Arts & Entertainment

Music Issue 2019: Out of the Underground

The Flathead Valley’s do-it-yourself music scene is alive and well, and underground alums like The Lucitones are making noise beyond Montana

* Other stories in our Music Issue 2019 edition:

A couple months ago, with the stresses of adult life swirling around him, Roger Fingar took up bullet journaling, the method of organizing one’s life popularized by a best-selling book released last year.

There was, and still is, a lot to juggle for the Whitefish native.

“It does get stressful and I have to find new and creative ways to manage my professional life, my music, my relationship, my home life,” Fingar said last week, just as his psychobilly/horror punk band, The Lucitones, was about to release an album and hit the road for a six-state tour promoting its release.

Fingar and his bandmates, fellow locals Elliott Abbott and Matt Lawlor, booked the tour stops themselves and are “our own booking agent, the manager, the promoter, all of that,” when they’re not busy working their day jobs.

But bullet journaling or not, Fingar has another skill to lean back on to help keep the chaos under control. He’s been making music do-it-yourself style since he was a student at Whitefish High School, and the same ingenuity, hustle and self-promotion that he and others in the Flathead Valley used to stitch an underground music scene together in the early 2000s still applies today.

Fingar’s high school band, El Pollo Diablo, went from playing local grange halls to the Vans Warped Tour, piecing together enough money and enough equipment to make a show happen, printing and passing out flyers, and hoping that $5 a head at the door would be enough to cover their expenses, like paying back a generous mom who might have fronted some of the rental fee.

The Lucitones today worry about grown-up things like bills and groceries, and promote themselves more through social media than through Xerox copies, but the skills they learned back then do translate.

“You’ve got to make sure people are going to come,” Fingar said. “I’ll beat myself up mentally if I know I didn’t do everything I could possibly do to get people to that show.”

That mantra rings true to self-starters Kenny Stiffler and Connor Crevier, who have been doing their part to keep an underground scene, particularly punk and metal, alive in Kalispell. The grange halls that used to host shows stopped doing so years ago and most bars in the region stick to more mainstream sounds, so Stiffler — who owns Superior A/V Services and has provided sound for countless local shows — helps promote music at places like the Kalispell Eagles Club and Kalispell VFW, and Crevier’s downtown Kalispell store, Old School Records, is a regular stop for local bands looking to practice or play a set.

Stiffler and Crevier both play in bands themselves — Stiffler is in four bands, in fact — but dedicate part of their free time to making all-ages shows happen in part because they don’t want to lose the tight community that connects intimately with the music or the gritty, non-conformist vibe that can only be found at an underground venue.

“Everyone’s super encouraging and supportive of everybody’s music,” Justin Phillips, a valley native who grew up attending shows at the grange halls and released an EP of his own, Serotonin, last year, said. “The level of support and genuine care, it really fills you up.”

Phillips recorded his EP at Black Magick Studios in Kalispell, a space that in its own way is testament to the connectivity of the underground. Wayne Randall owns the studio, and its employees include most of the metal band Wizzerd, another underground success story. That group started playing together at places like Old School Records when they were in high school, and Wizzerd just returned from a tour of its own through California, Arizona, Oregon and Washington to promote a new album.

Wizzerd, The Lucitones and another band, Uncommon Evolution, have all started making noise outside the Flathead Valley, and their success is shared, at least emotionally, with the local fans, promoters and venues that helped give them their start.

“I think it’s awesome,” Crevier said. “It’s a big deal.”

“It’s real, real rad,” Stiffler added. “It makes me feel pretty proud of them.”

Stiffler and Crevier — along with Black Magick Booking — are teaming up for a two-day festival called Rocky Mountain Riff Fest, April 19 to 20 in Kalispell with shows at Old School Records and the Kalispell Eagles. Wizzerd and Uncommon Evolution are both performing, as is Stiffler’s band Sabbath Worship. For more information, search for Black Magick Booking on Facebook.

The Lucitones’ new album, Three Moons, was released on April 5 by Batcave Records and can be heard on most music streaming platforms, including iTunes and Spotify, and at www.batcaverecords.com.

andy@flatheadbeacon.com

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