Folk Musician Chris Bathgate Plays at the UM FLAT


It has been a while since I have explained the story of how and where I live. The UM FLAT, an acronym for the University of Montana Forum for Living with Appropriate Technology, has been my home and workplace since last year.

There are five of us living here, and six UM interns work with us. The director of the Environmental Studies program at the U serves as our faculty adviser. Our mission, in part, is to serve the Missoula community as a resource for living appropriately in accordance with the effects of global climate change.

We have chickens, a large garden, a rain catchment system, a root cellar, and a real time energy use monitoring system to keep our energy use in line. Additionally, we hold events and workshops for the benefit of students and the larger Missoula community.

Last year, one of the main projects we worked on at the FLAT  was finishing the conversion of an old garage on the property into a super insulated workshop space. The west wall of the garage has been insulated with straw bales and covered with a plaster that we made from clay and soil we dug up ourselves.

Because this plaster substance is called “cob,” our current nick-name for the space is — get ready — the Cob Castle. This week marks the final pouring of the cement floor in the Cob Castle! This means we can start hosting a variety of events at the FLAT, ranging from Yoga workshops to live music.

Just last Monday, my band The Trees had the privilege of opening for Michigander folk musician Chris Bathgate and his band in the Cob Castle. I  must say, I’m still giddy from the show.

In my opinion, Chris sounds like a mixture of Sufjan Stephens, Andrew Bird, and Glen Hansard of Once fame, but with a sound all of his own. He plays the looping pedal as an instrument in its own category, making his one guitar sound like six, all playing different harmonies contributing to the song as a whole.

He is accompanied by another guitarist, a fiddler, bass and drums, and for the cherry on top of the awesome cake, they’re touring the U.S. in a van that’s powered on vegetable oil. When I’m a crusty old man, I can guarantee I’ll still be bragging to my grand kids about how once, back in college, my band got to open for Chris Bathgate. Then they’ll look up to me, eyes wide and glistening, and they’ll say:

“Grandpa, you forgot to put your teeth in again. You’re seriously grossing me out.”

Well, I can carry the memory with me at least. That and the vinyl copy of his latest album, Salt Year,  that he left at the FLAT as a way of saying thank you.

I can’t wait until our workshop space is fully functional so that we can host more events like the Bathgate show. If you know of any local or touring musicians that need a place to play a show and a free place to sleep on their way to Seattle, please let me know.

Thanks for reading, be good to each other.

Listen to Chris Bathgate’s song “Everything”.


Like this blog post by Clay Springmeyer? Read more about life at the UM FLAT in his other posts: Playing in a Missoula Band Called the Trees,  Thomas the TarantulaPower Shift, and Zootown Nightlife.

See the entire “A Day in a UM Life” archive.


A little about Clay: He escapes the city as often as possible to go on random outdoor excursions. He enjoys standing in the middle of bridges for extended periods of time. He loves reading. He loves dogs. He also loves making music, dancing, potlucks, pretending to be a zombie on Halloween, gardening, running on trails, cooking with garlic, copious amount of hot sauce, falling leaves in autumn, and drinking black coffee. He also loves writing, and feels fortunate to offer his perspective as a college student to the Make it Missoula collective.