If you’re heading to Whitefish, Montana or are already there, congratulations, you’re about to experience one of the greatest assemblages of talent in independent country and roots music that happens all year. If you’re unable to be there, feel free to follow along with Saving Country Music on Instagram for regular updates from the field.
Whether it’s your first time, or your 2nd, 3rd, or 4th, below is the full schedule for Under The Big Sky Fest 2023, along with some useful tips about how to have the best experience possible.
Cell phone coverage on the site can get extremely spotty to non existent as the festival site fills up through the day. Plan out designated places and times to meet up with friends. The Under The Big Sky site is HUGE. Don’t anticipate you can fetch things from you car or from town. Pack accordingly. Bring a reusable cup or bottle for water from the numerous refill stations. The whether is not supposed to be super hot like in previous years until Sunday, but be prepared. You’re also at 3,000 ft., so skin burns quicker.
You’re Not Going To Be Able To See Everything
And don’t try, unless you’re crazy. With two stages about a 1/4 mile away, and the additional obstacles of a huge hill in between, tens of thousands of other fans clogging up the pathways, and a moat full of rabid raccoons (not really, but might as well be), you’re just not going to catch all of the acts on your wish list by rushing back and forth. But if you’re practical with your plans, you can see a lot of great stuff.
Figure out when you want to transition between stages so that way you cut down on walking back and forth. For the big acts, if you want to be right up front, you better duck out of the show before early so you don’t have to fight through the crowd.
*HINT – If you really have to make it between the stages quickly, there are some shortcut paths through the woods to the side of the main path between the two stages. They’re harder to trek through, but less congested, and shady.
Make Sure To Take The Time To Discover Something New
One of the great things about Under The Big Sky Fest is there isn’t a bad act on the roster. Even the early acts would be late afternoon performers or headliners at other festivals. Drayton Farley on Friday, Kat Hasty and The Local Honeys on Saturday, and Colby Acuff and Christina Vane on Sunday all are the future of country/roots music, and are performers that come highly acclaimed from Saving Country Music. You may not be able to see them all, but you’ll be thankful if you catch a couple of them and find your next favorite artist.
Don’t Skip Out on the Local Acts Either
Yes, these are LONG days, and there are other things to do while visiting Whitefish. But one of the cool things about Under The Big Sky Fest is it doesn’t just book big names and ignore the local talent. Friday opener Archertown was formed in New York, came to prominence in Nashville, but is actually from Whitefish. So are Jamie Wyman and the Helnore Highwater Band. Izaak Opatz is based out of nearby Missoula.
There’s a reason these local bands are getting big opportunities on big stages. It’s even better if they’re exposed to national fans.
Takes Some Time to Soak It All In
Along with the talent on the stage, the setting of the Under The Big Sky Fest is a feature itself. There is a train track running through the site, as well as a creek in front of the Big Mountain Stage. Beautiful mountains are off in the distance. There is a real, actual rodeo that transpires by the Big Mountain Stage. Food and beverages are of course pricey, but there are some great local food vendors worth savoring.
Colter Wall just does not tour these days. His appearance at Under The Big Sky is one of a very few live appearances all year. Don’t miss it for swanky dinner plans in Whitefish. He’s also appearing on the same day he releases his new album Little Songs, so be there.
Speaking of upcoming releases, Molly Tuttle and Golden Highway’s City of Gold comes out the week after. You see how Billy Strings is selling out arenas now? That’s the trajectory Tuttle is currently traveling on. See her in more intimate moments while you still can.
The Red Clay Strays, 49 Winchester, and The Hogslop String Band are some of the best live bands on the planet. You don’t need me to tell you to not miss Charley Crockett and Whiskey Myers. But these bands are also ones that need to be highlighted on your list.
Shane Smith and the Saints could be headliners. Instead, they’re playing opener for The Dead South on the second stage. Saturday and Sunday night are a murderer’s row of talent as it is, but this could be a set for the ages.
Say Hello To Yours Truly
If you see a guy that looks super busy wearing a black vest and brown hat with a camera on his hip, stop him and and say hey. He may even have some goodies to give away, while supplies last.