At least a few people at Babb Fest July 29 must have wondered if dancing to The Grateful Dead’s “Fire on the Mountain” or The Talking Heads’ “Burning Down the House” was an act of hubris, punishable by a fiery death.
To get to the music festival, many concertgoers had to take a detour around St. Mary to Browning and then to Babb via Duck Lake Road, passing under a towering wall of smoke from the Red Eagle fire that stretched for miles in Glacier National Park.
Approximately 700 attendees were then further detoured to a grassy field behind Charlie’s Place, where the concert and overnight camping had been moved after firefighters usurped the original festival site at the Chewing Blackbones campground.
Missoula band Miller Creek seemed to have the most fun with the fire theme, with a guest vocalist altering the lyrics of “Fire on the Mountain” to fit the rumor (so far unfounded) that Boy Scouts had accidentally started the blaze: “There’s a Boy Scout with matches, he’s loose on the town, take a whole pail of water just to cool him down.”
Shortly after Miller Creek left the stage, the sun set behind Glacier’s peaks and a bright red line of flames that occasionally belched fireballs into the sky became visible on a ridge to the southwest.
Different sorts of rumors began to circulate then, including the possibilities that concertgoers, many drunk on the festival’s all-you-can-drink beer, would a) be asked to help build a fire break, b) be detoured through Canada on the way home, or c) be evacuated that night.
Then the music started up again and people went back to dancing, though some tried to sober up in the wee hours before hitting their sleeping bags, just in case they should find themselves awakened by firefighters.
So when the sun rose, campers were somewhat relieved to be awakened instead by a man in a cowboy hat, button-up shirt and cowboy boots—but no pants—who weaved between the tents announcing that he loved everyone, that there was still some beer left, and that Babb hadn’t been evacuated after all.