BILLINGS, MT – Tim Goodridge thought he would find a music festival to run while he looked for a real job.
That was 14 years ago and since then, Magic City Blues has brought more than 150 music acts to Billings and brought people from throughout North America to Billings for what has grown to be a four-day festival with three venues.
Goodridge announced on Tuesday that Buddy Guy, John Fogerty and Lucinda Williams will headline this year’s festival on a new weekend, July 30 through Aug. 2.
Tim and his wife, Pam, had just moved back to Montana after spending a few years living and working in Vancouver, British Columbia, when they came up with the idea of bringing more music to Billings.
“It was something that was conceived as a sideline, and it has become my life,” Tim said. After I have done this for a while, it’s hard to imagine doing anything else. You get addicted to the adrenaline of it.”
The hardest part is waiting for acts to confirm. He puts out the bid and then starts the process of waiting for the headliners to sign on the dotted line.
This year, there will be a few changes to make the festival even more successful, Goodridge said.
Most notably, the dates are changing. After hosting the event on the second weekend of August since its inception, Goodridge moved it to the first weekend in August for a few reasons. In 2001 when Magic City Blues launched, it was the only big music festival happening in the area. Rockin’ the Rivers also started in 2001 and Rockin’ the Railroad started a couple of years ago in Sheridan, Wyo., on that same weekend.
Then, there’s Montana Fair, which opens the second weekend of August and often features its night shows that weekend.
“I’m a firm believer that you can’t just stick to the same formula every year in entertainment. If you do, you lose your fan base over time,” Tim said.
The festival kicks off with a free show on July 30 at St. John’s Lutheran Home, featuring Billings native Guthrie Brown with his project, Guthrie Brown and the Family Tree.
Guy will headline the show on July 31 on Montana Avenue. Kelley Hunt opens for Guy, and The Congress opens the evening. The second stage will feature Jarekus Singleton, Steepwater Band and the Austin Young Band.
Fogerty headlines the Aug. 1 show at South Park. O.A.R. will open that show.
Williams headlines the Aug. 2 show at South Park with openers Los Lobos and Edward David Anderson.
Goodridge is also tapping into Billings’ growing food truck culture and arranging to have four or five of the trucks on Montana Avenue and at South Park.
He is working with Century Link to bring Wi-fi to the South Park site so he can set up screens to display fan selfies taken on social media sites like on Instagram and Twitter.
“I don’t know if anybody has ever done it here before. People are going to love posting photos of themselves. This is one of the few moments that people gather together. It makes you feel more a part of what’s going on.”
Finding just the right band for the right venue, audience and time of day is the challenging part of what the Goodridges do every year.
George Thorogood, who came two different years to MCB, was the biggest draw. Other acts who brought in the biggest numbers over the years were Blues Traveler, the Black Crowes and Michael Franti.
“Franti really opened the door for us to offer different styles of music,” Goodridge said.
Tickets at www.magiccityblues.com or 406 534-0400. Tickets are $49 for general admission for Friday, July 31, or Sunday, Aug. 2, and $69 for the Saturday, Aug. 1, show. Three-day passes are $139. VIP reserved seats available call 406-534-0400
Reprint from Billings Gazette April 7, 2015