For the last seven years, the folks of Missoula, Montana, and Wäntage Records have been throwing one of the best music festivals in the Western U.S. Total Fest is a total party—as if 44 bands across three nights in one three-stage venue weren't enough, the locals also go out of their way during the daytime to treat their visitors to every- thing great the city has to offer. Bands are given every incentive to want to return to Montana: beautiful rivers perfect for tubing or just standing in with a beer, record swaps, barbecues every night, and of course the festival itself. This year showcased some of the best rock bands in the West, such as Saviours, Akimbo, Triclops!, and Black Elk.

A key ingredient for a great festival is free beer, made possible again this year by Pabst. With nonstop music all night, cold tallboys, and 1:00 a.m. breakfast buffets following sun-soaked days of rivers, food, and more beers, some nights' afterpartying required more energy than was available. When the whole day is a party, after-hours happily became an excuse for a room full of people to crack open a 30-pack of Hamm's and watch women's Olympic gymnastics until 4:00 a.m.

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Three straight days of party takes a lot of energy, but the drain is rewarding in the sense that you feel you've really accomplished something even though you haven't. Until the bitter end, I hope to find myself standing in a Missoula river every summer.

Want The Stranger to extol the joys of the red state of your choice? E-mail the date, place, time, and party details to

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