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Longtime musician looks to revitalize Big Sky music scene

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Brian Stumpf has been performing in Big Sky since his arrival in 2005. Today he books shows for Big Sky’s newest dedicated music venue, Tips Up. PHOTO BY KENE SPERRY

Musician spotlight: Brian Stumpf

By Mira Brody EBS STAFF

BIG SKY – Brian Stumpf will tell you transparently that he always hated school. That is, until one day his middle school teacher took the class to music appreciation class and he heard the opening notes to the Grateful Dead’s “Dark Star.” The inspiration he felt that day stuck with him. After rescuing his father’s old bass guitar from the basement and a few years of guitar lessons, he applied for a vocational music program in Rutland, Vermont, called “Music Technology: Jazz and Contemporary.”

“There I spent my last two years of high school learning music theory, recording, how to play the six-string, and the benefits of Visine after study hall periods,” Stumpf said. “Diving deep into the compositions of Miles, Jobim, and The Duke with my new starry/blurry eyed friends was a great thrill, and for those two years, I loved school.”

Stumpf is no stranger to the ski bum resort town lifestyle. His parents had met in the 70s after moving from South Jersey to Vermont, and although they encouraged Stumpf and his three siblings to seek possibly a more structured life, Stumpf landed himself in Big Sky in December of 2005 at the age of 21.

“The ultimate goal was to score a respectable job and find a professional role in the ski world. So much for that,” Stumpf says.

As he became familiar with the open mic and entertainment scene in Big Sky, from By Word of Mouth to Scissorbills and Montana Backcountry Adventures Yurt Dinner gigs, Stumpf found that he could make performing a full-time job.

“The good folks of those establishments, along with the fine and patient individuals at The Riverhouse [BBQ and Events] and Ousel & Spur Pizza Co., among others, were kind enough to keep offering me opportunities despite my amateur prowess at the start, and for that I will be forever grateful,” Stumpf said. “They gave me the gift of experience and the opportunity to grow, a luxury not every player is able to receive.”

Stumpf practiced in what used to be empty retail spaces, where they could “get loud” and honed his craft alongside his band mates from The Riot Act, The Driftwood Grinners, Gallatin Grass Project, The Cropdusters, Eldrick, The Champagne Thursdays, Fringe Bikini, and eventually Dammit Lauren & The Well—who is set to release a new album in fall 2021. He says traveling around the region with his bands is one of his most cherished memories.

Today, while many small music venues across the country are closing down, Big Sky just opened a new one—Tips Up in Big Sky Town Center. Stumpf, with his years of experience, was asked to help with booking shows, a role he was eager to fill.

“Reaching out to the different players around the area over the past few months to offer work has been a great pleasure for me,” Stumpf said. “ … The new Tips Up stage has an opportunity to offer a new commitment to live music in our town, and I’m excited to be involved in growing it.”

Stumpf is excited to be revitalizing the world of live music in Big Sky and hopes that soon, Tips Up will be able to better utilize their space to offer bigger and more frequent events.

“Before you know it, people invading your personal space on a sticky beer-soaked floor will have never felt so good,” Stumpf said.

Tips Up is open for lunch and dinner seven days a week with a crafted menu and full bar, and anticipates live music five nights a week.

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