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A memorable performance for several reasons

by Margaret E. Davis
| September 24, 2023 12:00 AM

We thought it was just a piece of trash on the road to Bigfork. It seemed to flutter in the wind like a brown paper bag. As we got closer, we saw it was earthbound and alive.

It was a turtle, bigger than any I’ve seen in Montana.

It was booking to get to the south side of Montana 82, faster than I could imagine a turtle could move but still, we realized, pretty much in line with our passenger-side tire.

Just as I braced for the crunch, some quick thinking and deft handling on the part of the driver put us past the reptile. We sighed with relief and looked back to see the turtle wobbling safely and closer to the side of the road. We had seen the panels of its shell, and the prehistoric looking legs frantically reaching for every inch of asphalt to put behind it.

These moments of slow-motion clarity, I learned through research, are the brain taking careful “pictures” to store away, mostly in a bid to put them in a very important memory vault that viscerally reminds us, Let’s never do this again.

I won’t stop going to Bigfork for music, but I will be on the alert for all the creatures that could be in the way.

Some music venues put their towns or neighborhoods on the map. As a teenager I fell in love with the Velvet Underground’s live recording at Max’s Kansas City, a storied venue for live music. I smile to think of the low-slung building off Montana 35 as Max’s Bigfork.

As much as customers come for the food and atmosphere, Max’s proprietors Chris and Jenny Evans also prioritize live music. The room, lined with thousands of records on sturdy shelving, and its stage with excellent acoustics and a glittering background makes the band shine. Doors open to a casual roped-off area in front for overflow and a place for kids to play.

Music in Montana has always been for all ages.

On this mid-August evening, the couple sitting next to me in the crowded room loudly debated the flavor of the compote in their dessert, but soon as vocalist Annette Strean of Tin Finley began singing, joined by Kati O’Toole, all fruit filling was forgotten. Tin Finley’s music is expertly penned and arranged, disarmingly honest, riveting. We ate it up.

Some books you read and want to shout their titles from the rooftop. Some bands you hear and you want everyone to listen. Tin Finley’s songs, contributed by all the band members, take listeners on whole journeys to new places and sound like nothing else.

Strean’s voice is strong but subtle, capturing every note and color in a song, whether it’s the mental health journey of “Crack in the Window” or the atmospheric and equally hopeful “Start a Fire.” The band, including guitarist Kirk Cornelius, states that “their harmonies fit like family.”

The next edition of the Daily Inter Lake’s Press Play lunch concert series features Tin Finley on Oct. 6 and the proceeds go to free newspapers for local schools — a win-win-win. Just as that turtle got a lucky day, so can music lovers.

Margaret E. Davis, executive director of the Northwest Montana History Museum, can be reached at mdavis@dailyinterlake.com.