The first of a three-night series, Brandi Carlile played KettleHouse Amphitheater this weekend, marking the first concert of the 2021 season for Log Jam Presents.
Originally scheduled to perform in May of 2020, the show was rescheduled for the Fourth of July weekend due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which put a pause on live shows. The opening of KettleHouse Amphitheater has been long-awaited by both staff, concert-goers and performers.
Audrianna French has been head of security for KettleHouse since its opening in 2017. After losing the 2020 season, French had been itching to get back to concerts. What French missed most, however, was losing a summer of seeing regulars of the amphitheater coming out to watch shows along with her fellow staff.
“All of our staff are super excited to be back. A lot of our crew has all come back for so many years and once again came together to become one huge family,” said French. “When the pandemic hit, no one got to see each other. Now we’re all back and are super stoked.”
It was an emotional return to live music for the performers as well. Opener Katie Pruitt reflected on being back on stage after releasing her first album, Expectations, last year.
“It was definitely emotional. My band and I kept having these moments with each other on stage where I would just look around and see that everyone was just happy to be there,” said Pruitt.
Carlile, one of Pruitt’s idols, has played a large role in representation for LGTBQ+ performers and musicians. While on stage, Pruitt acknowledged the impact that other LGTBQ+ artists, such as Carlile and the Indigo Sisters, had on paving the way for other musicians.
“Representation is powerful,” said Pruitt. “If it wasn’t for them I wouldn’t be up here.”
When Carlile emerged on stage dressed in an all-white tracksuit, she also acknowledged the emotions of returning to the stage. She explained that the band and herself were still nervous to perform after not being in front of a live crowd in over a year, but as nerves faded, emotions ran high.
“We are home,” Carlile said to the nearly packed KettleHouse crowd before performing her hit single, “Story”.
One of Carlile’s strengths throughout the show was creating an emotional bond between the local audience and herself. Carlile spent the night camping in the area the night before and expressed her admiration for Missoula and the beauty of Montana as a whole, as well as reflecting on her first time performing in the area at the Wilma years ago.
Highlights of the performance included covers of Joni Mitchell’s “Case of You” from the Blue album, which Carlile celebrated with Mitchell for its 50th anniversary at an online listening party a week before.
Carlile called up the Small Town String band consisting of niece Caroline Carlile on Banjo, nephew Jay J Carlile on fiddle, as well as Hannah Jackson on guitar, and Aurora Wentz on bass to perform a cover of “Wagon Wheel.”
Overall, Carlile’s energy could be felt through the audience through the encore and was a great opening to the 2021 live concert season. Carlile will perform for two more nights through July 4th at the KettleHouse Amphitheater.