Ana Sia in Missoula, MT

“Bass to the Rescue in the Rocky Mountains”

With the final poi ball extinguished I gave two mighty crow calls of approval, which resonated through the alleyway from my smoking perch on a staircase, overlooking the sweaty masses.  Ana Sia had just finished a killer hour and a half Ableton set in which she expertly mixed elements of trip-hop, dub step, ghetto tech, and that signature Yay Area bubble glitch (that continues to grow on me) for an increasingly rowdy Missoula crowd.  Using an i-Touch as a controller, she manipulated her tracks with live effects as she danced and clapped along with the music that can most accurately be labeled as: Dance Music. I was curious as to how her performance in this smaller, out of state mountain town would compare to the many other times I have seen her in Cali (6 total I think, including Sea of Dreams).

Donning a classic black Pink Floyd shirt, she maintained an impressively energetic demeanor throughout the entire set, pausing occasionally to breathe, wipe the sweat from her brow and drink heartily from a water bottle full of orange fluid- only to snap back into rhythm with a clap and little jump true to her adorable, yet rugged steez. Last call been called, I sat on my perch, spliff in hand, reminiscing on the evening into my digital recorder as the crowd slowly dispersed below me.  A head full of acid, I sat quietly content for many minutes after the last person left the shadowed alley, ignoring the calls for the after party.  I was weary from a week of running, wrangling horses and an early 5:30 AM wake up call. I sat smoking, reflecting on how lucky I was to be in Big Sky country, balancing the aspects of my double life.

My trip from the North Coast of California to the rugged Rocky Mountains of Montana was supposed to entail a month long serious immersion into the wilderness.  I was planning on giving exactly 30 days to the woods and myself, as I went through the regiment of a wilderness guide school, learning horsemanship, wilderness survival and first aid skills, as well as the ins and outs of being a fishing and big game hunting guide. I was planning on eating healthy and running every night, in order to prepare myself physically for 4 nights of non-stop rage at the upcoming Shambhala Music Festival in British Columbia, which is conveniently 4 days after and 6 hours away from my guide school in Swan Lake, Montana.  This plan seemed solid until I met my fellow campmates. I immediately knew that during my night off every Saturday, I would have to venture far from the backwardness of the camp into the nearest urban center to escape the ugly ignorance I would be surrounded by the other 6 days of each week.  (On the upside, I have been running 3 miles a night to get myself in full born Rage Shape for Sham Town.)

The ugliness and ignorance of my campmates is what first brought me into the fine mountain town of Missoula, Montana.  After a fun filled and bizarre scouting mission to the city, I learned that one of my favorite DJ’s from the Bay Area, and hands down one of the most animated and intense laptop based DJs around- Ana Sia- was coming on a Saturday night to whomperize this historic mountain town. Thanks to the professional and courteous Erin from the Madero Group, LiS was slotted a spot on the guest list in order to record the evening’s festivities, which gave me more than enough reason to get the fuck out of Camp Copenhagen (where I was warned that Missoula is full of “queers and weed addicted hippies”) for a therapeutic bass session to cure the soul.

After settling into the good old Bel-Air motel, thoroughly dosed and happy, I meandered down to the venue. There were two entrances; one on the main street, and one around back emptying out into an alleyway, which a hundred years ago was no doubt rampant with the wildest sort of Western vice imaginable. This alley gave me comfort in times of being overwhelmed by Lucy, as well as a good place to smoke cigarettes and recite notes on Ana’s performance into my cell phone’s audio recorder. The club mostly serves the town as a rustic watering hole, with historic mountain images on the walls, ice cubes and a single crawdad in each urinal… and taxidermy’d heads above the bar. The place was catering to a mostly younger crowd with black X’s on the back of their hands, and although not as wild and crazy as I would have liked to have seen, the energy got more and more intense as the night went on (and as the people got drunk). Ana’s multi-genre’d assault on our ear drums allowed me ample time to let loose with utmost vigor during the tastiest tracks, in between catching my breath and practicing the tricky art of taking non-flash photography in 35mm with a scratched lens and manual focus in a dark bar.

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While talking to one of the guys from Ebola Syndrome, who I had just missed open for Ana with a live DnB set, I learned that the electronic music scene was blossoming quite nicely in Missoula, and more and more acts like Ana Sia were visiting this small city. (In fact, Ana, with her busy touring schedule, had been there a few times already.) The variance in styles of music she plays is perfect for a town like Missoula, as the shotgun approach of reaching a wide array of musical interests in the audience is key to keeping people interested and motivated. However, I got a feeling from a lot of the faces in the crowd that they were just trying to cut loose and dance away whatever ails were with them. Based on the vibe, as they were unknowingly being observed by me, the goofy and spaced out good Doctor, I can say the abandonment of life’s ails was accomplished that evening, as there was not one negative tone… not a single argument or fight. As the night continued along with Ana’s non-stop energy, I felt compelled to set down the camera for the first time and use the bass heavy riddims to fix my own troubles that had been with me all week.

Like the previous weekend, I found my lower limbs difficult to control with precision, but with utmost concentration upon freeing my mind, I obtained access to my “zone” during her second encore, and am proud say I finally found my bearings and raged a full on assault on the dance floor with a group of highly energetic and athletic exotic mountain girls, without uttering a single word. In fact, as I sat on my spliff perch rehashing the night into my recorder, I realized that I had not said a word to anyone during the entire performance, except for my drink orders to the bartender. I was concentrating, totally and intensely, on every face and every song. (Not the individual person or track, but how the music was affecting them, and how each element of the experience was affecting me).  Every laser beam, overheard side comment, and ice cube in the urinal was under scrutiny.  I was a tripped out fly on the wall absorbing it all in, struggling in an effort to make sense of my identity and the strange predicament I found myself in, in Montana.

Thanks to a clean, bass healthy soundtrack provided by the amazingly talented Ana Sia, I was happy to come to the conclusion that it would be impossible for me to take on any lifestyle that would prevent me from attending regular live music events full of conscious, energetic people and LOUD SPEAKERS. I owe it to myself to navigate a life path that can include both wild aspects of my double life. With a final toke off the double wide Humboldt bred spliff, I sauntered off the steps into the cool Missoula evening, ready for another week in back country paradise after a long sleep in a real bed.

LiS would like to thank Ana Sia and The Madero group for helping this broke drifter gain access to the evening’s event, and would like to say with utmost sincerity that if you ever have an opportunity to see her perform, take every necessary step to make it happen- you will NOT be disappointed.  Keep it moving through the hurdles of life, and don’t ever pass up a good opportunity to dance your face off just because you are in a strange town all alone, because that is often when the best things happen. Until next time…… Use the Dome.

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