Mattox Farm lights up live music scene

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  • A packed house at the Panida Theater enjoys a concert by The Dustbowl Revival with Shakewell - one of many recent shows presented by Mattox Farm Productions. (Courtesy photo)

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    (Courtesy photo) The view from the stage at a Mattox Farm Productions concert.

  • A packed house at the Panida Theater enjoys a concert by The Dustbowl Revival with Shakewell - one of many recent shows presented by Mattox Farm Productions. (Courtesy photo)

  • 1

    (Courtesy photo) The view from the stage at a Mattox Farm Productions concert.

SANDPOINT — There’s a new concert promotion company in town and, based on a recent string of highly successful shows, it’s rockin’ it here.

Robb and Natasha Talbott, the folks behind Mattox Farm Productions, come by their passion for sharing great music honestly. It goes back to the beginning of their time as a couple when, instead of having a traditional wedding, they hosted a music festival.

“We love finding new groups that end up being your ‘favorite new band,’” Robb Talbott said.

Starting last April, the promoters began bringing what they call “quality Americana” music to the stage of the Panida Theater. Since then, they’ve presented half a dozen shows and about twice as many bands. The most recent concert took place on Jan. 16, when the Nashville-based duo, Smooth Hound Smith, headlined in a show that saw local trio Browne Salmon Truck open the evening of music.

Next up, scheduled for this Wednesday, Jan. 24, will be the five-piece band Fruition.

“They’re heading out to Missoula,” said Talbott, explaining that Mattox Farm Productions manages to book these up-and-coming acts because they are driving through town anyway and welcome the chance to fill the calendar with a weeknight gig on the way to a weekend show in a larger city.

“They’re coming from — or going to — places like Salt Lake City, Seattle, Portland and Missoula,” he said. “They want to play and they want to stay someplace nice – instead of sleeping in the van.”

Sandpoint more than fills that bill, according to the promoter. By partnering with the Best Western Edgewater Resort, the Talbotts arrange for both lodging for the bands and discount room rates for ticketholders to the shows. Most times, the groups arrive at night and settle into their rooms. When they wake up next morning, Lake Pend Oreille and its jeweled crown of mountain ranges is the scene that greets the traveling musicians.

The couple likes hearing the bands talk favorably about their new North Idaho home — a conversation that continues when they all meet up at the Panida Theater to take a first look at the venue.

“They get there, look around the theater and their jaws just drop,” said Talbott. “Between the venue being as beautiful as it is and the town being what it is, that’s all a big help.”

On top of the scenic locale and the historic theater, another selling point Mattox Farm Productions uses with booking agents and artists is that Sandpoint audiences are among the warmest to be found anywhere.

“All of the bands have remarked about that,” Talbott said. “The people are attentive, interactive and appreciative.

“You’re not going to make a whole lot of money coming into town and playing a 500-seat venue,” he added, “but you’re going to have a whole lot of fun — and that’s worth it.”

In just 10 months, the couple has gained a reputation for presenting great music. Beyond that, the Mattox Farm name has en equally strong cache of audience trust — they might not have heard of the band, but past experience tells them the show will be worth seeing. That relationship also has built a level of confidence from a marketing standpoint, as shown by the graphics used for posters promoting every show.

Instead of a band photo and a blurb describing the artists, there are striking graphic images, a date, time and location. Somehow, this pure approach to promotion has found its audience in Sandpoint.

“You can see from across the street what’s a Mattox Farm poster, because they’re so unique,” Talbott said, adding that the graphics are supplied by local designer, Year Round Co. “They’re works of art.”

Talbott advises to watch for the posters for a couple of reasons — they’re flat cool, for one, and some of the acts become available on a moment’s notice and get booked accordingly.

“It’s a good idea to keep an eye out, because we get great shows, but it’s on a quick turnaround,” he said.

The couple moved from the family farm at the foot of the Appalachian Mountains to Sandpoint in 2014. Their first sojourn into concert promotion happened in 2016, with last year marking the point when Mattox Farm Productions got traction. So far, 2018 is shaping up as a good year for live music, with two shows scheduled in the first month alone. Because the Panida was already booked on the date Fruition was available, the concert this Wednesday will happen at the Heartwood Center.

“This is going to be our first show there,” Talbott said, noting that the smaller venue presents opportunities of its own. “Fruition has headlined the Red Rocks Amphitheater; they’ve played the Telluride Bluegrass Festival — to see a band like this in the 200-seat Heartwood Center is kind of dreamy.”

One of the hallmarks of a Mattox Farm concert is the family friendly vibe of the event. To encourage this all-ages connection, the shows offer children’s ticket pricing to make things affordable for families.

“There’s not much better about music than watching a little person dancing with pure joy,” said Talbott. “When you see that, it really fills your soul.

“Come to one of our shows and you’ll see me and my wife dancin’ up front most of the time, too,” he went on.

It’s an intangible, for sure, but one of the things that might account for the couple’s early success at promoting these concerts is their obvious love of Sandpoint and its arts community — with historic places such as the Panida and the Heartwood included. You won’t find these two flaunting a “we’re here — now this place can be something” attitude. It’s more like, “thanks for letting us play.”

“The key for us was not to come into this thing and think we were going to kill it in the first few shows,” Talbott said. “We realize we’re bringing in music that people haven’t heard of and we’re building our own name.

“We’re excited and honored, because the music community here is so good,” he added. “To feel like we’re a positive part of that music scene is humbling.”

The Jan. 24 Fruition concert will start at 7 p.m. in the Heartwood Center, 615 Oak St., in Sandpoint. Tickets are $20 adults, $15 for those 18 and under, available at Eichardt’s Pub, Evans Brothers Coffee Roasters and online at:

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