The Billings Outpost

Chip Davis finds gold in Christmas music

By ALAN SCULLEY - Last Word Features

Christmas albums obviously are big business each holiday season. More than 40 such albums have topped 2 million copies sold, and a successful seasonal release can continue to pile up sales for years after its initial release.

Not only have many artists enjoyed the fruits of releasing even just one holiday album, several acts have built a niche where they’re known for Christmas music, can tour every holiday season and have a tidy stream of income from annual sales of their holiday albums.

Chip Davis, founder of Mannheim Steamroller, has certainly been having many merry Christmas seasons since he decided to venture into Christmas music with the 1984 album “Mannheim Steamroller Christmas.”

Like other acts that have developed a Christmas career (the Oak Ridge Boys, Brian Setzer or Dave Koz), Davis and Mannheim Steamroller were already successful and established when Davis tried his hand at holiday music. The first five in Mannheim Steamroller’s series of “Fresh Aire” albums had essentially created a new genre of music - New Age - and had sold huge numbers for being in a niche genre.

Last Updated on Thursday, 19 November 2015 19:41

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Read more: Chip Davis finds gold in Christmas music

‘Addams Family’ gets royal BST treatment

By STEPHEN DOW - For The Outpost

The Addams Family has a long and distinct history in American culture. Starting out as a series of comics in the New Yorker by artist Charles Addams in 1938, the creepy and kooky family has gone on to find life in a beloved 1960s sitcom and a couple of feature films in the 1990s. An Addams Family musical that debuted on Broadway in 2010 received critical acclaim and two Tony Award nominations.

Thus, the cast and crew of Billings Studio Theatre’s current production of that musical have a tough challenge on their hands: How do you bring these characters to the stage in a way that respects their origins and large fan base while making them distinctly your own?

Naturally, it all comes down to casting and costumes. Fortunately, The Addams Family continues BST’s streak of top-notch casting choices. The leads are especially good: Kyle Trott is marvelous as Gomez Addams, while Pam Havig disappears so completely into the role of Addams matriarch Morticia that she almost makes you forget that this character has been played by dozens of actresses since the ’60s. Her song about the joys of impending death (“Just Around the Corner”) is a comedic highlight.

The supporting cast is equally good. Kevin Cates nails the voice and mannerisms of Uncle Fester while Stuart Ross proves that actions speak louder than words with his performance as the Addams’ zombie butler Lurch.

Of course, this excellent cast has to evoke the classic Addams Family look. Thankfully, Glenda Brauneis and her costume and makeup team were more than up for the challenge. Their work on Morticia, Fester and the hairy Cousin Itt is particularly noteworthy.

As good as the cast and costumes are, it would all come to nothing if there wasn’t a good script to work with. Luckily, the script by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice features a simple yet funny plot that provides plenty of belly laughs. 

The story revolves around a dinner party where the Addams family meet their daughter Wednesday’s “normal” boyfriend, Lucas Beineke (Cole Whittington), and his parents (Amy Peterson and Jayme C. Green).

The script provides several great twists here that give Mrs. Beineke and Lurch a chance to shine. Even better, it also has numerous one-liners that keep the laughs coming.

For example, Gomez laments how quickly his daughter Wednesday is growing up: “She’ll be Thursday before we know it!”

The song lyrics written by Andrew Lippa also have some nice quips such as these lines in “Trapped” where Gomez laments being recruited by his daughter to keep a secret from Morticia:

“Like a bull in the ring or the moderate right wing, I’m trapped!/ Like a fly in my tea or the New York DMV, I’m trapped!”

All in all, this is one of the funniest musicals that I’ve seen recently. However, it is worth noting that some of the humor here is a bit edgier than the ’60s TV show so you may want to think twice before taking young children.

What quibbles I have are easily overshadowed by the play’s better values. For example, the set design here is a little “bare bones” compared to other recent BST musicals such as “Les Miserables” or last year’s “Mary Poppins.” However, this just ends up drawing more attention to the excellent performances.

Similarly, I felt that Green and Whittington were a bit off-key during their musical numbers, but they more than made up for that through their excellent acting and comedic timing.

In the end, The BST once again proves that it knows how to put on a memorable high-quality production. Charles Addams would be proud – “The Addams Family” is a creepy, kooky and all together ooky Halloween treat that does justice to its source material and gets America’s freakiest family just right.

“The Addams Family” wraps up its run at the BST on Oct. 29-31. All shows are at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $20 for adults and $17 for students.

Last Updated on Thursday, 29 October 2015 22:03

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ArtWalk shows new works downtown

The summer ArtWalk on Friday offers art fans a variety of “art-worthy” venues. Artists will appear at many of the galleries where there works are shown, and refreshments are offered in some venues.

Among the highlights:

• Barjon’s Books, Music and Gifts celebrates the whimsical textile art of Cynde Williams. The exhibit, entitled “Spiritual Threads,” includes figures and surreal landscapes on silk and other fabrics using a variety of materials and dyes. Ms. Williams is at Barjon’s to discuss her work.

• Better to Gather focuses on interactive artistic experiences for all ages. There will be demos for making salvaged art, macrame and henna body art. BTG hosts SCRAP, a nonprofit donation center for unwanted materials. You can make your own SCRAP art during Summer ArtWalk. 

Henna by Ann will be at Trailhead Plaza adjacent to BTG to talk about her henna skin designs passed down from her mother. Artist Katharine Jore, who has called Montana home for 15 years, teaches macrame designs during ArtWalk. 

• Beyond the Box, housed in an old brick warehouse on the east edge of downtown Billings, features an eclectic array of art, music and food. Award-winner Andy Austin show his photographs in the large gallery, complemented by nearly a dozen additional artists with smaller displays. Jason Jaynes creates live art, Terri Porta will do face painting and Dylan Petit shares his live music.

• Catherine Louisa Gallery beats the buzzer and celebrates Cowboy Christmas with a show that highlights three artists influenced by the light, action and colors of the rodeo. Artists include John Hull, Walter Piehl Jr. and Gordon McConnell.

• Chinatown Art Gallery presents “Vietnam After 43 Years,” a photographic memoir by Peter Herzog. Herzog was born into an American military family stationed in Germany. An Army veteran, he served a tour of duty in Vietnam.  The exhibit features black and white personal photos from his tour of duty and a 2011 trip to Vietnam when he returned as a tourist.

Other artists with work displayed at Chinatown Gallery include Ben Pease, Robert Martinez and Fred DeFauw.

• Clark Marten Photography presents two special photographs by Clark Marten and welcomes Montana jewelry artisan, Elichai Fowler. Mr. Fowler, who works from a studio in Livingston, works with rare gemstones and precious metals. 

• Crooked Line Studio offers the chance to enter a drawing for a free class at a later date. Artists and teachers Cassie Chapin and Brittany Stout paint during ArtWalk and show recently completed pieces. Refreshments and live music are offered.

• CTA Architects Engineers shows works by Billings artist Adriene Leahy Loveridge, who grew up along the border of the Crow Indian Reservation. She spent hours watching wild mustangs roam the pastures of the Pryor Mountains. Ms. Loveridge will be present to chat about her work; food and beverages will be served.

• del Alma Gallery & Studio welcomes artist Kevin Rose. A Billings resident, he is a self-taught artist whose work is influenced by Theodore Waddell and Kira Fercho. His exhibit, entitled “Atmospheres,” highlights the artist’s work in mixed media with color and texture.

• Michele Pedersen will be one of two guest artists at the Downtown Billings Alliance Gallery. Her photographs are framed with reclaimed barnwood made under the tutelage of her woodworking father. Her exhibit, entitled “Out of Its Element,” captures nature behaving in unexpected ways.

Emily Drake is set to embark on an exploration of professional photography this fall at Northwest College in Powell, Wyo. Drake’s interest in photography began in the sixth grade with a “point and shoot” camera from her grandmother.

• First Congregational Church – United Church of Christ celebrates Summer ArtWalk with a children’s sidewalk art activity and an exhibit by Kyle Ploehn, who will be on hand to discuss his work displayed in the church narthex. A hometown guy, he graduated from Northwest College of Art near Seattle. Now back in Billings, he paints with acrylics and watercolors and is writing and illustrating children’s books. He creates a weekly comic strip.  

• Gallery Interiors welcomes Summer ArtWalkers to enjoy the evening viewing work by its many fine artists, including Bob Barlow, Joseph Booth, Dennis Boyd, Barbara Butler, Greg Eislein, Loren Entz, Connie Herberg, Jim LeBar, James Poulson, Jeff Schaezle, Kevin Showell, C. David Swanson, Tom Temple, Robert Tompkins, Joseph Trakimas and Susie Van Pelt.

• Connie Dillon evokes the playfulness of summer in her new painting, “Looking Back, Shining Forward” at Gallery Nine.

• Global Village hosts the Rocky Mountain College Summer Art Academy. Students under the direction of Sally McIntosh display work created in classes taught by professional artists.

• Good Earth Market’s Apple Gallery welcomes popular, pink-coifed portrait artist, Michele Dyk, to its Apple Gallery and Yellowstone Howard, a musical duo with Conor Urian and David Cleaves. Food and beverages are available.

• Cowboys and the community art challenge, “I (heart) Montana,” are headliners at HeARTstrings Gallery. Artist Lee Walker grew up in Montana’s outdoors and wild places. Owning and riding horses deeply influences her work. Walker is intrigued by how images appear after she observes, then remembers, a scene and her hand re-creates it on canvas.

Community art challenge participants were given a piece of wood in the shape of Montana; each artist used his or her medium of choice to express love for the “Treasure State.” Refreshments will be served.

• Jason Jam Gallery shows “The Watcher” by Jason Jam. The new exhibit, “Witches and Watercolors,” is created from a watercolor palette of only two colors: burnt sienna and ultramarine. Jason Jam has created compelling landscapes inspired by fantasy and the stunning beauty of the Beartooth Mountains where the artist often hikes and sketches.

• Jens Gallery & Design opens a new show, “Kenny And Chris – A Pairing.” The show opens with an artists’ reception on the night of ArtWalk. Mixed media artists Kenny Alefteras and Chris Romine have shown jointly on two previous occasions at Jens Gallery. This show is up through August.

• Kennedy’s Stained Glass focus on stained glass restoration during ArtWalk. Many of the historic and vintage stained glass restorations are available for purchase. 

• Kim and Eddy’s hosts “Artful Creations,” highlighting a musician and two artists new to its repertoire. Kim and Eddy’s will offer summer refreshments. Keaton Wray, or “XEFSketch” on Soundcloud, will entertain during Summer ArtWalk.

• Limber Tree Yoga Studio and Spa hosts visionary Montana artist Elizabeth Anne Shumaker and her exhibit “White Lotus Visions.” Shumaker has been painting since her teens; her images manifests her interest in spirituality and energy. Daily meditation practice and Buddhist teachings inspire Shumaker’s art and her work as a Reiki healer and massage therapist with Creative Healing Inc. in Billings.

• “Montana Lake” by Billings artist Ev Bergeron is one of several works to be exhibited by Billings Art Association at McCormick Cafe for Summer ArtWalk.  BAA is an organization of 110 area artists committed to mutual support, the exchange of art information and member education.

• The historic Northern Hotel hosts three potters, two jewelers, a painter and a photographer in its “cowboy meets contemporary” lobby.

• Pug Mahon’s and Bill “Mac” MacIntyre have been instrumental in the creation of Billings’ Art Alley, located adjacent to its premises. New works appear daily in Art Alley.

• Q’s Art Shop and Gallery features four large watercolors by Jean Mehlhaff from her project entitled “Visit to the World Trade Center Site 2003.” The project evokes the personal and universal narrative of the disaster; it took over two years to complete and is based upon photographs and correspondence and telephone calls between the artist and construction workers at the site. Mehlhaff presents a gallery talk at 7 p.m.

• Sandstone Gallery hosts a reception to recognize two of its gallery artists, Jennifer Baretta and Leo Olson, and guest artist Nellie Israel.  Sandstone Gallery, an artist-owned and operated gallery, celebrates 15 years of operation.  

• At the Stephen Haraden Studio, artist Stephen Haraden continues to cut up and incorporate pieces from flood-damaged paintings into his new work.

• Tambo Studio & Gallery’s first show, “Art for a Cause,” blends a sense of mission with colorful artwork of African life and landscape. A percentage of sales goes toward humanitarian efforts in Uganda.

• Tompkins Fine Art welcomes Great Falls artist Brenda Wolf and her lovely bovines, Carlton and Louise. Also highlighted are area artists Jerry Inman and Robert Tompkins and potter Tana Patterson. Smaller works by Janet Bedford, Connie Herberg, Thomas English, Shirley Wempner, Neil Patterson, Sarah Morris, Bonnie Zahn Griffith, Patricia Griffin, Diana Mysse and Diane Greenwood are on view.

• Toucan Gallery welcomes Billings artist Betina Johnson. Seasonal food and beverages will be served.

• The Underground Culture Krew’s “Montana Rail Ink” show includes artists from the United States, Canada and Mexico. The show features hand-painted model trains and other art works representing the freight train graffiti culture. There will be music by DJ Benefit, giveaways throughout the evening, plus new work from UCK’s regular gallery artists. 

• The Yellowstone Art Museum invites visitors to participate in its exhibit, “Art in Action,” an ever-changing exhibit that highlights the creativity efforts of museum visitors of all ages on its walls.

• The Western Heritage Center shows “Apsáalooke Beauty,” a collection of black-and-white photography by Erika Haight that honors the people and culture of the Crow Nation. “I have been presented many opportunities that would have not been possible, were it not for the kindness, love and acceptance shown to me by the Real Bird family (on the Crow Indian reservation),” Haight says.

Last Updated on Thursday, 06 August 2015 20:28

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Basketball injury leads to career in the blues

By L. KENT WOLGAMOTT - Last Word Features

Jarekus Singleton plays Friday at the Magic City Blues.Jarekus Singleton was a college basketball star, the NAIA player of the year in 2007. Today he’s a rising blues star who brings to his music much of what he brought to the basketball court.

“I take the same mentality I had in basketball, as far as work ethic and stuff,” Singleton said in a recent phone interview. “Music is more of an emotional thing to me. It’s therapeutic as well. Basketball, it’s more the competition thing: I’ve got to run faster than that guy, I’ve got to jump higher. With music, I don’t have to jump higher than anybody, I just play the music.”

Singleton wasn’t sure that he agreed with the contention that basketball players are “large muscle athletes” while musicians are “small muscle athletes.”

But he quickly drew some parallels between hoops and music.

“I look at writing songs like watching film or running a play, putting the pieces of the puzzle together, the x’s and o’s,” he said. “I look at the band members as my teammates. It’s the same, but different.”

So who’s the coach?

“Bruce Iglauer, of course,” Singleton said of the Alligator Records president. “He’s a great coach, man. He’s accelerated my maturity a lot when it comes to music, being an artist and writing. He challenged me in the studio and had me doing stuff vocally I didn’t know that I could do. With his traditional approach and my modern, contemporary approach, it’s a really good mix.”

That mixture can be heard on “Refuse to Lose,” Singleton’s Alligator debut that was co-produced by Iglauer – a disc that’s filled with Singleton’s combination of incendiary guitar, soulful vocals and contemporary hip-hop influenced songs.

Those songs likely wouldn’t have existed except for a severe ankle injury that ended Singleton’s basketball career and sent him to the blues.

Singleton grew up in Mississippi, discovering music and basketball almost simultaneously - “when I was 9 years old. I started playing bass at my granddaddy’s church and I was playing basketball at the same time,” he said. “Music was forced on me at the beginning. Basketball wasn’t.”

After high school, the 6-foot-3-inch Singleton landed at Southern Mississippi, then transferred to William Carey University with basketball and only basketball on his mind.

“It was so hard for me to keep my grades up, do study hall, do basketball, do weights, all of that, I didn’t have any time for music in college,” he said. “I was focused on basketball. I was rapping and stuff back then, having fun with music rather than being an artist.”

Singleton then spent 2008 playing with the Sporting Fatoons, a professional team in Beirut, Lebanon, a hotbed of basketball where many aspiring and former NBA ballers go to play.

“I scared, there ain’t no lying to you,” Singleton said of his time in Lebanon. “I was following my dream. I had to do what I needed to do.”

Then came the 2009 NBA tryout camp that changed Singleton’s life when he got hurt in a scrimmage.

“I came down on my ankle wrong,” Singleton said. “It was a freak accident. I was going up for a layup and the guy ran up under me trying to draw a charge. He didn’t mean to do it. I got an X-ray and the doctor said it was OK. But it kept hurting and I got an MRI and it showed the cartilage had to be removed.”

The cartilage was successfully removed. Singleton, however, continues to have pain in his ankle, effectively ending his basketball dream.

By the time he determined his years on the court were over, he’d found his new direction.

“When I had surgery, I laid up in my bed,” Singleton said. “I went to my mama’s house and I had my guitar there. The first song I played was Albert King’s ‘Play the Blues For You.’ I’d play that song over and over, lying there in the bed with my foot up to prevent blood clots … . That’s what got me through the surgery … . Then I started writing my own songs.”

Those songs work in the traditional blues structure musically. But Singleton’s lyrics, which drop references to hoops, Denzel Washington and tell his story, are rooted in hip-hop.

“That’s where I get my lyrical ability from is being a rapper, watching rappers, being a fan of the music,” he said. “The way they put words together is top notch. They challenge your mind. That’s what I always like as a fan of music. I try to write the story bur write in a way that people can be challenged and feel good about it at the same time, push the envelope a little.”

Singleton put his band together in 2010, released his first album in 2011 and began competing in the International Blues Challenge showcases held annually in Memphis.

That’s where Iglauer saw Singleton. He later signed him to Alligator and last year, he released “Refuse to Lose.”

And whether it was in basketball or now as a professional musician, that title rings true, summing up Singleton’s philosophy for his life and a career that figures to win over blues fans with every show.

Last Updated on Thursday, 30 July 2015 13:20

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Fogerty now playing hits from 1969

By ALAN SCULLEY - Last Word Features

From the 1980s through 1997, John Fogerty refused to play any songs in concert that he wrote for his legendary rock band, Creedence Clearwater Revival.

During that period, he was embroiled in a series of lawsuits over the ownership and use of his Creedence songs. Most of the disputes involved Saul Zaentz, the former head of his record company in the Creedence years, Fantasy Records.

Eventually, Zaentz retained ownership of the Creedence catalog, but Fogerty made peace after his bitter battle, realizing that while he didn’t own his Creedence catalog, he knew – and so did his fans – who wrote the songs and he should reclaim that part of his life and legacy by once again playing the songs in concert.

“That’s probably the most horrible decision anyone could make, and I’m sure it’s probably cost me in a business sense,” Fogerty said of his decision to not play Creedence songs in recent phone interview. “But it was what my heart had to go through to get here … . That’s what I had to go through to really be grateful and thankful for what I have now.”

These days, Fogerty is so at ease with his Creedence past and his now-settled legal battles that he is even celebrating what many consider the pinnacle of his Creedence years with a tour titled “1969.”

The title represents the year in which Creedence Clearwater Revival released three – count ‘em, three – albums. Those releases – “Bayou Country,” “Green River” and “Willy and the Poor Boys” – and the hit songs from those albums (including “Proud Mary,” “Lodi,” “Bad Moon Rising,” “Green River” and “Fortunate Son”) — turned CCR into one of the era’s most popular bands and gave Fogerty a catalog that, even without his  subsequent success as a solo artist, would have sustained his music career for as long as he wanted to play shows.

Ironically enough, Fogerty says his determination to crank out three Creedence albums in one year and his estrangement from his own catalog of Creedence songs for nearly two decades were dictated by the same motivation – to never make decisions based on business.

Just as Fogerty felt in his heart he deserved to gain ownership of the Creedence song catalog because he wrote the songs, he went on the songwriting jag that produced the three 1969 albums, not because he was motivated by profit, but because he was determined to prove himself as a songwriter and solidify Creedence’s standing as a band.

“Basically my band had one hit, ‘Suzie Q,’” Fogerty explained, mentioning CCR’s single from its 1968 self-titled debut album. “So we were in dire danger of ending up on the rocky shore of all the one-hit wonders down through the years of rock and roll. And I really, I’m a competitive person. I just really didn’t want that to happen. But when I looked at our situation, we weren’t on a big label. We were on a tiny little label, and a jazz label at that. They were very unaware of rock and roll, let’s say. We didn’t have a manager. We didn’t have a producer. We didn’t have a publicist.

“We didn’t have any of that. So I just kind of made up my mind, well, I guess, I actually said this to myself, ‘I guess I’m just going to have to do it with music,’” he said. “So I set, kind of put my shoulder to the grindstone, I guess you’d say, and just got really, really busy.”

The writing period for Fogerty actually spanned summer 1968 through the following summer, wrapping up before the recording session for “Willy and the Poor Boys.” But early on, he came up with the song that soon ended any talk of Creedence being a one-hit wonder.

“Once I had written ‘Proud Mary,’ the heavens opened up,“ Fogerty said. “Right there that afternoon as I was writing that song, I knew that this was a great song. I knew this was what they used to call a standard. They probably call it a classic now. This was far above any song I had ever written in my life.”

Fogerty was right about “Proud Mary.” It reached number two on “Billboard” magazine’s all-genre Hot 100 singles chart, cementing Creedence’s place as a hit-making band.

“Bayou Country” is also considered the album on which Creedence Clearwater Revival’s swampy mix of early rock and roll, folk and blues really came into focus. Fogerty said it was during the writing for that album that he thought back to a folk festival he had attended as a teenager, at which he saw Pete Seeger share a film of early folk icon Ledbelly playing a 12-string guitar tuned down from the normal E key to D.

“With the guitar tuned down in that key, it had this massive, big sound,” Fogerty explained. “It just sounded bigger because it was deeper than a normal guitar. I was fascinated with that.”

During that summer of 1968, Fogerty bought a Gibson 175 guitar he could tune down to D and use in his songwriting. Going down a step to the D key was the missing piece to the puzzle that completed the Creedence sound.

“I went along recording and writing these songs on the 175,” he said. “So that music on ‘Bayou Country,’ ‘Proud Mary, ‘Graveyard Train,’ ‘Bootleg,’ those are the ones I can remember from that album, those were played on the 175, the Gibson 175 tuned down to the key of D.”

With “Bayou Country” climbing toward the top 10 on “Billboard’s” album chart, Fogerty dove back into songwriting and in August, Creedence returned with “Green River,” an album Fogerty considers a high point for the band.

“It was my favorite album of the era because it was closest musically to the, I don’t know, to my bullseye,” he said.

Then in November, “Willy and the Poor Boys” arrived in record stores. Featuring the scathing anti-war song “Fortunate Son” (a commentary about how easily kids of privilege were avoiding having to fight in the Vietnam War) as well as “Down on the Corner,” it was greeted as yet another gem and reached the top five on “Billboard” magazine’s album chart.

The next year, Fogerty would write another classic Creedence album, “Cosmo’s Factory,” before tensions started to intensify as Fogerty took further control of the group’s music and business. Fogerty’s older brother, guitarist Tom Fogerty, left the band during recording of the group’s sixth album, “Pendulum.” After the 1972 album, “Mardi Gras” – the weakest release in the Creedence catalog – Fogerty, bassist Stu Cook and drummer Doug Clifford split up, bringing the band to an end.

But the six straight hit albums Creedence released from 1968 to 1970 remains one of the most impressive runs for any band in rock history. And now Fogerty is celebrating the memorable year of 1969 by playing the trio of that year’s albums on tour. He credited his wife, Julie, with the concept for the tour.

“I’ve been dancing around that for years and years because people would make note of the three albums in 1969,” Fogerty said. “And sometimes I’ve gone out and done shows that presented this album or that album in its entirety. It’s funny that it was staring me in the face. I never thought of it. Julie, finally one day said ‘Why don’t we focus on that one year?’ It was like well yeah, especially (because), I think at the time I thought it was a pretty cool thing. But now, as a concept for a show, I think it’s just a really great idea.”

Last Updated on Thursday, 23 July 2015 10:15

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Mötley Crüe bringing last tour to Billings

By ALAN SCULLEY - Last Word Features

This summer, Mötley Crüe heads into the home stretch of its final tour with a trek that covers the United States and Europe before a grand finale on New Year’s Eve in the band’s home town of Los Angeles.

One thing that’s happening, according to bassist Nikki Sixx, is that he and bandmates Vince Neil, Mick Mars and Tommy Lee are going into their final run of shows with a renewed appreciation for each other and what they did together in Mötley Crüe.

“This is just probably a bad analogy, but if you’ve been in love with somebody for over 30 years, there are days when you may take them for granted, days when they may get on your nerves,” Sixx said in a recent phone interview.

“There are days when you’re like I don’t know if I love them as much as I used to love them. Then you find out they’re going to die. And all of a sudden, all of the little things about them become so important, and all the laughter and all that seems to get louder and you start to remember things in a positive way. I think that’s how it is for me and the guys. We’re like ‘Wow, this is real … . It’s getting (bleeping) real.”

Last Updated on Thursday, 16 July 2015 10:37

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Read more: Mötley Crüe bringing last tour to Billings

Pointer Sisters to perform

The Billings Clinic Foundation has announced that the 2015 Classic will feature Grammy Award-winning pop superstars The Pointer Sisters on Saturday, Aug. 29.

Proceeds from the 2015 Classic will benefit the Billings Clinic Internal Medicine Residency, the only residency of its kind in Montana and Wyoming, a news release said.

The Pointer Sisters have achieved worldwide fame and have secured a place in pop and R&B music history as a dynamic female group. The energetic female vocalists are well known for their classic mega hits “I’m So Excited,” “Jump (for my love),” and “Slow Hand.” In recent years, the group has performed with some of the greatest orchestras in the world, including the San Francisco Symphony and the renowned Boston Pops.

The pop quartet Under the Streetlamp will perform at the post-headline concert street party. Exuding the irresistible rapport of a modern day Rat Pack, the quartet – recent leading cast members of Tony Award winning musical Jersey Boys – will deliver an evening of entertainment.

Classic tickets range in price from $80-$160. The $160 ticket includes a pre-concert street party with heavy hors d’oeuvres and hosted refreshments, The Pointer Sisters concert, and a post-concert party, featuring Under the Streetlamp and the Bucky Beaver Ground Grippers. The $80 tickets include the concert and post-concert event.

Last Updated on Thursday, 25 June 2015 13:01

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‘Creative alchemist’ aims to bring us together

By STEPHEN DOW - For The Outpost

Yarrow Kraner’s many roles all servie a common purpose – creating communities.Bozeman resident Yarrow Kraner wears many hats. He is a filmmaker, entrepreneur and mentor. Most recently, he also made the jump to writing by telling his life story in the new book “Talent for Humanity.” However, the title that Kraner likes most is that of “creative alchemist.”

“In the historical context, alchemy was taking various non-precious metals and combining them to make something valuable such as gold,” Kraner said in a phone interview last week. “I do that with people and projects … . Everything I’ve done has been centered around gathering exceptional humans and bringing them together to create even greater good.”

Kraner’s belief in the importance of connecting people may have come from a childhood in which he often felt isolated and alone.

When he was in middle school, Kraner’s mother took a teaching job at the Rocky Boy Indian Reservation. As the only white boy in a reservation filled with Native Americans, Kraner was an easy target for bullying.

Despite this abuse, or perhaps because of it, Kraner remembers his years on the reservation as some of the most important moments of his life. During this time, he learned how to stand up for himself. These lessons have stayed with him to this day.

“What I learned during that time has been a metaphor that has stayed with me for the rest of my life,” Kraner said. “How do you defend who you are even when other people don’t approve? I’m glad I learned the answer to that question at a young age.”

Part of Kraner’s identity was his innate creativity – especially in the field of filmmaking. However, for many years, he attempted to ignore that aspect of his personality.

“I went through a period of rebellion against the creative world for a while,” Kraner said. “But one day while I was home for the summer from college, I walked through the School of Film at MSU Bozeman. And it hit me that that was one of the reasons I was here on this planet: Because I had a gift and passion for filmmaking.”

Armed with this knowledge, Kraner moved to the place he thought to be the epicenter of creativity: Los Angeles.

Shortly after moving to LA in 1999, Kraner began to become discouraged.

“I was convinced that I was moving to the epicenter of creative genius,” Kraner said. “But nobody seemed all that different from the people I had known at home.”

One night at a party, Kraner looked up to the sky in frustration and asked where all the creative people were. A man nearby came over and asked Kraner what he was talking about. During the course of their conversation, Kraner discovered that this man was a Czechoslovakian composer teaching deaf children to play music.

For several weeks after this, Kraner kept meeting similarly extraordinary people. During this time, he had a revelation.

“I realized for the first time that there are extraordinary people all around us,” Kraner said. “You just have to look for them … . There are a lot of amazing people, but we don’t always have that filter on on a daily basis. In addition, I realized that we’re not proactively interacting with people and finding out what they’re passionate about. There are a lot of people with untapped potential and trapped passion all around us. Sometimes, the very simple task of asking people questions can lead to some powerful outcomes.”

Armed with this knowledge, Kraner created Superdudes – an online game and social networking website that encouraged people to “harness the superness within themselves.”

Part of the way that Superdudes did this was through encouraging participants to volunteer in their local communities. At the beginning of the game’s second level, participants received a prompt: “How do you save the world? Start with where you are. Type in your zip code.” After that, they would receive a list of 10 volunteer opportunities within  five miles.

By the time that Superdudes was bought by Fox Studios in 2004 (and shut down shortly thereafter), the site’s users had put in a total of 10 billion volunteer hours to local charities.

Although Kraner was disappointed in the end of Superdudes, he continues to be proud of what the company accomplished during its short existence. In addition, the experience taught him some lessons about the importance of building community and what can be accomplished when the right people come together.

These lessons would be applied to Kraner’s next endeavor: the HATCH Experience.

HATCH – which was founded in 2004 – has a rather lofty goal.

“The whole reason HATCH exists is to “hatch a better world” and that’s a literal undertaking – not hypothetical,” Kraner said.

To achieve this goal, Kraner has developed “a network of exceptional people doing exceptional things.” These people include global thought leaders in technology, film, music, architecture and entrepreneurship. Composer Phillip Shepperd, children’s author Kobi Yamada, and actors Jeff Bridges and Michael Keaton are among the hundreds of people in the HATCH Network.

The HATCH Network also includes innovators from Montana and around 125 local students who are mentored by these talented people.

Kraner said that through the course of this mentorship program, “Projects are launched, collaborations are formed, and life-long relationships are forged.”

Among the varied projects and collaborations launched thanks to relationships forged through the HATCH network include the founders of "Not Impossible," which is dedicated to making “accessible, tech-based solutions for people around the world”; Connecting the founder of My Counterpane with a technologist to help her dream come alive (a website that provides peer to peer support for patients struggling with multiple sclerosis) the Maker Studio series, which teach kids basic engineering concepts, "Compose Yourself" which teaches you how to compose music and think musically, and "Miss Todd," a book about a woman pilot who disguised herself as a man to be able to fly an airplane.  The book was created as a result of the filmmaker meeting a publisher at HATCH. The network provides an atmosphere for safe collaboration and trust. 

Kraner says that “he is a bit of a proud papa” when it comes to the projects that have come out of HATCH.

“There are a lot of powerful things that have transpired because of HATCH,” Kraner said. “Companies have been launched, books have been created, films have been made, and new technologies now exist thanks to what we’re doing through this organization.”

HATCH’s outreach is only going to increase in the coming years. Kraner is developing an online version of the mentorship program that will be available to anybody who is interested. In addition, he is in communication with universities around the world about starting the HATCH EDU initiative which will “help universities teach immersive experiential creative problem solving and allow for collaboration between students from all sorts of different disciplines.”

Although running HATCH keeps Kraner busy, he also continues to take time to indulge his first love: filmmaking.

“I’ve always been in love with filmmaking,” Kraner said. “I use film inherently as a sort of second language.”

Kraner freelances for Richard Branson’s conglomerate Virgin Group, which includes the airline Virgin Atlantic, phone provider Virgin Mobile, and film company Virgin Produced.

He will soon be taking on his biggest challenge yet as a filmmaker: his first feature film.

The film, titled “Wind in the Fire,” will tell the story of Bobbi Gibb, who, according to Kraner, was “the first woman to shatter the gender barrier at the Boston Marathon … . It made people rethink all the preconceived notions of the time about what women could accomplish.”

Kraner is still in the early stages of work on the film which he hopes to release sometime in 2018.

Although one may think that Kraner was able to accomplish all of these feats simply because he was an extraordinary person, he denies this is the case. In fact, he continues to insist that everybody has “superness” within them and can have a lasting impact on our world.

So how does one have a lasting impact?

Kraner says that it is as simple as contributing to your own community.

“My advice kind of harkens back to the days of Superdudes,” Kraner said. “ If you want to save the world, start with where you are. When a lot of people think about saving the world, they think about a bunch of faraway places, but there are things in your own community that need to be done. It could be walking dogs for the humane society, restocking books at the library, helping with the elderly, or volunteering at the food bank. There are a lot of examples of how your help can make a noticeable impact right where you live. So all you really need to do is find a need and get plugged in.”

Last Updated on Monday, 22 June 2015 16:01

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Book profiles 7 who excel

By STEPHEN DOW - For The Outpost

Book - Talent for humanityThe future can seem dark and dire sometimes.

Simply looking at the world around you can be discouraging. There’s a seemingly never-ending war in the Middle East. The racial divide in this country and others is seemingly deeper than ever before. Children grow up in homes filled with neglect and abuse and go on to repeat the cycle. These problems are just a few of many.

Amidst all of the despair and sadness found in the world today, comes the new book “Talent for Humanity.” This book provides something both valuable and rare: hope.

However, Talent for Humanity does not provide a cure for solving all of our world’s problems. Instead, it tells the stories of seven individuals who have used their talents, imagination and compassion to make the world a better place.

Among the people featured in the book are a Pakistani photographer who uses his artwork to highlight social justice issues in his community (Reza), married lawyers from California who present arts programs to at-risk children (Bob and Sherry Jason), and the Italian man responsible for the opening ceremony at the Sochi Winter Olympics (Daniele Finzi Pasca).

Of particular interest to Montana readers will be the story of Bozeman resident Yarrow Kraner, whose various ventures (including Superdudes and HATCH) have been designed to connect people and encourage community service.

Last Updated on Friday, 19 June 2015 11:57

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Read more: Book profiles 7 who excel

Cold Hard Cash at Alive After Five

by James Larson - rimrox.con

Last Updated on Friday, 12 June 2015 10:48

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