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Resounds: Kirk LeClaire

Kirk LeClaire at the YPR studios
Anna Paige
Kirk LeClaire at the YPR studios

Filmmaker and documentarian Kirk LeClaire grew up in Billings at a pivotal time for music. In 2022, he released two albums contrasting very different musical scenes in Montana: bar bands of the 1970s and early punk, post punk, new wave and hardcore bands.

Released in 2022, Many Moons: Live at the Molly Brown dives into the archives of the Billings, MT bar bands scene from the 1970s, and LeClaire’s second release of 2022, Without Warning: Early Montana Punk, Postpunk, New Wave + Hardcore 1979 - 1991 explores 20 bands from that time.

LeClaire found audio recordings of the Billings-based band Many Moons from a performance in Bozeman in 1974. Many Moons was a touring act of the time, primary gigging in the Northwest. The record features a defining psychedelic rock sound and extended jams and includes covers of classic 70s songs like the Moody Blues’ “Ride My See-Saw” and Van Morrison’s “Moondance.”

In direct response to bar bands playing covers came a new kind of sound. The “do-it-yourself” scene began to take hold, where people began to realize they could release their own music and make their own music scenes, and it spurred a new energy in the Montana music scene.

Without Warning: Early Montana Punk, Postpunk, New Wave + Hardcore 1979 - 1991 captures Montana music through the music of 20 bands such as The Pugs, Just Ducky, Sugar Ruth, Boy Toast, and others. The release includes extensive documentation from this time, essays, newspaper clippings, and more.

LeClaire’s interests in this time was first explored in the 2019 film showcased at the MINT Film Festival, . . . So Good I Can't Take It, which began his exploration of experimental music in Montana starting in the 1970s and carried into the 1990s.

As if two album releases were not enough, in 2022 LeClaire completed a short documentary film Every Hundred Miles (Across America with Robert Frank), featuring a young filmmaker who accompanies master photographer Robert Frank on a three-day road trip across the U.S. from California to New York, shot on a Super 8 camera. The film was an official selection at the 2022 Montana International Film Festival, the San Francisco Documentary Film Festival, and winner of Best Documentary at the Oregon Documentary Film Festival this year.

LeClaire now lives in the San Francisco Bay Area and has taught in the Art Department of California State University East Bay for the past 25 years.

Anna Paige is a Montana-based journalist, poet and educator. She is originally from Wyoming and has lived in Billings for more than a decade, where she co-founded Young Poets, winner of the 2021 Library of Congress Award for Literacy.
Corby Skinner is an independent marketing professional with an enormous capacity for assessing issues and creating positive, effective messages.