington Beach and toured about 170 shows promoting it. Once they shifted scenery and settled in the Flathead, Medlin and Forcone decided to invest in the local music scene.

“There’s so much talent up here musically,” Medlin said. “It’s awesome.”

One of their major projects is the Midway Swap Meet & Farmers Market, hosted for 10 weeks during the summer at the old drive-in movie theater near Columbia Falls at the intersection of U.S. Highway 2 and Highway 40.

This year’s swap meets begin on June 29.

The pair built a new stage for this summer’s swap meets, for a concert series called “Rock the Swap” during which local bands will have their shot at entertaining the crowd.

Michael Medlin

The new stage is located about 3.5 acres away from where the music was played last summer, Medlin said, due to an ongoing lawsuit filed by the owner of the neighboring RV park. The owner contends that the music is too loud and disturbed the owner and her patrons.

An evidentiary hearing in the civil case was scheduled for June 25, but Medlin said HumanLab plans on playing on the June 29 opening day.

“To have a swap meet with no music, it’d just be a bunch of tents,” he said.

The swap meets provide a family friendly place for the community to interact, and it’s also a chance for folks to earn some much-needed cash, Medlin said. The booths are 10-by-15 feet, providing enough space for people to sell everything from “crafts to car parts.”

Medlin said they’ve already got 35 percent more vendors than last year.

“We just really saw it as an opportunity,” Medlin said. “There’s 1.2 million people going to Glacier Park and they’re passing right by there.”

It’s an approach that seems to be working; the meets garnered 35,000 people over two months.

Opening day should be a special event, he said, complete with the Lost Prairie skydivers dropping in, bouncy houses for kids, pony rides, a mechanical bull and more. Fridays run from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. and Saturdays go from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

The swap meets are a way to connect to the community, Medlin said, and the band hopes to release an album recorded at their Montana studio in October. It’s just another example of moving forward.

“It’s been a great time since we’ve been here,” Medlin said.

For more information on the Midway Swap Meet and Farmers Market, visit its Facebook page, call 406-863-9741 or send an email to [email protected].

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