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Music in the Mountains lineup: another slate of national acts

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Locals and visitors rejoice at a free concert in 2018, featuring The Elders. PHOTO BY RICH ADDICKS / COURTESY OF ARTS COUNCIL

All opening artists will be from Montana 

By Jack Reaney STAFF WRITER 

Back for its 14th summer of free music at Town Center, Music in the Mountains will unify community around free live music—and this year, some really big acts.  

Brian Hurlbut, executive director for the Arts Council of Big Sky has been booking shows in Big Sky since 2001. He said this series, which began in 2008, once struggled to attract nationally touring artists, but now they have to turn musicians down. It helps that Hurlbut has built a network of booking agents, and that Big Sky’s summer population continues to grow.  

The free concerts will take place every Thursday night through the summer.  

“One of the things that I really try to do… is really make sure I hit as many genres as I can,” Hurlbut told EBS in a phone call. He highlighted rock, country, folk and Americana. “I really do try to please a lot of people.”  

Midnight North will open the series on June 22. Touring since 2015, the band was co-founded in San Francisco by Grahame Lesh, son of the Grateful Dead bass guitarist, and has roots in folk and Americana. 

Midnight North is one of seven artists making their Music in the Mountains debut, Hurlbut said. Just a few headliners will return to a familiar stage: 

Futurebirds, performing Aug. 24, has played Big Sky before. In fact, Hurlbut and some three or four hundred other well-dressed rock fans remember that band well—on June 20, 2019, Futurebirds opened Big Sky’s summer series in a winter storm.  

“They showed up in a van from Georgia, half of them had never seen snow before,” Hurlbut recalled. “They said, ‘you gotta have us back here when it’s not snowing.’” 

There’s never a sure bet on weather, but late August 2023 should feel like Georgia—albeit with less humidity.  

Jennifer Hartswick performed solo last year, but she’s bringing her own band on July 13. The Tiny Band will return for their eighth consecutive July 4 show, and Pinky and the Floyd will close out the series for the fourth time on Sept. 7, playing their fifth show at Music and the Mountains.  

“This year is pretty fresh lineup,” Hurlbut said, pointing out two artists in particular that will be different than the usual.  


Performing July 6, Paco Versailles is a dance-pop band, formed between Ryan Merchant from the hit pop duo Capital Cities and a flamenco guitarist. Hurlbut said Paco Versailles will bring a cool mashup.  

And on Aug. 10, pop star Matt Nathanson will bring his “huge mainstream success” to Big Sky, Hurlbut said.  

“He’s really established, a really good performing artist… That’s going to be one of the biggest shows we’ve ever done.”  

The 1990s chart-topping rock band Freddy Jones Band will also play on Aug. 10.  

“That’s going to be a pretty big night,” Hurlbut added. 

Madeline Hawthorne performed as an opener last year and she’ll headline on July 20.  

And Hurlbut is excited about Funk You, coming on Aug. 27.  

“They’re just really, really good,” he said. “A funk, kind of soulful band… but they really jam too. I’m really into them, they’re really good.” 

Helping local artists emerge 

Each show will feature an opening act, thanks to funding from the Spanish Peaks Community Foundation. The Emerging Artist Series is a way to highlight regional talent, with particular focus on local artists.  

This summer, every opening performer will be from Montana, with two or three from Big Sky.  

The Arts Council is funded by Resort Tax, grants from local, regional and national foundations, business sponsorships, individual donations and income from ticket sales at paid art classes and events—however, Music in the Mountains is free by design.  

“Music in the mountains is a community event,” Hurlbut said. “It’s one of, if not the only event in Big Sky where everyone is welcome. There’s no barrier to entry, no cost. Private club members can mingle with local dirtbags. Everyone is there for the same reason, they love music… A big event, a fun event where we can bring everyone together.” 

Music in the Mountains won Best Annual Event at the 2022 Best of Big Sky Awards.  

The Last Revel performs a free concert in 2022. PHOTO BY BRAYDON BALL / COURTESY OF ARTS COUNCIL

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