There was two big stages with the Big Mountain stage just on the other side of a small stream and the Great Northern stage where most of the main acts performed had a great view of the trees and mountains and the two areas were connected with a new asphalt road and the audience area at both stages was covered in green manicured grass and made for great blanket and beach watching and two giant screens to view the acts from afar... there were VIP areas with shade and great views with side seating on hills that just fit the bill...
Press coming out following the Festival points to another one next year and with a year behind them and
I'm already planning to be back in Montana to jump on the train... speaking of a train, there was a railroad
running along the side of the Festival and was right out of the movies to have a train go by during the festival.
While Ryan and I were talking the guy to the rt with the Hawaiian Lei on came up with the fellow and stood there quietly. After Ryan and I talk a little more I stood back to let the fellow say what he wanted, and he came up to Ryan and shook his hand and said "I am Johnny Shockey, and I own the ranch and booked you on the show, and wanted you to know that you were the first act that I booked, and when I had you booked I knew I had a Festival"... cool!
Fun time up near Whitefish, Montana on an assignment to have fun and take some shots of
Johnny Shockey, who through his production company Outriders Present hosted the two-day event on his 340-acre Big Mountain Ranch on the edge of Whitefish, Montana. Shockey talent lineup was from a number of genres from country to alt-country from legends to local acts to honky-tonk, folk and blues, and with a great stage crew on the main stage where I hung out I saw top-notch professionals fromstage to security, clean up, ticket gates, parking control to sound and lights.
The Festival promoters I am sure were happy with the sell out crowd of 15,000 for their first show and reports are that the town was very happy and 400 people from the local economy were hired and the vendors were local with a number of Montana breweries serving the brew. Having been a producer and in the business half a century and the past few decades traveling around the country covering shows and a dozen of those years on the road with Merle Haggard I must say that this festival was TOP NOTCH PROFESSIONAL!!!
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What a ride Under the Big Sky this past July 13th and 14th proved to be. I was most excited to see Dwight Yoakam, in that been talking to him about a movie project and wrote about him some in my book on Merle Haggard, and to see ole Ryan Bingham at the same show with such a wide range of talent from the Nation and Montana I was in Hog heaven...and even saw the Hogslop String Band play on the Great Northern Stage with a load of Montana bands that were many from Northern Montana and the Whitefish area.
After Ryan Bingham's set I went backstage to find him and say howdy, I had run into him a few times over a number of years from Austin to Los Angeles, where I reminded him that last time we hung out was at The Mint on Pico Blvd. in Hollywood where I had come in with Harry Dean Stanton, Dave Somerville from the Diamonds and the one and only Jack Nicholson and to tell the truth five young lady friends of Jack and Harry's and what a great night to remember. Ryan runs with the Hollywood movie crowd to the artist and hippies of Austin.
Yepper dang right...there was a rodeo just down the hill from the Big Mountain Stage
With two stages and gound to cover I was not able to get good shots of so many of the great acts at the Festival that were from either Montana and/or the US that I had not heard or seen before. Must say I really enjoyed the music and band ZZ Waren. Her second studio album, The Storm, went to # 1 on the Billboard Blues Albums Chart.