By Chris Sand
Part 1: The Birthday
On December 27th, 2010, I left North Dakota, where I’d been living, and headed west to Doe Bay Resort on Orcas Island in Washington for my semi-regular New Year’s Eve gig and tour kickoff. By nightfall I’d made it to Missoula, in my home state of Montana, with a day to kill. I
By Chris Sand
Part 1: The Birthday
On December 27th, 2010, I left North Dakota, where I’d been living, and headed west to Doe Bay Resort on Orcas Island in Washington for my semi-regular New Year’s Eve gig and tour kickoff. By nightfall I’d made it to Missoula, in my home state of Montana, with a day to kill. I would turn 40 in the morning, and my 39.99-year-old mind was racing with possibilities.
The next morning I called Jeff Medley, a rangy, kind-hearted actor I’d met at a Missoula house concert three years earlier, and invited him to breakfast at Le Petit Outre, a bakery just off Missoula’s Hip Strip. Over coffee and croissants I expressed my desire to 1) play a show that night, and 2) get the Director of the Big Sky Documentary Film Festival, Mike Steinberg, to attend the show, in hopes he’d be inspired to watch a newly-produced movie about me, ROLL OUT, COWBOY. The movie’s director, Elizabeth Lawrence, had sent the Doc Fest folks a Blu-ray copy months prior, but she’d not heard back, and now the Festival was only six weeks away. I wanted it shown in Missoula so that nearby friends & relatives would have a chance to see it, since DVDs were not yet available for sale.
Luck was on my side. The barista at Le Petit Outre that day was Jeff’s friend Andy Smetanka. We asked Andy if he had any ideas for a spontaneous Tuesday night house concert, and without hesitation he offered to host it at his place. His place, it turned out, was the historic Moon-Randolph Homestead, where he and his family were caretakers. I was unaware at that time that Andy was a Missoula old-school punk rock dignitary who published the infamous Shat Upon zine, fronted the 90s hardcore band Humpy, and filmed docs of his own.
Having procured a venue–and a groovy one at that–Jeff and I, along with Jeff’s one-eyed pup Maya, angled straight to Mike Steinberg’s house, where Jeff was renting a hut in the back. He introduced me to Mike’s wife Lulu, and we invited her and Mike to the show. She informed us that Mike was ill and that they likely wouldn’t attend. Drats! (Well, at least I still had a chance to sell some CDs that night and make a new friend or two.)
By 6 p.m. a “Sandman at the Homestead” Facebook event page was getting some attention. I climbed into my trusty old Subaru and followed Jeff’s rig to the Moon-Randolph compound just outside of Missoula. As we entered through a frosty green gate, I immediately sensed strange magic all around. Gnarled box elder trees, a jagged silhouette of the barn, beehives, a pigpen, and finally, the caretaker’s cottage, which was perched on a hill just above the original homestead. While Jeff and Andy shot the breeze, I set up the merch table.
By showtime, sixteen folks–Mike & Lulu Steinberg among them, although Mike looked pale and beat–were wedged into Andy’s living room. Now all I had to do was stay calm and somehow convince Mike that ROLL OUT, COWBOY was worth featuring at the film festival. I bragged it up as much as I could. The show concluded with Andy joining me on the final two songs playing his saw. The Steinbergs left after the show. I worried that I’d failed to impress them but let it go. A bonfire, Andy’s homebrew, sledding shenanigans, & midnight fireworks were yet to come.
Well, I’m happy to report that not only did Mike go home that night and watch ROLL OUT, COWBOY, he accepted it as one of a handful of feature-length films to be screened at the 2011 festival where, I was happy to learn, it even got nominated for the prestigious Big Sky Award.
Part 2: The Baby & The Job
In Fall of 2011, my pregnant wife Hana and I relocated to Missoula to start a new life and raise our baby daughter, Stevie, who was born in January of 2012. Mike Steinberg, now a good friend, hired me in March of 2013 to coordinate the International Wildlife Film Festival (IWFF), which was based out of the mostly dormant Roxy Theater. The Festival was a success, and by June Mike had talked the IWFF Board of Directors into letting us turn the old movie house into a community venue for arthouse films, comedy, music, & more. I’m still blessed to work there.
Part 3: The Song
When Stevie was small I loved taking her to the Moon-Randolph Homestead. By this time the Smetankas had moved into town, and Matt Larubbio and Meredith Turner, with their infant Pearl, were the new caretakers. On one visit to the Farm I purchased a copy of Butterflies and Railroad Ties: A History of a Montana Homestead (by Caitlin DeSilvey), which informed the lyrics to “Moon-Randolph Farm,” a song I wrote and recorded in 2016 in Cumberland, BC, Canada, at the studio of my producer friend Corwin Fox.
In 2015, Matt’s knee got gored by a boar, and a year later he retired from the Homestead and co-founded Western Cider. Katie Nelson and Caroline Stephens took over as caretakers and have done great work hosting artist residencies, rehabilitating old buildings, giving tours to children, and throwing a popular annual Fall Gathering fundraiser with food and live music.
Part 4: The Vinyl
In the summer of 2022, Missoula yodeler-songsmith Aaron “Wailing” Jennings bought a restored Presto 6N recording lathe from a Tucson friend of mine, Michael Dixon, and started Listening Hat Records. His goal was to make one-at-a-time embossed mono records featuring handmade vinyl art distinguishable from commercially pressed records. I approached Aaron about cutting a batch of lathe-cuts, and we chose “Moon-Randolph Farm,” an outtake from my newly-released children’s album, MAGIC BEANS: 16 Songs for Sprouting Children & Other Human Beans (visit 🎶 link below to listen). Andy Smetanka created a papercut of the Moon- Randolph barn to underlay the record. It’s my first vinyl release, and I think it's swell as hell.
Part 5: The Links
The Séliš-Ql̓ispé Culture Committee: csktsalish.org
Jeff Medley: www.imdb.com/name/nm4010544
Missoula Record Stores: