How many porta-potties do you need to serve 4,000 people?
Apparently, 25, lined up next to the main gate.
That’s until you find the second row across Big Sky Brewery’s lawn. Then the third bank. That’s 82 in total.
Even 82 strong, the portable toilets might not be worth going into by the end of Sunday, after 18 bands have played and those thousands of people have consumed their weight in Big Sky beer.
But that’s Travelers' Rest Fest for you, the second-ever Missoula music festival put on by indie-rock mainstays The Decemberists, whose frontman Colin Meloy grew up in Helena and went to the University of Montana in the ‘90s.
Meloy’s bandmate Chris Funk introduced the festival in the smaller, shaded Ponderosa tent.
The first band was Missoula’s own Rotgut Whines, who opened with high-energy, two-man rock recalling the Black Keys or a garage-band Kings of Leon.
They blazed through bluesy originals while frontman Evan Manuel’s uncut guitar strings waved in the air. A woman pushed her stroller into the front row.
Funk said the band felt it was important to include local acts at the festival, saying they didn’t “want to just roll in and take the money.”
The local flavor was appreciated, with multiple audience members congratulating Manuel after Rotgut Whine’s 45-minute set.
“Fantastic way to start,” one man said.
“Making Missoula proud,” a woman followed.
A good many of the festival-goers weren’t Montanans, with many driving in from Seattle or Idaho.
Marci Chen came in through Idaho last year as part of a work trip to see The Decemberists (her favorite band) play two headlining shows in two nights.
“It was the most fun I’ve ever had,” Chen said.
This year, she flew in from her home near Dallas to see them again, especially drawn by the promise of their Sunday night show when the band will play its opus “The Crane Wife” in full.
At around 3 p.m., Chen was sitting against the railing at the foot of the main stage in order to secure the best possible spot for the Decemberists show. The band wasn't scheduled to come on until 9:30 p.m.
“It’ll be a long day,” Chen acknowledged. “This is where I belong. I like to be down on the rail close to the performers.”
In her dedication, Chen missed Meloy and his wife Carson Ellis hanging out near the Ponderosa Stage, saying hi to fans.