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Red Ants Pants Music Festival returned to rock in rural Montana!

The Local Honeys rocked the main stage at The Red Ants Pants Music Festival the last weekend of July, 2022
Sierra Cistone
The Local Honeys rocked the main stage at The Red Ants Pants Music Festival the last weekend of July, 2022

The Red Ants Pants Music Festival is part of the Red Ants Pants Foundation’s mission to enrich and promote rural communities. For four days and four nights in July musicians from across the country brought music to rural White Sulfur Springs, Montana where the foundation is based. The small town is normally home to 1,000 people.

After a pandemic-related hiatus, the music festival returned this year, bringing 15,000 attendees and dozens of musicians and artists to the small town for a sold-out event, according to Sarah Calhoun, the founder and director of the Red Ants Pants Foundation.

“There is something pretty magical happening when we have all these bands that are consistently telling us how attentive and in tune our crowd is,” Calhoun said. “ … and it’s a very community-driven feeling and I think that’s reflected through the music and the whole experience.”

All the funds from the festival go directly to the Red Ants Pants Foundation, which provides grants, workshops, and leadership programs for women and girls in rural communities across Montana. The organization made true its mission to empower women and girls by headlining women musicians like Grace Potter, Allison Russell and The Local Honeys.

We sat down with The Local Honeys after their Saturday show to talk about their experience performing in rural Montana.

“It’s wonderful to not just be playing the hubs,” said Linda Jean Stokley, singer and guitarist for The Local Honeys. “There is a connectivity we have when we play in rural areas because we are from rural places. We are really excited to bring our music to rural places.”

The duo is originally from rural Kentucky and said they were the first women to graduate from the Kentucky Center for Traditional Music, where the two originally met.

“Playing here at Red Ants Pants, it’s not lost to us as to two girls from Kentucky trying to make a living as artists and musicians,” said Montana Hobbs, singer and banjo player for The Local Honeys.

On the side stage, bands compete to win the Emerging Artist Award. The audience votes on their favorite performers and the winner gets a spot on the main stage the following year. That meant a lot for 2014's winners The Last Revel, who headlined on Saturday.

"Playing the side stage and winning and then playing the main stage kind of kicked open the door professionally,” said Ryan Acker, multi-instrumentalist from The Last Revel. “That gave us the inspiration to do it for real.”

This year’s winner was none other than Montana’s own Dusty the Kid, a Missoula-based band. They describe their music as, “old tyme folk punk with a side of squat club swing.”

“Everybody got only a little taste of us this year,” said Dusty the Kid, the band’s lead singer and multi-instrumentalist. “They’ll see the whole explosive, insanity of Dusty the Kid and Recession Special next year on the main stage.”

Sarah Calhoun, the music festival director, says that next year’s festival will again take place over the last weekend of July.

“We will continue trying to bring a bunch of diverse, impactful artists to our stage here in rural Montana,” Calhoun said.

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