By Tyler Allen Explore Big Sky Senior Editor

BIG SKY – This summer Brian Hurlbut, executive director of the Arts Council of Big Sky, wanted to take Music in the Mountains in a slightly different direction. The July 17 performance by Red Elvises on the Town Center Stage exemplified that new focus for the Thursday night summer concert series.

“After last summer one of my goals was to have more variety, more of a rock ‘n’ roll sound,” Hurlbut said.

The energetic rock band with a sound that’s been characterized as “Siberian Surf Rock,” delighted fans under a smoky, pink sky for two sets. Throughout the show its humorous 50-year-old front man Igor Yuzov told jokes and urged dancers in front of the stage to wave their hands in the air, clap to the beat and perform disco dance moves.

This was the first performance in Big Sky for the Venice Beach, Calif.-based Red Elvises despite a long history in Montana. The band tours extensively in North America and Europe and has been playing Montana venues for nearly a decade.

“[Montana] is such a different place than the rest of the U.S.,” Yuzov said after sound checking for the Big Sky show. “That cowboy spirit is still here; the beauty, nature, people like what we do. Sometimes we see the same people four or five shows in a row.”

Red Elvises are a stalwart at venues such as Pine Creek Café and Chico Hot Springs in Paradise Valley, as well as Bozeman’s Zebra Cocktail Lounge. “We heard from lots of fans we should come [to Big Sky], ‘they have quite a music scene happening’,” Yuzov said, noting how impressed he was with the setting.

Yuzov contacted Hurlbut last fall and the Red Elvises were the first show booked for this season’s Thursday night lineup.

“It’s one of those bands I’d heard about but hadn’t seen,” Hurbut said. “They have a long history around here.”

The Dead Winter Carpenters play July 24 on the Town Center Stage after a heralded performance opening for Jason Isbell last year. Their sound, as well as a number of the acts scheduled for August, has more of the roots influence Music in the Mountains’ fans have grown accustomed to.

Americana bands are easier to book since so many tour these days, Hurbut said, but Red Elvises and Denver, Colo.’s Fox Street All Stars slated to perform Aug. 14, are bringing a more rocking, danceable sound to this year’s concert series. Fans at the Red Elvises’ show seemed to appreciate it.

Yuzov riled up the throng in front of the stage with a four-song encore, each time bellowing at the crowd, asking if they wanted “One more song?” The question was met with an appreciative roar each time, spurring the band to play deeper into the twilight.

“We do one more because you’re so cool!” Yuzov yelled into the microphone before firing up yet another hard-rocking encore.

Find the full Music in the Mountains summer lineup at bigskyarts.org.