When Anneliessa Balk (now Balk Stimpert) moved to Boise from San Francisco in 1991, she suffered from the same malady many people who come here from large towns do: culture shock. Whereas life in the Golden Gate city offered ample opportunity for friends and fun for a woman in her early 20s, in comparison, the Boise of the early '90s was largely devoid of those same options.
"It took me two years to really meet anybody," Balk Stimpert said. "It was horrible ... There was nothing to do. Then I met Todd Dunnigan. He owned a studio, and I'd always had a dream of being in a band."
But Balk Stimpert couldn't sing and knew she didn't have the patience or tolerance to learn to play an instrument. So she did what she thought would be the next best thing and started looking into the production side of music. She doesn't remember exactly how the idea came up, but she and Dunnigan decided to put out a compilation CD of local bands. In 1994, Rotating Tongues was born.
The Rotating Tongues compilation included songs from bands whose names might be recognizable to people who could order an Oly stubby at a bar when the drinking age was still 19, like Tek Tek Tek or Hire; a few of the names still resonate around town like Caustic Resin and Dirt Fisherman; and a few more yet are still musically active such as El Dopamine, Built to Spill, Midline and Ned Evett.
The name for the project came from a trip Balk Stimpert took to Amsterdam. While there, she'd seen a piece of art that included an image of tongues on a wheel and was struck by an idea of perpetual communication. When musician and friend (and Boise Weekly contributor) Elijah Jensen came to her with an idea for a music festival, a follow up to the first Rotating Tongues began to take hold.
Fourteen years later, now that Balk Stimpert is co-owner of her own venue, Rotating Tongues 2 promises to pick up where the first one left off. This weekend, Visual Arts Collective will host 26 local acts over the course of two days on one stage.
Each band's set will last approximately 12 minutes, or long enough to play roughly three songs. One of the most intriguing aspects of RT2 is that each act has been asked to perform at least two new, previously unrecorded songs. Both new songs will be recorded during the event and each band will choose one to be included on the RT2 compilation CD.
To get a small cross section of the bands involved in this project, Boise Weekly talked to a young band, a band of youngsters and a man who—and whose band—can still rock like he's young.
Together as a band for less than two years, Juntura's Drex Shira, Hyram Haeberle and Stephen Samuelson, think RT2 is an opportunity for local musicians and fans of local music to continue building Boise's music scene solidarity, regardless of genre. The guitar, drum, bass trio—with the occasional addition of piano and trumpet—were honored to be asked to contribute to the project and are as excited to see what the other bands are going to bring to it as they are to perform themselves. "We all really love the idea of not only a showcase of local bands, but hearing what everybody's up to right now," Samuelson said.
The new songs bands have to write for RT2 offers an opportunity for fans who've memorized a band's set list to taste something new, as well as a motivating deadline for the musicians.
For Juntura, this has been one of the most exciting aspects of the event.
"In our case, we were running a little stale," Shira said. "Writing new songs really put a fire under our ass."
La Knots' Tuck Nelson and Demmi Netson have been playing together since the eighth grade.
But instead of shooting hoops or playing World of Warcraft, their sport includes Nelson on a guitar and Netson on a drum kit. A six year history together and the duo's ability to pull big sound out of such minimal instrumentation mean La Knots will likely be around as long as they want to be. Their sound is a little more punk than indie—"We do play faster, but not power chords," Nelson said, laughing—but they fit the overall ethos of RT2 and Balk Stimpert really wanted them in the lineup.
"We played a lot at VAC when it was downtown. Sam and Anneliessa have always been great to work with," Nelson said.
John O'Neil of El Dopamine has probably forgotten more about local music than many people around here will ever know. When the 49-year-old moved to Boise from Eugene nearly 20 years ago, he was told to "avoid working in a record store and being in a band." Clearly not one to follow orders, he's had both a job at Record Exchange (he's currently the manager) and his band almost as long as he's lived here. Echoing Balk Stimpert's sentiments in regard to Boise's early '90s, O'Neil also said the music may not have seemed exciting at the time, but looking back on it may put it in a different light.
"History's always being made," O'Neil said.
O'Neil may think it's "undignified for a man my age to be in a rock band," but having bands like El Dopamine, the Netson Family (Caustic Resin) and Doug Martsch (Built to Spill) add not only historical context but an idea for bands like Juntura and La Knots of what the future may hold. And maybe 14 years from now, new bands will look to them for hints on making history.
Friday, Feb. 20 and Saturday, Feb. 21, 7 p.m. $7 each night or $5 with a packaged food item. Visual Arts Collective, 3638 Osage St., Garden City, 208-424-8297, visualartscollective.com. See below for full RT2 lineup.
The lineup for Rotating Tongues II at VAC reads like a who's who—or maybe a who's that—of local indie music. It's billed as a show of progressive indie music, but to host every band in town that falls somewhere on the ever-widening spectrum of indie would have required a small-scale SXSW-ish event. So, sadly some bands had to sit this one out, but the organizers are certainly considering more RTs in more genres. Hopefully this event whets local music-lovers' appetites for just such a thing.
As it is, seeing the 26 bands/solo musicians who comprise the lineup of the two-day fest worthily warrants seven of your hard-earned bucks each night. Do the math, and you'll see that works out to about 54 cents per band. At just a five-dollar cover if you bring a packaged food item for the Idaho Foodbank, you can see each band for way less than it costs to buy a couple of Jolly Ranchers and a Fireball jawbreaker at 7-11.
But two-bits is still two-bits and should be spent wisely. Instead of showing up just in time to see your favorite band, think about going a little early and staying a little late and hearing some acts you may not be as familiar with. Or really wring Abe Lincoln dry and show up at 6:30 p.m. so you can stake your spot for the night—and early morning—to catch all of the following: Friday night features Mayerforceone, Central City Music Company, Low-fi, El Dopamine, Tim Andreae, Craters of the Moon, Hillfolk Noir, The Very Most, Nollifur, Le Fleur, Netson Family, La Knots and Bonefish Sam and his Orchestra. On Saturday, catch Revolt Revolt, Discoma, Juntura, Finn Riggins, How's Your Family?, With Child, The Magnetics, Ian Waters, Kris Doty, The Universal PussyGutt, ATTN and Doug Martsch.