3rd Annual Beltstock Showcased Both Local And National Talent


September 6, 2023

The Belt Performing Arts Center held its 3rd Annual “Beltstock” concert over the past weekend. The family friendly concert ran from 4 to 10 PM and featured three highly entertaining musical acts. The event is a fundraiser for the Belt Performing Arts Center. I attended with my wife, daughter, and one of my daughter’s friends and would heartily recommend adding the 4th annual Beltstock to your plans for next summer.

Casey Dawson, who is the treasurer for the Belt Theater Board, spoke with me about the event and the theater. “This is our main fundraiser for the Belt Theater. Three years ago, we decided we needed to do something to keep the building alive. We had a major renovation done on the building, and we needed something to be able to upkeep it. So we put this together three years ago. We’re just trying to grow it and see where it goes.” The event itself has grown in popularity every year. “Last year, we probably doubled what we had the first year, and this year we’re hoping to break the 1000 people mark. I don’t know if we’ll do it, but we’ll see.”

The acts for Beltstock were a product of the Performing Art’s Center’s experience with putting on shows over the years. “We go to a consortium and find different acts from all over the country that we want to come perform. Depending on what they are, we get them to come here to our little theater. It’s been successful.” That consortium isn’t just where they found the acts for Beltstock, it is also the source for the regular season of shows featured at the theater.

The three acts were a mix of local talent and traveling acts. The show opened with “Up in the Air Band,” a three piece rock band from Great Falls. Their act consisted mostly of well known favorite classic rock covers, with several rewrites of popular songs. In particular, my family enjoyed their rock renditions of “Runaround Sue” and “Do You Love Me.” Guitarist, Wade Nelson, impressed the crowd with a VanHalen style guitar solo (played on a VanHalen replica guitar), before launching into their closing number.

Poppa Bear Norton, a two piece self described “Daredevil Country” act from Minnesota, followed and demonstrated why they were awarded the “Songwriter of the Year” and “Maverick” awards by the Midwest Country Music Association. My wife remarked that their stage show was one of the best concerts she has seen, and I have to agree that the pair’s stage show was terrific. The duo’s stage presence; banter with each other and the audience; funny lyrics about fishing, trucks, and other redneck topics; the occasional heartfelt ballad about small town life, blue collar life, or lost love; and musical talent made them more than worth the price of admission. The term “daredevil country” refers to their practice of writing songs and performing them live with little to no practice or refining, sometimes within days of finishing the composition. Two of their albums, along with several EPs, are available on Apple Music. Their newest release is not yet available on streaming services.

The headliner for Beltstock, She Will Rock You featuring Stephanie Hodgdon, closed out the evening with a polished show. The show was a sort of high octane love letter to rock and roll favorites. The tributes in the show included songs from Queen, the Beatles, Pat Benetar, Stevie Nicks, Blondie, Led Zeppelin, and many others. Hodgdon’s powerful vocals and energy rounded out the event perfectly and got a large swatch of the crowd on their feet to dance along with their favorite tunes from years past. It was easy to see why She Will Rock You has earned acclaim as one of the most highly sought after stage shows in the country.

In terms of production values and amenities, Beltstock was excellent. The stage, lights, and sound were excellent. The event was held in the Belt Rodeo Arena, which provided ample space for concertgoers with portable chairs to sit and watch along with bleachers. The sound quality was great from every vantage point I visited at the show. There was also a billboard sized Jumbotron next to the stage, where photos from the bands were shown throughout the event. It added a bit of color and interesting visuals. After the sun went down, the effect was particularly cool. Food options were quite good and varied. My family visited the various food trucks and sampled a little bit of everything with relish.

The proceeds from the show go to support the Belt Theater, which hosts 6 to 8 musical acts in their regular season every year. That averages to about one show a month. The theater also puts on local productions. Casey spoke about the renovated theater and its shows: “We’ve brought in acts from different countries to come here and play. It’s a unique, very small, intimate setting.” One for the theater’s draws is their 1916 Steinway Piano. “There are some artists that have called us specifically because they want to perform in Belt to play that piano.” The theater seats 116 patrons and is a vintage Montana theater venue. One of Beltstock’s performers described the venue as being the perfect mix of vintage venue that has been renovated with modern comforts.

The event always lands on the weekend before Labor Day, so mark your calendars for next year’s show. More information on the Belt Theater’s show schedule can be found on the Belt Performing Arts Center website or Facebook page.


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