In 1998, the band Question Authority built a mobile stage and took it with them on a camping trip to the mountains outside of Crouch, Idaho. They had so much fun camping out and performing, they did it again the next year. By the third year, they invited a couple of other bands to join them. And from those first dusty outdoor excursions, Rock the Mountain (RTM) was born. I met with Chris Trull, Jeremy Trull and Chris Fuqua-- RTM founders and three-fifths Question Authority--to find out more about the gathering and just what goes in to making an event like this a success.
This year marks the Ninth Annual Rock the Mountain Festival. Having had a major hand in organizing the first Boise Weekly Local Music Festival, I have a sense of the planning that is required for this sort of thing. However, the BW festival featured fewer than 15 bands and was held in town at locations where electricity and indoor plumbing are a given. By contrast, each year RTM takes place somewhere in the Idaho mountains and, this year, the line-up includes 32 bands. In order to pull off a function of this magnitude, it takes a lot of time, money and, most importantly, cooperation. During our chat, the Trulls and Fuqua made it abundantly clear that were it not for all of the help they receive, they would not be able to get RTM off the ground and into the mountains. Before one festival is even over, they begin planning for the next year. They hold fundraisers throughout the year and are open to offers of help and/or services. (For example, I just saw a bulletin on Question Authority's myspace.com site where someone was offering the use of a huge dump trailer to haul out all the trash at the end of the weekend.) Even with all the help they do get, RTM is not a money maker. Fuqua told me over the years, he's sold two cars and numerous other items to make sure RTM happens every year. And that's even with the "pay-to-play" policy in place.
Each year, bands that want to perform are asked to contribute $100. That money gets each band member two tickets and the band itself a spot in the lineup. Chris Trull told me that people are often shocked that QA asks bands to pay and assume that they have a hard time getting acts for the festival. The opposite is true. Fuqua said they always have to deny several bands a spot and they may someday have to go to a three-day event just to include half of the bands they turn down. But they still have a lot of bands paying to play. Do the math: it costs $10 per person at the gate (and over 1,000 people showed up last year), so 32 bands x $100 + $10 per person = a lot of money. It would seem that QA would be in the black after this kind of cash flow, but they work hard to make each festival better than the last. That means that each year more money is spent on better insurance, portable toilets, lights, sound and stages and even with all of the volunteerism and free goods and services, the guys in QA always end up emptying their own pockets. So, if RTM isn't a money maker for QA or for the bands who play, why do they do it? The Trulls and Fuqua agree that spending two days in the mountains rocking out with their friends and fans is reason enough.
This year, the lineup of bands playing RTM rivals any of the previous years with a handful of out-of-town acts and the majority of bands all from around the area. The fun starts Friday at 2 p.m. and ends Saturday at around 4 a.m. Things may change, but as of now, the list of bands playing is as follows: Goracide, Wake Up Dead, Factory Air, Final Underground, Dross, Auditory Reform, Martyrdom, GuerrillaWrench, Evologic, Datura, The October Tree, Castdown, Paylface, Frantik, Irritant, Ripchain, Draghead, Anonymous, Ugly Dirty Thing, Savage Criminal Crosshair Killers, Still 1 Missing, Fallen Ones and Kryterium. If you don't know who any of these bands are, RTM is the perfect opportunity to find out. If you do know any of these bands, you've probably already got your tent and sleeping bag packed. As for me, I'm not much of a camper and I've never attended RTM (shameful, I know). Since it's just at Grimes Creek this year, I figure I can spend a couple of extra bucks on gas and drive up and back. That way, if anyone asks, I can say, "Oh, yeah. I rocked the mountain."
July 21 and 22, starts at 2 p.m., $10 per person for the two-day event, Grimes Creek (outside Idaho City), go to www.rockthemountain.com for a map, directions and more information.
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