It’s a long way to the top if you want your rock’n roll…and who wants to drive through Missoula anyway?
Skalkaho Pass probably didn’t save us any time, but it shaved a hundred backtracking miles off the last leg to Hamilton.
A round clearing in the trees crowned the summit, and the air’s sweet chill reminded me of both the cradle and the grave, weighting my chest with awe for visceral nature.
Which was a nice payoff since the trip down the mountain was a little tense.
Entering Hamilton we admired the lovely mist drifting off Downing Mountain until we realized it was smoke from a lightning caused forest fire.
We arrived just in time for Angus Mohr’s first Hamilton show, but since it wasn’t on the published schedule, we were unwinding instead of watching. According to the band, that first show was strange and disorienting because it was so dark they couldn’t see their audience. According to a couple guys we overheard at Saturday night’s show, it was AWESOME.
Despite being on the road all day and not getting to bed till after midnight, my eyes opened at five am and refused to close. I wandered back behind the motel. The fire glowed and flared, distance gentling it’s fury. I took pictures then spent an hour drinking coffee and reading:
“The music passed in an instant, as the first bars of a sudden music always did, over the fantastic fabrics of his mind , dissolving them painlessly and noiselessly as a sudden wave dissolves the sandbuilt turrets of children.”– James Joyce, Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
By seven, I was shaking my travelling companions from their slumber. After a thousand miles of anticipation, I was ready to get dissolved.
The 11:30 am Show was cut short because of scheduling issues, however there was time to get in favorites like Clumsy Lover, and 500 Miles. Not to mention the chance to dance barefoot in a shady grove while Angus Mohr played Shady Grove, which is not a bad way to start the day.
This second show featured “Wish You Were Here,” and “Watchtower.” Two songs that had gone unheard for most of the summer, as well as the completion of the previously interrupted Kildare set. Of the three shows that we saw in Hamilton, this one was the most typically Angus Mohr. The crowd was enthusiastic; there was a clutch of black t-shirt adorned fans dancing in front of the stage, and the music rocked.
In interviews, each member of the band identified “technical difficulties” as the one thing that steals their enjoyment during a show. Generally, these difficulties are invisible to most of the audience, aside from the occasional pause for readjustments.
For instance, probably not many people noticed that the wind had blown the guitars out of tune, or that Matt’s pipes started out a little flat, however it’s hard to miss a silent electric chanter or fifteen seconds of no vocals.
This show could have been disaster.
However, the band seemed to recognize from the beginning that the cold and the breeze were going to work against them. Instead of perfection they went for personal. They changed up the set list, playing dedications and requests. Instead of tightening up with each technical difficulty, they loosened up, embracing Murphy’s law.
Throughout this set, locals danced around the edges of the lasers lightening up the dark from atop the speakers. They cheered when Gusty brought his didgeridoo to the stage, and we’d seen a steady stream of people buying hoodies, t-shirts and CDs, but most huddled in their seats to hedge against the growing chill.
Until Paul said, “We’re Angus Mohr. Thank you and goodnight.”
We road trippers had known the set was ending when they played “Hard Rain,” “Long way to the Top,” and “Watchtower,”—even without the usual band introductions. We were prepared to once again let the ephemeral moment pass.
The people of Hamilton were not.
“One more Angus Mohr. One more Angus Mohr…” They chanted the band back to the microphones, launching them into my favorite show closer: the “Rockin’ in the Free World/Set the Controls” medley.
Behind me a girl turned to her boyfriend and asked, “Are we dancing this one?”
And he responded, “They’re giving us what we asked for; we have to.” So they did, and so did everyone else. In the dark, under the laser lights, the diehard remnants of the crowd, who had braved the dropping temperatures, coalesced in the hypnotic beat .
“The heart of the sun. The heart of the sun. The heart of the sun…” And no one was cold.