PHILIPSBURG — A concert designed to rekindle the revelry, charity, charm and camaraderie of Missoula’s Aber Day Keggers of the 1970s is set to take this town of 850 by storm.
Three original members of the Mission Mountain Wood Band will be on stage Saturday with three newer bandmates to headline the Aber Day Reunion Concert in Philipsburg’s Winninghoff Park Amphitheater, a hillside venue that in itself captures the flavor of those days of yore at the Miller Creek Rodeo Grounds.
Online ticket sales through the University of Montana Alumni Association closed Aug. 10, and a capacity crowd of 2,500 is expected to flood into this picturesque Flint Creek Valley burg.
“I’ve lived here since 1949 and I can’t think of anything that approaches it,” said Ed Lord of the sponsoring Philipsburg Rotary Club.
This one’s not called a kegger, though beer will be available, Lord said. It’s a different era, and while the Granite County Sheriff’s Department and local fire department are beefing up forces, organizers are counting on an older, more mature crowd to help govern itself. Lord said tickets for free water will be offered to designated drivers.
The original Aber Day Kegger ran each May from 1972 to 1979. It was a benefit for the UM library and as such raised tens of thousands of dollars. Some of the proceeds from the reunion concert will go to the Philipsburg Public Library, one good reason why Bob McCue of the Missoula Liquid Assets Corp., the original organizers of the benefit, agreed to lend the Aber Day name to the Philipsburg event.
“I’ve been asked about this for years and years, when’s there going to be another Aber Day,” said McCue, who was student chairman of the last kegger 36 years ago and still lives in Missoula.
McCue said he’s working with the city library to sell Aber Day Kegger mugs and copies of a Public Broadcasting System-quality documentary that he directed in 2009. All proceeds from those sales will go to the library.
The music starts at noon Saturday, with Mission Mountain Wood Band slated to start playing at around 3:15 p.m. It will be preceded onstage by Shane Clouse and Stomping Ground of Missoula and Montana native Wylie Gustafson’s Wylie and the Wild West. The bands will jam together to end the show.
Rob Quist, Steve Riddle and drummer Greg Reichenberg have their individual musical interests but still get together from time to time as Mission Mountain Wood Band. Those three along, with Christian Johnson and the late Terry Robinson, were University of Montana students and alums when they formed the band in Missoula in 1971.
They’ll be joined in Philipsburg by singer/songwriter Tim Ryan of St. Ignatius and Nashville; multi-instrumentalist David Griffith of Missoula, and fiddle player Trevor Krieger of Billings.
Quist said the band will debut a song from its new “Now and Then” CD titled “Everywhere Feels Like Home.” He called the piece “a veritable ‘This Land Is Your Land’ for Montana.” Mission Mountain’s new CD includes 10 of “the essential songs from our heyday recorded live all across the country.”
They are the classic songs “that we will play forever,” Quist said.
All are on Saturday’s set list, along with all the cuts on the band’s 2012 CD release, “Reboot,” and three from “Now and Then.”
“Aber Day remains a major milestone in our band lore, and to revisit this now is like going home,” Quist said. “There is no better venue in Montana to recreate this event than the one in Philipsburg, and I hold out hope that this will once again become an annual event like the Miller Creek Aber Day concerts came to be.”
Lord said the magnitude of the concert is “exciting but scary.”
The scary part is planning for 2,500-3,000 people and the 1,000 or more vehicles they’ll be arriving in. Shuttle buses will run from parking venues on the north and south ends of town once those around the park are filled.
“I think we’ve got it pretty well lined out,” Lord said.
The exciting part is drawing all those people to town. He noted that tickets are being resold on Craigslist and some may still be available on the day of the show.
“This whole event, it’s really building. People are really excited about it,” Lord said. “I can’t reiterate enough how hard we’re trying to really make this a class act. There’s so much anticipation for it. It’ll be a lot of fun.”