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Hard to believe, but it's true-Missoula used to have a thriving all-ages scene. The Banned used to rent Union Hall or the Moose Lodge once every month or so, and kids young and old would show up in the hundreds with enough ching in their pockets for the promoters to pay off the hall rental and the sound system and still have enough left over to pay themselves. And this with just local bands. When touring bands like Green Day and Fugazi played all-ages shows in Missoula, things really got off the hook.

This is the figurative day that old hands refer to when they speak of things that happened "back in the day." No one can say for sure how long the day lasted, but it's obviously over. Many venues have stopped renting out for punk shows. Even if they did, you'd be hard-pressed to find someone altruistic enough to take a $100 bath so that six disinterested teenagers can mope around out front, smoking cigarettes and blaming the promoters for how bad all-ages shows suck. For three or four years now, the all-ages scene in Missoula has been like this: a barren wasteland.

Hopefully all that will change soon, with the Boys and Girls Club at Higgins Hall trying to inject some new life into the torpid all-ages scene by opening their doors to local and touring bands. Chris Baumann, the man in charge of booking and promotion, recently came by the Independent to tell us how it's going.

It's an uphill battle, Baumann explains. "I've definitely noticed that nobody from the bar shows ever goes to all-ages shows." Baumann lists the various factors that have contributed to both the qualitative and quantitative decline of the all-ages show in town. There are too many to list here, but most are part of a vicious cycle: Of-age bands would rather go see shows where they can drink; their friends would rather go see them in places where they can drink. The increasing ratio of bar shows to all-ages events excludes minors who can't get in. And then a band that usually plays at a bar agrees to a rare all-ages gig, and no one shows up because the big kids want to drink and the underage kids don't know why or if they should give a damn. Pretty soon, there's no one left to go see the shows, and the promoters hemorrhage money.

But Baumann is working hard to restore a measure of dignity to this battered institution, even waiving the modest salary the club offered him. "I just try to bring the bands here and give out flyers by hand," he says. "It's a more personal way to get people interested. I'd really like to get to the point where you'd run into somebody and you wouldn't even have to ask if they were going to the show because you just know they're going to be there."

The Stuarts and Miseducation play the next all-ages show at Higgins Hall (The Boys and Girls Club) on Friday, Sept. 10. Cover $3. Call 542-3116.

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