MUSIC BOX: In the Name of Authenticity

By on September 20, 2016

Contour Music Festival returns with music, art and culture for a local audience.

Performances by MarchFourth Marching Band (left) and a tribute to David Bowie a la Glass Spiders happen this weekend for the return of a condensed, and more affordable, Contour Music Festival.

Performances by MarchFourth Marching Band (left) and a tribute to David Bowie a la Glass Spiders happen this weekend for the return of a condensed, and more affordable, Contour Music Festival.

JACKSON HOLE, WY – When Contour Music Festival launched its inaugural event in June 2015, it included a large platform outdoor festival at Snow King Ball Field combined with late nights in downtown venues. Innovative art and culture events were also a component. With hindsight being 20/20, organizers Matt Donovan and Jeff Stein have curated the second year as a three-day “arts-driven” music festival with a more focused approach on what has worked in Jackson in the past: familiarity of acts, affordable ticket prices and events attracting a wider demographic.

The festival this weekend will look, feel and sound much different than in 2015. “Our goal was to still bring a diverse selection of music and art and to have shows in intimate settings,” Stein explained. “With our late fall dates, Contour is really for locals this year, a chance to celebrate the change of seasons, the end of summer and to have one last dance.” Over three evenings, Contour will feature four live bands and three DJs across four venues, a book event remembering Doug Coombs, a tintype photography setup, a vinyl brunch focused on displaying album art and buying/swapping records and the world premiere of a snowboard film that follows Alex Yoder to Turkey (for more, check Culture Klash).

“It became evident to us that it’s challenging to pull off a ticketed main stage event with such a saturated summer of free outdoor events,” Donovan explained of the first Contour. Civic operations and permits were also a challenge, he said. “We were looking for another partnership with the town, but they didn’t have the interest so we thought, ‘If we partner with established venues, we don’t really need the town.’ We adjusted and took a mindful approach to ticket prices along with free community events, and we’re still pushing the music-art-culture aspect. Known products are definitely a part of the current vision. We’re really growing backwards into what worked well the first year, and that’s what you’ll see on the schedule of events.”

The first year of Contour was funded in part by a 4JH grant from the Travel & Tourism Board. Additional funding was attained via a mix of local, regional and national sponsors, and a group of private investors and supporters. Community support in the way of ticket sales was also critical to making the event successful, though turnout last year to the main stage— which included headliners Thievery Corporation and Charles Bradley and His Extraordinaires—was lower than expected.

This year’s event is made possible through corporate sponsorship, but its success still hinges on community attendance and involvement.

A Contour of featured music

Kicking off the weekend of music on Friday night is Cure for the Common, Yak Attack and DJ Mikey Thunder. Represented by Donovan as the band’s booking agent and manager, Cure for the Common is no stranger to the valley and was a part of last year’s Contour. Fueled by dance-funk and synth-rock, the quintet’s sound is anchored by top-notch musicianship and contemporary jamband-style vocals. It’s a sound that earned them Best Local Rock Band and Best Album of the Year in the 2015 Bozeman Magazine Reader’s Choice Poll. The amount of touring these fellas have embraced—including a wave of national summer festivals like Wakarusa—is likely a cue that you’ll be walking into a tightly-weaved affair, ideal for cutting loose and surrendering to the groove.

Live electronic trio Yak Attack will open for Cure for the Common at Town Square Tavern. They combine techy chops, live looping, and a “wall of danceable sound far beyond the capability of most three-piece bands.” Get ready for a mix of house, breakbeat, downtempo, jazz and live improvisation.

Down the street at The Rose, DJ Mikey Thunder returns following an opening set for the sold-out Pretty Lights show. Thunder has made magic through his versatility. Whether that’s opening a tour for Michael Franti, playing stuntman/DJ for the band Sonar, touring with Pretty Lights (including consecutive sold out runs at Red Rocks), Thunder has made marks on the Colorado scene and brings a whole new bag of tricks with him since his time living in Jackson.

Saturday kicks off with the Doug Coombs Book Bash and tintype photos by Lindsay Ross, with nighttime shows featuring a timely Tribute to David Bowie from Glass Spiders at the Center Theater and an electronic show with B. Bravo and Barisone at the Pink Garter. Glass Spiders earned Best New Band of 2015 honors via Missoula Independent, and includes several of Missoula’s stalwart musicians, a few backup singers, and frontman Nicholas Ryan.

Barisone comes to town via Portland, Ore., and was described by Booms and Claps as “vibey, fresh and impeccable flow … a DJ that plays mostly music I’ve never heard before, but always want to hear more of.” B. Bravo, on the other hand, has been compared to Fort Knox Five and George Clinton for his love of soulful grooves mashing cosmic g-funk, R&B and dance music. He’s an alumni of Red Bull Music Academy, bandleader of Starship Connection and has found himself playing for audiences from Europe to Asia.

Following the vinyl brunch on Sunday—where you can sell, swap, or display your vinyl while doing some shopping of your own (pre-registration encouraged)—get ready for the spectacle that is MarchFourth Marching Band. It’s a swirling volcano of high-energy music, and a circus-style funk show that you won’t soon forget. From the swamp sounds of Louisiana to the gypsy camps of eastern Europe to the African jungle by way of Brazil, and of course, American funk, rock and jazz, the 20-piece MarchFourth Marching Band delivers it all in a cinematic fashion. Complete with high-stepping stilt-acrobatics and sexy dancers, this is eye candied flare. Expect some of the seating to be removed at the Center for more dance space.

“MarchFourth is family-friendly and such a fun spectacle, which should apply to the Center’s demographic plus the festival’s past demographic,” Donovan said. “With the idea of bringing the mountains to Mohammad, the thing that I stick by with Contour is how great it can be.”

Contour Festival is Friday through Sunday. For tickets and additional information, check

Electronic trio Yak Attack (left) play Town Square Tavern Friday as part of the Contour Fest lineup. On Wednesday, LeeLee Robert brings her storytelling finesse to the stage for Songwriter’s Alley.

Electronic trio Yak Attack (left) play Town Square Tavern Friday as part of the Contour Fest lineup. On Wednesday, LeeLee Robert brings her storytelling finesse to the stage for Songwriter’s Alley.

Muldoon gets musical for mayoral race

By now, most of you know that mayoral candidate Pete Muldoon fronts outlaw country band Major Zephyr, and also writes his own songs. But that’s not really the focus, per se, of the upcoming “Soul of the Hole” event promoting Muldoon for mayor, which is billed as a free night of local music and awareness. Acts include Canyon Kids, six-piece Major Zephyr, Austin solo artist Wendy Colonna, and other musical guests.

“We want the public to get an understanding of what my campaign stands for, but also how and where to vote, why it’s important to vote in this election, and awareness of the issues in general, including the ones that will be on the ballot,” said Muldoon, a solid baritone voice and acoustic guitar and piano player. “There will be some speakers, such as town council candidate Jess Chambers, as well as information tables from other candidates that align with my views on the issues.”

Muldoon’s core issues and “leadership from a working class perspective,” include affordable and secure housing, higher local tax rates to help pay for affordable housing, higher city employee wages, and infrastructure upgrades to aid transportation and traffic. He says he also wants businesses to bear more of the costs associated with increased job growth.

Muldoon for Mayor “Soul of the Hole” with Major Zephyr, Wendy Colonna and Canyon Kids, 7 to 11 p.m. Friday, September 23 at Pink Garter Theatre. Free. 733-1500.   

LeeLee releases Let Me Be The One

Splitting time between Jackson and Arizona, singer-songwriter, guitarist, speaker and author LeeLee Robert is an anomaly of a local artist. Besides authoring two books—a biography on her father and the co-authored business oriented Gendersell: How to Sell the Opposite Sex—Robert launched a professional music career when she was 16. She also created a niche in the speaking industry by combining public speaking with original music. She has performed across the U.S., England, Finland, Germany, and New Zealand for audiences as large as 25,000 people.

LeeLee’s love of the Western landscape inspires much of her music and in 2014 she released her seventh album, Jewel of the West, which was voted Best Western Album of the Year by The Academy of Western Artists. She’s known for her endearing “cowgirl jazz” music style that combines the colors and textures of jazz and blues with the lyric strengths of Western music about laughter, landscape and love. She is also known for her ability to connect with an audience through storytelling and is a part-time vocalist with the Jazz Foundation of Jackson Hole’s big band.

For her forthcoming release, Let Me Be The One, the talented jazz-guitarist and vocalist dives into her long relationship with vocal jazz history through a 12-song set. Five songs were written by Robert alongside three standards and others written by respected jazz songwriters. The album is slated for release on October 15.

“I was always deeply inspired by the album made by Ella Fitzgerald and Joe Pass where a single guitar and solo vocals collaborated into the most elegant, warm, and quality music experience I ever had in a song collection,” Robert said. “This was the inspiration behind my album—a real dream realized. I like music that can weave an ambience without being obtrusive.” PJH

Songwriter’s Alley Open Mic featuring LeeLee Robert album release, 8 to 11 p.m. Wednesday, September 21 at the Silver Dollar Showroom. Free. Interested performers can sign up to play a three-song set. Featured set at 9 p.m.

Contour Music Festival Schedule

Friday: Cure for the Common with Yak Attack (9:30 p.m., Town Square Tavern, $5)

Mikey Thunder & Friends (9:30 p.m., The Rose, free)

Saturday: Doug Coombs Book Bash and Tintype Photos by Lindsay Ross (4 p.m., The Center Lobby, free)

Glass Spiders: A Tribute to David Bowie (7:30 p.m., Center Theater, $22-$25)

B. Bravo & Barisone (10 p.m., Pink Garter Theatre, $15-$18)

Sunday: JH Stillworks Vinyl Brunch with bloody mary bar, vinyl record sale/swap, DJ, and Tintype Photos by Lindsay Ross (12 p.m., Center Lobby, free)

World premiere of Foothills: The Unlinked Heritage of Snowboarding (1 p.m., Center Theater, free)

MarchFourth Marching Band (7:30 p.m., Center Theater, $22-$25)

About Aaron Davis

Aaron Davis is a decade-long writer of Music Box, a singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, member of Screen Door Porch and Boondocks, founder/host of Songwriter’s Alley, and co-founder of The WYOmericana Caravan.

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