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Foo Fighters, Lord Huron rock Big Sky at Wildlands Festival 

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Foo Fighters fans packed the Big Sky Events Arena on Aug. 6 for a historic concert. PHOTO BY TOM ATTWATER

Dave Grohl grants M.V.P. status’ to dedicated fans for sticking out a long rain delay—Foo Fighters play until midnight 


Editor’s note: Outlaw Partners is the publisher of Explore Big Sky and is the producer of the Wildlands Festival. 

In a historic rock and roll concert for southwest Montana, Foo Fighters capped off the three-day Wildlands Festival in Big Sky on Sunday night.  

More than two years in the making, that main act was no sure thing until 9:54 p.m. 

Added for dramatic effect, a thunderstorm and rain delay left fans waiting until the moment legendary frontman Dave Grohl and Foo Fighters walked onstage.  

“You didn’t think this was gonna happen, did you? You didn’t think this [thing] was gonna happen,” Grohl shouted before the first song as he warmed up his guitar fingers to a screaming audience. “Oh, it’s happening now.”  

Foo Fighters played a full two-hour set, hit after greatest hit with a few deeper cuts, finishing just before midnight and wrapping up a festival weekend which raised over $513,000 for conservation groups American Rivers and Gallatin River Task Force—money to help pass the Montana Headwaters Legacy Act which would protect about 380 miles across 20 rivers in Montana.  

“So, many of you remember that there was an ethos behind this great night, which was to raise money for American Rivers and the Gallatin River Task Force,” Eric Ladd, CEO and Chairman of Outlaw Partners, told the crowd before the headline act.  

“Here’s the big check that you all helped contribute to,” Ladd said. “So every ticket—money went to it. Everyone who bought retail, merch, beers, paella… All the auction items.” 

American Rivers, Gallatin River Task Force and Outlaw Partners celebrate the money raised at the 2023 Wildlands Festival. PHOTO BY TOM ATTWATER

Ladd, alongside American Rivers President Tom Kiernan and GRTF Chief Executive and Science Officer Kristin Gardner, held a ceremonial check showing the festival’s fundraising total: $513,473.  

“This funding will help us pass, in Congress, the Montana Headwaters Legacy Act [to] protect 20 rivers here in Montana,” Kiernan said, exuberant. He then led the crowd in a chant, pointing from right, to middle, to left.  

“Vote! For! Rivers!” each slice of the crowd chanted under Kiernan’s direction.  

Between Sunday’s opening acts, American Rivers’ Northern Rockies Director—and activist writer—Scott Bosse told a story of two century-old dams near Olympia National Park that were removed in 2011 and 2013 with support from American Rivers.  

“I’ve gone back to where those dams used to be, and now there are thousands of salmon and steelhead streaming back. And all the wildlife that depends on those. That’s why I work for American Rivers,” Bosse said, met by cheers.  

Big Sky-based GRTF is focused on protecting the Gallatin River for generations to come through testing and monitoring, education and outreach. 

“We need a lot of help to make sure that river is nice and clean for you all, for the future,” added Gardner. 

‘Think we could do this every year, without the lightning and [stuff]?’ 

EBS could attempt to summarize the spirit of Big Sky’s first-ever Foo Fighters concert, a triumph of patience and luck over mother nature. But perhaps Dave Grohl said it best himself (edited to remove abundant profanity): 

“I got a question,” Grohl said after the band played “The Pretender” early in their set. “How long were y’all sitting out in cars in the parking lot. A good hour? Two hours? Was it all good? Listen, when we pulled up tonight, The Breeders were playing—Let’s hear it for The Breeders! We pulled up, they’re playing [and] we’re like, ‘This is rad! I can’t wait to see them play!’” 

He then imitated the crashing sound of thunder.  

“Lightning,” he summarized. “I was like, ‘Oh no. I wonder if this is gonna go down.’ Then we sat in the back having cocktails—we’re like, ‘oh this [is] going down.’” 

Grohl scanned the Big Sky Events Arena and the 5,000 fans that filled the stands. 

“Where the [heck] are we right now? What am I doing? Is this a thing? Is this a thing? Are we gonna make this a thing or what? Alright, let’s make it a thing.”  

The August rainstorm brought cool air below 50 degrees Fahrenheit. Grohl said the only jacket he had backstage was his daughter’s silk jacket.  

He polled the venue to see how many fans had seen the band before. He joked that Foo Fighters has about 150 songs, and they are going to play them all. 

“Kidding. But we’ll do a bunch, ‘cause I know you guys sat around waiting a long time—we should probably give a little extra or something. I’m not cold anymore, I gotta be honest. I was freezing when I first got out here,” Grohl said, before singing the intro to “Times Like These.”  

Later in the night, Grohl commended the Big Sky crowd again.  

“You guys get M.V.P. status for standing out here in the rain all night,” he said, not long after asking why the venue smelled like shish kebab and bison burgers. Toward the end of the show, he called the crowd “bonkers” and said he couldn’t feel his feet.  

A top-notch entertainer, Grohl continued to address the crowd after every song or two. He constantly teased that the next song would the band’s last. He asked for darkness onstage and pointed to the stars overhead. Twice, he urged security not to remove enthusiastic fans—one crowd surfing, another perched atop a friend’s shoulders, shirtless, holding up his Nirvana tee.  

Grohl—once the drummer for Nirvana—spoke to that shirtless man, Big Sky local Chance Lenay, asking how old he was when the album “Nevermind” came out. Lenay held up seven fingers, holding eye contact with a rock legend.  

“I mean that was absolutely life-changing,” Lenay told EBS after the show. “I grew up in Seattle, so all through high school, biggest Nirvana fan. I knew he’d recognize it… So to have him speak to me onstage, it changed the course of the rock show. Pretty mesmerizing.”  

In that unscripted, contemplative moment, Grohl likened the town of Big Sky to Nirvana itself.  

“You think we could do this every year without the lightning and [stuff]?” he asked the crowd a few songs later, before wrapping up with “Everlong,” sung by hundreds in unison. The six-piece band took a bow just before midnight.  

Foo Fighters more than filled the massive stage at the Big Sky Events Arena. PHOTO BY TOM ATTWATER

Kara Teklinski, a fan hanging out near the stage after the show, told EBS this was her 15th Foo concert, but she’s seeing six more before 2023 is out. She came to Big Sky from San Francisco.  

“With the crowd and the small nature of [this show], I think it was better than most,” Teklinksi said. “With the intimacy of the venue, I think the performers actually engaged more with the audience than bigger events. And the crowd was great.” 

Julie Cole, a fan from Minnesota, came to Big Sky by way of a fan club Facebook page.  

“I’ve seen them in small venues before, but this was great because the people were great,” Cole said. On weather, she added, “We had faith. We had Foo faith that it was going to all turn out OK, and it did.”  

And while Foo Fighters stole the big-name glory on Sunday night, Saturday’s headline act by Lord Huron added a unique flavor and a heck of a performance in its own right.  

Lord Huron sets the tone 

As the sky grew dark on Saturday night, Lord Huron opened with “Meet Me in the Woods.”  

Their set ranged from slow, reflective melodies to upbeat, rapid-tempo rock—many tied to lyrics about forests, rivers and the sky, coincidentally in line with the music festival’s purpose.  

The hazy glow of artificial fog onstage matched the lingering moisture in the hills of Big Sky. The crowd bobbed and swayed as the clouds made way for stars.  

Lord Huron brought choreographed energy to their unique, earthy set design. PHOTO BY TOM ATTWATER

A young couple from Bozeman, Kiersten and Jake, have seen Lord Huron three times this year. EBS spoke with them after the show.  

“Just as good as the rest, so good,” Kiersten said about the concert. “Unbeatable.” 

“We were waiting for [this concert] forever, this is our favorite band. They put on the best show,” Jake said. “The energy they bring, the music just means so much to us.”  

“They have a lot of songs about nature and the rivers in general, so it’s really nice to see artists like this get to perform at [an event] that supports the rivers,” Kiersten added. 

Lead singer Ben Schneider addressed the crowd after Lord Huron’s second song.  

“How the hell you doin’ out there folks, you all right?” Schneider asked. “Can’t tell you just how tickled pink we are to be in Big Sky today, thank you all so much for coming’ out. It’s our first time playing here… We’ve been to Montana many times, one of our favorite states to play in, I’ll say that. Also one of our favorite states to explore. But yeah, first time in Big Sky. I gotta say, it’s true—it’s big.”  

Schneider added his appreciation for fans attending and “supporting a good cause” and thanked Saturday openers Regina Ferguson—who brought her band’s folksy, mellow country tunes including a cover of “Wild Horses”—and James McMurtry, whose band of four occupied only a small fraction of the massive stage but filled the arena with foot-stomping western groove after a similar rain delay on Saturday. 

Toward the end of the headline show, Lord Huron bass guitarist Miguel Briseño capped off his arsenal—included upright bass and electric six-string—by adding an awe-inspiring theremin solo.  

Lord Huron’s Miguel Briseño solos on the theremin, a mysterious instrument played without touch. PHOTO BY TOM ATTWATER

The band finished with “The Night we Met,” known widely for appearing in the TV series “13 Reasons Why.” The crowd sang along with glee.  

Hard rock on the come-up 

Foo Fighters were preceded by opening acts from Taipei Houston, a hard-rocking duo of 22- and 25-year-old brothers Layne and Myles Ulrich—sons of Lars Ulrich, drummer and co-founder of Metallica—and the Breeders, an act unfortunately cut short by a dramatic lightning strike over Yellow Mountain. 

During the subsequent rain delay, Taipei Houston spoke with EBS. With a down-to-earth spirit, humility and gratitude, the brothers shared excitement about their new album, “Once Bit Never Bored,” which they described as “us playing crazy stuff in our basement.” The Ulrich brothers even offered a red velvet cupcake after the interview, accepted and eventually consumed by EBS.  

“Been super exciting playing with the Foo Fighters, that’s a dream come true,” Myles told EBS. The duo has also opened for Muse. They said it’s fun, surprising, exciting and humbling to open for class acts at such a young age.  

Taipei Houston hit the ground running on Sunday evening, rocking hard from the first guitar lick. PHOTO BY TOM ATTWATER

Layne Ulrich, Taipei Houston’s bass-guitarist and singer, spoke about his unique vocal style.  

“For me, it’s about trying to be comfortable and have fun with it. Settle into something that I can enjoy and feel like I’m comfortable with,” he said.  

Myles, the drummer, said he is not technically well-versed but likes to keep it fun and have a good time up there. Evident from the sweat on his shirt and his four-limbed fury, he doesn’t miss a beat.  

“I think our brand of [music] is just super active and exciting. Live, the more gnarly I can make it, I come across well,” Myles said.  

The brothers agree that they aren’t trying to convert non-metal fans into fans. They just want to make the kind of music they like—a self-confident vibe that they effortlessly communicated on stage that night. 

On Big Sky, Layne said it’s “super beautiful” in the summer, very different than anywhere he’s been in the U.S.  

“It’s really cool to get to come out somewhere like this, that’s such a unique event space. Throw something together and have fun doing it. New experience, it’s not just another gig which is fun,” Layne said. The brothers added gratitude to the Wildlands Festival for having them.  

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