Phillips County News - One Nation, Under God

By Mark Hebert

Trial by Fire first act of three at PC Fair Grandstand Concert


Trial by Fire jams in Hinsdale, Mont., during Milk River Days on July 3. Pictured are, l to r; back row: Ben Miller and Kelly McCann. Front row: Chris Pippin, Rachel Sigmundstad and Jory Schipman. Photo by Heidi Pippin.

Trial by Fire will be opening for themselves at the Phillips County Fair?

Technically, yes.

On Saturday, August 5, the headlining act at the 102nd Annual Phillips County Fair will be Preston Brust and Chris Lucas...better known to Country music fans as LOCASH whose summer hit Ring on Every Finger continues to climb Hot Country Songs Chart, hitting number 28 last week. Joining the boys from LOCASH that night at the grandstand concert will be the six-member Two Way Crossing out of Nashville and bookending those two acts on Friday night will be the Hi-Line's own, Trial by Fire.

"We are the first of two opening acts for LOCASH," Jory Schipman, co-founding member of Trail by Fire, said. "Then, after LOCASH, we will play at the Street Dance and we will play until they tell us to stop."

Schipman, of Malta, and Chris Pippin, of Saco, formed the band in 2009, but the effort was put on hold shortly after that.

"We wanted to form a band and we did like two practices and life didn't say 'okay,' and the timing wasn't right," Pippin said. "Then, in 2012, (Jory) called me and said 'those practices felt pretty good, let's try that again.' We started playing at the VFW (in Malta) and playing there every Friday."

The men continued to practice and play at the VFW, though they didn't have a band name yet. The two kicked a few ideas around (Pippin recalls Jory Schipman and the Sailors being one of the particularly bad ideas) before and ultimately decided to start looking for other gigs to play and go all-in on forming the band.

"Jory said 'is this feeling right?' about the band and I said 'it's trial by fire'," Pippin recalled. "Jory said 'that's it, that's the name, Trial by Fire,' and that's what we have been ever since."

Aside from Schipman and Pippin - who both play guitar and Schipman handles the main vocals - the band has seen several different bass players and drummers over the band's five-year history. The rotating members have subsided of late, however, with the additions of drummer Kelly McCann, of Malta, and Rachel Sigmundstad of Glasgow, who started with Trial by Fire as the bass player. Joining the band this summer, if fellow Glasgow resident Ben Miller.

"Kelly joined us about two years ago and he is a phenomenal player," Pippin said. "Then we found Rachel and she took over on bass."

Ben and Rachel took third place at last week's KMMR Talent Show and when Ben recently joined Trial by Fire, it allowed Rachel to move exclusively to backup vocals.

"My backup vocals ended up being more important to the band than my bass playing and we had Ben come in as the bassist," Sigmundstad said.

"I think it is a blast," Miller added. "I really enjoy playing the bass and I really enjoy the music we play."

McCann, who also teaches at Malta High School, said that he couldn't be happier with how much the band has progressed in the past two years and he is excited to see what the future holds.

"We are a diverse band and our ages range from 17 to almost 50," he said. "We are all playing very well and only getting better."

Schipman agrees.

"I think we sound the best we ever have," he said. "We have the right group of people and we have talents at every section on the stage."

Of late, McCann and his bandmates have had the privilege of sharing the stage with one of McCann's sons, Noah, who plays percussion and saxophone.

Trial by Fire is joined by Noah McCann, Kelly's son, playing the saxophone at a recent gig. Photo by Magnolia Davis.

"Seeing the excitement on Kelly's face being able to play with his son is something else," Schipman said.

"I can't even tell you how amazing and surreal that was," McCann added. "From that first squeak and honk out of that saxophone 12-years ago until now, where he is just ripping it, is fantastic."

The gates at the event open at 6 p.m. and Grandstand Pass and Concert tickets are on sale at all the banks in Malta and at the Fair's website at

From Ashes to Ashes to Lynyrd Skynyrd, and from Creedence

Clearwater Revival to Johnny Cash, Trail by Fire covers a ton of tunes and hope to see you at the Phillips County Fair Saturday night concert, Schipman said you won't be disappointed.

"Expect some good, upbeat dance music and a lot of classic rock and country," he said. "Lights, camera, action!"


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