by Josh Vanek
Missoula's mid-summer (August 15-17) independent music blowout, Total Fest has gotten through most of its announcements for Total Fest XII. The most recent news is an announcement that Salt Lake City's (defunct) Vile Blue Shades will reunite for a Total Fest performance. Writing about the Vile Blue Shades is as nearly a fruitless endeavor as you're really probably ever likely to get yourself into. Here's why: You either come across like an absolute dipshit in trying to explain their uh, oeuvre or you risk overstating what makes them so damn unique, weird and awesome and kind of ruin the fact that they're kind of our special secret in the Northern Rockies.That's the dilemma I'm staring down, okay?
It would pay more (not that you ever invoice me. guilt trip!) and give you more room to gripe. More room to gripe!
So now that you know that, here goes: Back in 2007 Total Fest was a mere toddler. Not quite in kindy-garten yet. Toilet trained, sure, but wet behind the ears and all that. Missoula lacked spots to hold big underground deals with lots of weirdos. Jay's had closed. We'd pissed off the neighbors and had the cops show up at the Legion. Weren't a great fit with the Other Side...
So, we were in desperate need of a location that wouldn't come with all the goddamn hassle. And we found it in the Missoula County Fairgrounds, smack to the east of Malfunction Junction. The Llama Barn, to be exact. We didn't get hassled by neighbors that year, but the price of renting the place was too high, and we had to carry our own event insurance, so when it came to dividing what we'd earned from passes bands should've gotten paid a lot more than we ended up paying 'em. Coulda-woulda-shoulda in retrospect, lots of things to have done differently, but those are the main facts. That we're still friends with most of the people that played that year I think is a testament to what makes Total Fest a unique deal. Local bands played for free so we could pay out of towners something. We've come a long way since then. Have a better home in downtown Missoula, and have grown steadily since that year.
Anyhow, that year, Total Fest V, came with its challenges, but was the Missoula debut of Vile Blue Shades and it would mark a pretty regular, semi-annual trek that the roughly 12 or 13 members of the band would make up to Missoula to blow our minds with their enveloping, rhythmic sex-boogie whatever-it-is. That pretty regular trek up to Missoula ended just about a full five years ago, at some point in 2008 with one of the few out of town shows they played behind the John Thursday California Adventure LP that Wantage put out.
That they'd lasted that long always kind of baffles me. The sheer logistical challenges of getting together the 12 people (several drummers, bassist, guitarists, singer, dancer) that make up the band always seemed to be looming as the most likely reason they'd end. Luckily, with members like Eli from the Wolfs and the 8ctopus record label, Terence from Red Bennies and Shane, the band seemed actually to function pretty well for a decent chunk of time. They recorded an amazing piece of work in their John Thursday LP and a couple of other good full-lengths and singles, put on some incredible shows and blew all kinds of minds in the process. The lyrics are foul, they've got a dancer named Meg who's typically underdressed. Ryan, the singer, is a wild man. It's just a whole spectacle of a deal that deserved to be seen and participated in, and I think better to kind of leave it with that. When we saw they were doing a reunion show this fall at the Urban Lounge in Salt Lake, we decided we'd give 'em a call and try to convince them to come up to Missoula to hang for Total Fest. Lo and behold, voila, etc.: Vile Blue (effing) Shades. Thanks to Zombie Tools for some extra-special sponsorship to get them here.