My dad is a big fan of music. My brother and I were often rewarded with dessert if, while dining at an Italian restaurant, we could name the ‘50s crooner blaring from the tinny overhead speaker (our odds for tiramisu were good; I’d guess Frank Sinatra and my brother would guess Tony Bennett … 95% of the time, we got it).
So when he came to visit Montana’s Yellowstone Country in November, we did some exploring of the local music scene together. Though there were fewer crooners and a bit more boot stomping (not to mention the band’s furry, four-legged companions that are almost always allowed to roam the dance floor), we had a heck of a time playing “Name that Tune,” Yellowstone Country style.
The Filling Station (Bozeman)
Known by locals as, “The Filler,” this red-planked wooden building off North Rouse Avenue doesn’t look like much more than a dingy dive bar. However, if you get up the gumption to make it past the front door, you’ll be pleasantly surprised by their nightly (yes, we said nightly, as in every. single. night.) array of local and touring bands. From rock pop to cover bands to bluegrass and country, you’re likely to get a good show, no matter when you show up.
The Murray Bar (Livingston)
The Murray is a personal favorite, not only because listening to music here reminds me of being in an old wooden barn, but because the bartenders are so darn friendly and you can find a seat even on a weekend (I’m getting too old to stand all night). On Fridays and Saturdays (and sometimes Wednesdays and Thursdays, too) the Murray Bar—which, not surprisingly, is attached to the Murray Hotel—plays host to largely local musicians from all over Yellowstone Country. And while I’ve only seen bluegrass and country bands there, their website informs me that if you’re lucky, you might get to catch a good ol’ fashioned punk rock band. Hope you brought your Doc Martens.
Whiskey Jack’s (Big Sky)
A place where après ski can turn into a dance party in your ski boots, Whiskey Jack’s is a mountain favorite for those staying in the area and want to listen to a bit of music after a great day on the slopes. Though they only advertise the bands that are playing slope side (a little bit of a bummer for those not staying on the mountain), sometimes an unexpected gem will start warming up when you least expect it. If you don’t mind taking a chance and rolling the dice with your musical entertainment, sidle up to the bar at Whiskey Jack’s and prepare to be surprised.
Zebra Cocktail Lounge (Bozeman)
If underground music is your thing, the Zebra is your go-to spot. Literally. Located in the basement of the old Bozeman Hotel, on Main Street and North Rouse Avenue, the Zebra peppers the Yellowstone Country music scene with some more alternative choices. While they host the normal bluegrass, country and classic rock cover bands, they also lend their stage to hip hop and rap artists, contemporary jazz, funk, trance, house music and just about everything else.
The word lounge is a bit of a misnomer (there are booths in the back, but not much in the way of cheesy mood lighting or a red roped VIP section), but the Zebra gets an A+ for musical diversity.
Red Lodge Mountain Lodge (Red Lodge)
If your idea of a good time is skiing powder until last chair and then sitting back with a cold one while tapping your (ski) boots to a little local rhythm, then the Lodge at Red Lodge Mountain will be your thing. Hosting live music on Fridays and Saturdays, from 3pm – 6pm, it’s a great way to get your live music fix while still getting to bed by 9pm.