5 Missoula Bands On Their Way To Being Household Names

Pearl Jam

It’s no secret to those of us in Missoula that we have a music scene with the potential to launch bands to the next level. With local claims to fame in Pearl Jam, The Decemberists, and The Lil Smokies, who’s to know who the next act to burst out of the local scene will be? Not me, but I have my suspicions. So, below are my top 5 Missoula bands (in alphabetical order) that are making moves to become national names.

Author’s Note: There are so many amazing acts in Missoula, it’s impossible to give them all the recognition they deserve. These are my opinions and my opinions only, based solely on interactions with and what I know about each group or individual.

Chloe Gendrow

Chloe Gendrow – photo by Ryan Schmitz, collage by Kamilla Varga

While on a bit of a (much deserved) hiatus after graduating from the University of Montana, the release of full-length album 22 Below, extensive touring, and being featured on the lineup for Pilgrimage Music Festival with names like The Killers, Foo Fighters, and Keith Urban- Gendrow certainly holds promise for becoming a leading lady in pop music.

Getting an early start on her career while still in school, Gendrow was featured on Missoula to Memphis, an album put out by UM’s student record label Switchback Records and the Entertainment Management (UMEM) program. Her cover of Elvis’s “And I Love You So” and a live performance at a Switchback Records Showcase caught the ears of many friends and advisors of both the label and UMEM program that have proved to be helpful connections.

The Fertile Crescent

The Fertile Crescent – photo by Sara Diggins

The 7(ish) piece group that is The Fertile Crescent has had a big few months. In January they released their single “Onion Garden” on the same night that they filled The Top Hat to capacity. With LA-based management and connections to publicists in place, the band is already setting their sights onto bigger and better things.

The band has said to expect a full length album by summer, but what about larger Logjam Presents venues or a summer tour? This extremely driven group of students might just have the ambition and connections to do all that and more.

Letter B

Letter B – photo by Mikey Graef

With a full-length album and an EP under their belt and promises of new recorded music soon, Letter B has been carving a name for themselves in Missoula’s music scene for years, and it’s working. Not to mention that they’re touring machines- letting other cities know who they are, as well.

With multiple packed Top Hat shows, the band seems to have received more promotion from local giant Logjam Presents than a good amount of other local acts. With Logjam ranking in the top 100 promotors nationwide, this certainly doesn’t hurt. If my math is right, adding Letter B’s local power and continued heavy touring together could result in a major breakthrough for the band.



When listing popular Missoula bands or artists, Norwell may not be one of the first you’d think of. However, I dare you to make that same list without naming at least one other band that Norwell front man Brady Schwertfeger isn’t involved in. As Brady is a master of collaboration, a good amount of Norwell’s success is in working with other artists- including recording with Chloe Gendrow, Ira Wolf, and Maxy Dutcher.

Another local collaboration with UM’s Switchback Records placed Norwell and Ira’s cover of “I Hear A Symphony” in the hands of LA music professionals who chose to feature it on Falcon Music’s Motown Mixtape, on which the song has outperformed every other cut on the EP by tens of thousands of streams on Spotify.


TopHouse – photo via Logjam Presents

This folk trio has just recently moved from Missoula to Nashville and is doing the thing.

With gigs in the country music capital and dynamic content on their social media (think weekly podcast style vlogs and insane folk-stylized covers of songs like Queen’s “Fat Bottomed Girls” or Imagine Dragons’ “Radioactive”) someone with the power to blow these guys up could at any moment.

Honorable Mention: Dead Phones & Dogs

Dead Phones & Dogs

While only halfway Missoula-based, this Missoula/Chicago band deserves to be recognized for all they’re doing to get their path started. Within less than two months of releasing their first self-titled EP, they’re racking up streams just shy of 10,000 on two of their songs on Spotify, largely due to strategic playlisting.

Not bad for a band with 1,300 miles in between the two members.

A blog post for Marketing Analytics at the University of Montana by Aeriel Martens. Do you agree with my choices? Why or why not? Find me and @ me if you need to. <3

Zoo Town Brew Fest Lineup

MSO Brewfest
If you live in Missoula, and enjoy drinking beer, then I am sure that you are fully aware of what has happened in the last 10 years, but first, go back in time to 1986. At this time, Missoula Brewing had been out of business for over 20 years, and Americanized pilsners like Ranier dominated the market. In 1987, German brewmaster Jürgen Knö¨ller opened up Bayern Brewing, and the local craft beer industry had once again been established in Missoula. Five years after Bayern’s opening, Jürgen and a few other local business owners started an annual tradition that still holds today. The annual Garden City Brewfest had begun, and craft brew lovers have flocked to Caras Park in downtown Missoula for the event ever since.

Now, look back to just ten years ago. Believe it or not, there were only three breweries in Missoula. In the past 10 years, the love for craft beer has blown up to ridiculous proportions, and the greater Missoula area is soon to be home to over 10 breweries!

When you live in a city like Missoula, which is in a state that takes 2nd in the nation for breweries per capita, one brewfest is simply not enough. The first brewfest of 2016 was the Winter Brewfest, which was on February, 19th but there are still five more to come!

Remember, drink responsibly!


April 1st

Backcountry Brewfest

Caras Park



April 16th

Bacon & Brew Fest

Caras Park



May 7th

Garden City Brewfest

Caras Park



September TBA

Mavericks Brewfest

Caras Park



October TBA

MBA Fall Fest

Caras Park

Best Entrepreneurial Resources in Montana

You can feel the vibrant spirit of every entrepreneur you come into touch with in Montana. They’re excited to be representing Montana traditions, continuing legacies for upcoming Montana generations, or helping build the community that they grew up in. If you’re reading this, you’re probably either one of those entrepreneurs, or inspire to be. So you know what I mean when I say, there’s just something different about the Montana entrepreneur.

For the aspiring Montana entrepreneur, I’ve compiled a list of the best resources in Montana to use when starting a business, or for helping a business grow. All of the resources provided help in multiple categories of business, and are all Montana startups as well.

Montana High Tech Business Alliance

Photo of members at Bozeman reception 2014
Photo of members at Bozeman reception 2014

Greg Gianforte, a University of Montana distinguished entrepreneur, and founder of RightNow Technologies, founded the Montana High-Tech Alliance. The Montana High Tech Business Alliance is a non-profit organization that is “a business-led initiative helping high-tech companies create high-paying jobs in Montana.” This entrepreneurial initiative allows for young high-tech companies to get much needed support and recognition, while also serving more mature high-tech companies in Montana by creating events in which they can share difficulties their company is facing, meet other business owners and entrepreneurs from across the state, and even post job openings.

Christina Henderson, the executive director of the MHTBC, has helped grow this organization to over 180 high-tech and manufacturing members. A complete list of these members can be found here. Membership is free for companies with 5 employees or less. Ultimately, this organization can help entrepreneurs in Montana spur economic growth and provide high-paying jobs for hard-working Montanans.

Walker Milhoan, UM alumni, gives pitch for Ranchlogs to Blackstone Launchpad New York, New York.

Blackstone Launchpad – Bozeman and Missoula

The Blackstone Launchpad in Bozeman and Missoula, is helping to drive economic development in communities around partner universities and increase the likelihood that students and alumni remain in the region to pursue their passions or fix problems in their community. The state of Montana’s university network houses 2 of the 15 unique and rare spaces in the United States. These sites offer free consulting to students with an idea and connect new relationships with other helpful business areas like legal counsel, accounting, marketing, and finance. Paul Gladen and Les Craig, both of whom have a long list of successful start-ups and entrepreneurial endeavors, are directors and consultants to students.

There is no cost to joining, and the help given from these two entrepreneurs is directed to helping an entrepreneur in their journey, not doing the due diligence for them. The process taught in the Launchpad can help an entrepreneur pursue small business and entrepreneurship as a career. Signing up for the Blackstone Launchpad in Missoula or Bozeman takes only a couple minutes, and can create a lifelong journey.


MonTEC, home to: Rivertop Renewables, Mamalode, the Montana High Tech Business Alliance, and more.

Whether in need of interns, seed funding or business mentoring, MonTEC is the point of connection for entrepreneurs and start-ups looking to navigate the complex world of service providers and gain access to high quality resources. 1GB internet access, small and large conference rooms, common collaboration areas, and outstanding video conferencing are just a few of things that MonTEC offers to the companies within. The areas are meant to be inexpensive and act more as a business incubator, to help companies get on their feet. Some of the companies that are currently taking advantage of the great resources at MonTEC are the infamous Mamalode and Rivertop Renewables, and even the High Tech Alliance is located within the MonTEC building. The Blackstone Launchpad also is in close connection to this service and works hand-in-hand with companies that need some office space.

Joe Fanguy, one of the founders of MonTEC, has been working tirelessly with the companies within and has helped to raise over $30 million in funding from external resources to help these businesses thrive. The funding and the services the companies in MonTEC provide help Montana industries and companies in renewable chemistry, oil and gas analytical services, big data/e-discovery, pharmaceuticals, health care data analytics, publishing, and online video delivery.

Montana CDC – Bozeman and Missoula

Montana CDC entrepreneurs

The Montana CDC is a non-profit organization whose mission is to provide financing and consulting services that transform the lives of individuals and strengthen community prosperity. In the state of Montana, sometimes it can be difficult to get funding through local lenders. Especially for a company that’s a little off the beaten path or not considered “bankable.” The Montana CDC works to understand an entrepreneur’s ideas, and the entrepreneurs themselves, then works to improve financial healthiness through their consulting services to not only help start a company, but also to help its growth.

A lot of the inspiration for giving these Montana entrepreneurs their first chance may come from the CEO, Dave Glaser, who was formerly an environmental science consultant and COO for an environmental consulting firm. His company has given around 165 loans to companies around the state including a flower shop, an original jerky company, handcrafted wooden kitchen utensils, or even a one-of-a-kind Montessori school. More information about success stories can be found here, and what the Montana CDC can do for you can be found on their website.