Moonlight MusicFest

Sure to be a Hit

Pat Hill

A new music festival slated for its debut in Big Sky this August will feature musicians like Grace Potter and Bruce Hornsby performing in a mountainous amphitheater. Organizers hope the event becomes a mainstay of the Southwest Montana summer experience.

Tom Garnsey of Vootie Productions told Bozeman Magazine that he is excited to be a part of this new festival at Moonlight Basin, partnering with the Arts Council of Big Sky, Moonlight Basin, Big Sky Resort, the Lone Mountain Land Company, and the Big Sky Real Estate Company to bring the idea to fruition.

“We’ve been talking about it for a few years now,” said Garnsey, adding that even the site of the event had been narrowed down for quite some time. When the decision was made earlier this year to launch the music festival this summer, Garnsey went into action putting together the lineup.

“I can usually scramble if I need to,” he said, referring to organizing a summer music festival on relatively short notice. “And when you get to February or March, it’s scrambling.” Garnsey said that after throwing some names into the hat seeking a diverse lineup, looking at the selections one at a time, and deciding an approach, the hope is that you land the bands you want in that relatively short span of time.

“And it’s looking like a nice little party we’ve put together,” he said. “We’ve got a fun bunch of bands, both local and national, and everyone’s looking forward to it.” 

The fun begins on Thursday, Aug. 16, at Big Sky’s Town Center Park, with a free show featuring the Two Bit Franks opening for the Jeff Austin Band as part of the Arts Council’s summer series. Then the action moves to the north side of Lone Mountain at Moonlight Basin’s Madison Base Area.

Getting the ball rolling for the inaugural Moonlight Music Festival will be the Hawthorne Roots out of Bozeman, a local band gaining a solid regional reputation.

“To be opening at a festival featuring Grace Potter and Bruce Hornsby...that’s quite an honor,” Madeline Kelly of the Hawthorne Roots said. Following the Hawthorne Roots will be the Mission Temple Fireworks Revival featuring Paul Thorn and his band and the Blind Boys of Alabama. These award-winning artists blend a mix of soul, rock, gospel, blues, and country providing an experience that Thorn describes as “like taking a 6-pack to church!”

The Wood Brothers take the stage next. This popular American folk trio just released their sixth record in February, and the band pays frequent trips to the northern Rocky Mountain region to the delight of its fan base there. Topping of the evening will be Bruce Hornsby and the Noisemakers, putting some new twists on old Hornsby classics. 

Saturday kicks off with The Well, Big Sky’s newest rock band, combining members from some of the area’s favorite bands of the past decade. Up next is The Suffers, who say that they offer up “a heaping dose of soul, a dash of reggae, a splash of jazz, a pinch of salsa, a hint of rock ‘n’ roll and a dollop of hip-hop and funk.”

Next up is Anderson East, a fast-rising entertainer embarking on a whirlwind tour who is definitely making a mark in the industry. The husky-voiced gritty-blues and-soul-toasting singer is taking it all in stride. 

“I’m way more comfortable in my own skin onstage,” East says of his evolution as a must-see performer. Following East is the Chris Robinson Brotherhood, who are well on the way to being counted among the most prolific rock and roll bands of their time, according to many music critics.

“The music that we make, the concerts that we play, it’s this world we’ve created for ourselves and our people,” explains Robinson. “We want everybody to understand that no matter where you are in your life that you can always be barefoot in your head.” 

Next up with his band is “the Father of Newgrass and King of Telluride,” AKA Sam Bush, who has long since established himself as roots royalty, revered for both his solo and sideman work. Bush’s awards include an Americana Music Association Lifetime Achievement Award and a suite of Grammys and International Bluegrass Music Association trophies, yet he still strives to bring something new to the mix. A live show with the Sam Bush Band is a pure delight.

The evening wraps up with one of the queens of rock and roll, Grace Potter. Described by Spin as “one of the greatest living voices in rock today,” and by SF Weekly as “the whole package,” Grace Potter continues to impress both critics and audiences with her musical achievements and captivating live shows. A Grace Potter performance should be on every rock fan’s bucket list, and to catch her live in an outdoor setting is even better.

The weekend’s festivities will also include camping (tents, RVs and campers), arts & crafts vendors, food trucks, family events, a beer garden, and some surprises as well. Those surprises include late night acts at Montana Jack’s in Big Sky following festival performances, with the Hooligans on Thursday, the Jamie Mclain Band on Friday, and Reckless Kelly on Saturday. And Garnsey said that somewhere in that late-night mix there will probably be another surprise performer.

“We think we’ve got a good one lined up,” said Garnsey. “We’re committed to making it work, and we hope it will become an annual event.”
For more info on the Moonlight Music Festival, including ticket prices and more, go to   

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Pat Hill

Pat Hill is a freelance writer in Bozeman. A native Montanan and former advisor to Montana State University’s Exponent newspaper, Pat has been writing about the history and politics of the Treasure State for nearly three decades.

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