Big Sky Brewing Co. bringing back summer concerts in backyard

2011-02-25T05:30:00Z 2011-02-25T06:07:26Z Big Sky Brewing Co. bringing back summer concerts in backyardBy JOE NICKELL of the Missoulian missoulian.com
February 25, 2011 5:30 am  • 

Concerts are once again on tap at the Big Sky Brewing Co. Earlier this week, Knitting Factory Entertainment of Boise, Idaho, announced the first in what's expected to be a series of concerts this summer on the back lot of the Missoula brewery.

The concert, which will feature Ray LaMontagne and the Pariah Dogs, Brandi Carlile, and the Secret Sisters, will take place June 20. Tickets go on sale March 4 at 10 a.m.

The announcement means that Big Sky Brewing, which hosted several major concerts during the summers of 2004 and 2005, is back in the concert business - and this time, it's hopefully for good, said Big Sky Brewing president Neal Leathers.

"Our intention is, this is a long-term deal; we don't want to just do it another two years and have to quit again," said Leathers. "This will be the first show of the first year of ongoing concerts out here."

Big Sky Brewing hosted its first concert on July 6, 2004, when Big Head Todd & the Monsters joined roots rocker John Fogerty on a double-bill concert in a large, grassy area directly behind the brewery. Over the ensuing 14 months, the venue hosted a diverse series of acts, including Willie Nelson, 50 Cent, Crosby, Stills and Nash, and Ani DiFranco.

But concerts halted at the brewery after the empty lot in front of the brewery, used as parking space for concertgoers, was developed into a hotel.

Leathers said that those parking issues remain a challenge, but have been mitigated with help from various property owners in the vicinity of the brewery, including Missoula County. He said the focus of the venue on somewhat smaller shows than the major-headliner concerts of years past will hopefully also keep parking issues to a minimum.

"We have a couple of acres of our own that we didn't use for parking that we can use, and there are four undeveloped lots nearby where we have access," said Leathers. "Also, the county still has some land and I feel really comfortable that if other sites become unavailable to us, we can use that space."

In the years since Big Sky Brewing stopped hosting concerts, another outdoor concert venue, Ryan Creek Meadows, located approximately 30 miles east of Missoula, emerged as a venue for summertime outdoor concerts.

Leathers said that he's been in touch with owners of Ryan Creek Meadows, and both are confident that the resumption of concerts at the brewery only means more concerts for Missoula audiences. Owners of Ryan Creek Meadows could not be reached Thursday for comment.

"We're trying to make sure we're not stepping on each other's toes," said Leathers, noting that he hopes to firm up dates for another three or four shows in the coming months. "That's the intention we all share."

Tickets to the June 20 concert are $34 and will be sold at Big Sky Brewery, Rockin Rudy's, by calling 1-877-4-FLY-TIX, and online at www.ticketfly.com.

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