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Idaho Green on coming home and gearing up for Julia Louis-Dreyfest

Idaho Green on coming home and gearing up for Julia Louis-Dreyfest

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Austin Finn and Caleb Addy perform with Idaho Green. 

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Julia Louis-Dreyfest's stacked lineup features music, poetry, visual arts and comedy. 

It’s the hottest time of summer, so why not chill with Billings’ coolest event?

That would be the brilliantly named Julia Louis-Dreyfest, Billings’ independent, DIY festival, which runs this year from Friday, Aug. 5 until Sunday Aug. 7.

There’s truly nothing else quite like Dreyfest.

For one, there’s the size. In its eighth go around, Julia Louis-Dreyfest brings at least 47 bands to Billings — the lineup on their poster ends with “and more” and who knows what that could mean — as well as comedy, poetry and visual art.

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Idaho Green frontman Austin Finn is returning home to Montana for a tour, starting with a Julia-Louis Dreyfest gig on Saturday night. 

And it’s all so integrated into Billings. There are Dreyfest shows at five venues across downtown, at Craft Local, Kirks’ Grocery, the Art House, InspirINK and NOVA.

And this is all in one weekend. The pace of Dreyfest goes about as hard and fast as the music does. This is barely controlled chaos, so much art bursting out it can’t be contained.

Those are the facts, but that’s not the spirit of what makes Dreyfest great. Austin Finn, frontman of the band Idaho Green and one of the festival’s organizers, put it best.

“It’s one part family reunion, and one part crazy weird festival,” he said.

This reunion took longer than most. Dreyfest was cancelled in 2020 and 2021 due to COVID.

And Idaho Green has had some time off, too. The group, whose wild, raging anthems are a mixture of unrefined garage rock and beautiful melodies, sort of like the Strokes if they grew up listening to Hank Williams and Uncle Tupelo instead of Lou Reed, have been together for well over a decade. Finn founded the group with some friends while he was a student at Senior High in the late 2000s.

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The schedule for Friday night of Julia Louis-Dreyfest features music at Craft Local and comedy at the Art House Cinema and Pub. 

Their lineup has been through changes galore. Guthrie Brown, who now lives in Nashville and played a triumphant hometown gig at Magic City Blues in 2016, used to be a member. So did Phil Griffith, who now is part of Bull Market, who close down Friday’s Dreyfest offerings at Craft Local at 11 p.m.

Right now Idaho Green is Austin Finn on guitar and lead vocals, as well as his brother Jordan on drums, Caleb Addy, a fellow Billings spawn who graduated from Skyview on guitar, and on bass, there's Long Island native Pete DeMaio — who Austin called “our new BFF."

After growing up in Billings, the group moved to New York City in the spring of 2015, where they live now.

Dreyfest’s return after two years is notable, but so is Idaho Green’s. They went on a hiatus from late 2019 to March of this year.

Idaho Green play their first show in Montana since the last Dreyfest in 2019, on NOVA on Saturday, Aug. 6 at 11 p.m. They’re up after Night In At Tiannamens, a mathcore punk band out of Billings, and a Julia Louis-Dreyfuss lookalike contest. All of this will be after the poetry concludes down the hall.

That’s about how Dreyfest goes. No event in this area is better at bringing together talent from across the spectrum. Here, punk rockers dance with stained glass sellers and stand-up comics. 

All of this takes a lot of work. As Dreyfest has changed over the years, it’s been touched by a lot of different hands, and some of them aren’t there anymore.

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Saturday at Julia Louis-Dreyfest there will be music at three venues across Billings, as well as a poetry jam at NOVA. 

The Finn brothers now more or less run the show from Brooklyn, although Austin was quick to also thank Montana resident Ty Herman, who plays under the name Goosetooth and opens Dreyfest on Friday at 5 p.m. at Craft Local.

Trying to facilitate the festival from almost 2,000 miles away is frustrating, Finn admits. But having such a background in Billings helps.

“I wouldn’t recommend trying to book a festival in a town you’ve never been to,” he said, “but the groundwork that has been laid out with all that practice in Billings for quite a long time makes it easier.”

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As Julia Louis-Dreyfest wraps up on Sunday with music at three venues and a potluck at North Park. 

Plus, Finn said, most booking is done online anyway, no matter where you live.

“There’s always this weird made up pressure to make it bigger and better,” he said, “and I don’t know, I’ve always kind of thought ‘why?’ It works. It’s fun… If it’s done at all, I think it’s a win.”

And Dreyfest VIII will indeed be done. There are some notable names on the lineup. Finn singled out Dirt Sucker, a three-piece hardcore group from Laramie and Garbage Man, a Wisconsin based band that Finn excitedly said made “really loud, noisy stuff.”

Those artists are friends with Finn and the other members of Idaho Green. But there are surprises, too. One band that submitted and will be at Craft Local on Saturday at 8:30 p.m. are called Slow Elk. They’re out of Seattle, and are comprised of a bass, saxophone and drums.

“I’m really interested to see how that’s gonna turn out live,” Finn said.

Idaho Green’s show on Saturday night isn't just a homecoming, it's the kickoff for the band’s Montana tour. In the week after Dreyfest, Idaho Green will hit the road all over the state, with stops in Whitehall, Havre, Bozeman, Missoula and Butte. They’re bringing along Billings band Scuba Steve and the Sharks, who have their own Dreyfest date at Kirks on Sunday, August 7 at 4:30 p.m.

Places like Missoula and Bozeman are no-brainers, but bringing music to smaller towns like Havre and Whitehall is a new experience for the band.

“I’m stoked,” Finn said, “I’ve always wanted to play Havre.”

There’s more Idaho Green on the horizon, too. They’re eyeing an upcoming release of some new songs they just recorded in upstate New York. Once that’s done, Finn would love to do a “big data dump” of some of the songs they’ve recorded over the years that haven’t ever been released.

Coming home can be weird. It’s strange to be an adult in the place you were young for so long. But there’s one thing Finn is really looking forward to.

“I’m excited to see my parents' garden,” he said. “See how the tomato plants are doing.”

“It’s one part family reunion, and one part crazy weird festival,”

-Austin Finn, frontman of Idaho Green

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