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Club Wrap: Big Sky Comedy Festival opens Oct. 11; Shonen Knife makes Billings debut

October 7, 2016 GMT

Seattle comic Brad Upton has many claims to fame.

Brad Upton

He’s opened for the Smothers Brothers and Joan Rivers and is currently opening shows for Johnny Mathis. Upton also mentored Lukas Seely, the founder of the Big Sky Comedy Festival, more than a decade ago when Seely was just starting out in stand-up comedy in Seattle.

But here’s something not many people know -- Upton was a champion high hurdler in the 1970s for the University of Montana’s track team.

He’s just wrapping his 32nd year as a touring comedian, but Upton still likes coaching hurdlers at Shorecrest High School in Shoreline, Wash. He has also coached at the University of Washington.

“Some people golf or fish, I coach hurdlers,” Upton said.

Upton is among the 28 comics who will be in Billings next week as part of the Big Sky Comedy Festival Oct. 11-15 at four Billings venues.

The first night of the festival, Upton and the other comics will perform in a free show, Rapid Fire Open Mic, at 8 p.m. Tuesday at the High Horse Saloon and Eatery, 3953 Montana Ave. Each comic gets three minutes at the mic.

Upton, who just turned 60, is the oldest comic competing in the Big Sky Comedy Festival. He has nothing left to prove in his career, but thought here’s a chance to hang out with a bunch of comedians for a week.

“I canceled a very lucrative cruise ship week to do this,” Upton said.

For the whole schedule, go to bigskycomedy.com.

Shonen Knife at the Pub Station

Japanese pop punk band, Shonen Knife, will makes its Billings debut on Wednesday, Oct. 12, at the Pub Station. Doors open at 7 and the 21 and over show starts at 8 p.m.

Naoka, who fronts the all-girl trio, said she founded the band in 1981, influenced by punk rockers the Ramones, and the Beatles. Then, in 1991, they got their first big tour, opening for Nirvana.

“At the London show, Dave Grohl helped us set up our drum kit because it was so hard to screw together,” Naoka said in a phone interview with The Billings Gazette. “Kurt (Cobain) asked me to show him the chords for ‘Twist Barbie’ so they could play it at a secret club show. I sat down to teach him. He learned very quickly.”

Naoka said she once had a piano teacher who was so mean, Naoka was scared of her so she quit going to lessons after three years and picked up guitar.

“My guitar playing was so poor, I couldn’t play covers so I wrote my own songs.”

She named the band for a brand of a pencil sharpener knife and they released their first album, “Burning Farm” in 1983 with “Twist Barbie” as the lead single.