By Jenny Neyman
On the Kenai Peninsula, the soundtrack of summer involves many familiar tracks — the whine of mosquitoes, the whirr and plunk of a fishing lure hitting the water, the nylon zip of a tent flap or the thrum of an RV generator.
Starting the first weekend in June, the airwaves carry a new accompaniment to the throbbing of increased traffic and rattling of fishing gear — live music.
It’s summer music festival season on the Kenai Peninsula, and this year promises high notes for devotees of just about any style of music, from a return of Kenai’s Old Believers, to the Grateful Dead’s Bill Kreutzmann and a performance of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9.
The busy summer music festival schedule on the Kenai Peninsula is indicative of what’s going on in music in general in the state, said Eric Fischer, a local musician and festival organizer.
“All of Alaska is trying to break out in the music scene right now. There are a lot of artists here. I don’t know if it’s due to the fact of our economy being down or what, but you’re seeing it everywhere — painters are doing more paintings, and a lot of bands are forming recently. Music is a huge part of everybody’s daily lives.”
Fischer said the Kenai Peninsula’s music scene has been stagnant recently, with performance venues closing down and bands hanging it up. Summertime marks a resurgence of musicians getting out to play and fans coming out to listen.
“In the winter you don’t really see that music scene. They go to the bars or hibernate during the winter. With summer festivals you can come out for the weekend and let loose before going back to work the rest of the week. Everybody likes to come out and see the bands,” Fischer said.
As a musician, playing with the band Funny River Bluegrass Group, the Alaska summer music festival scene keeps him hopping, playing at a new location just about every weekend.
“Being able to get out and see all of Alaska. In the summer there’s a music festival in just about every city at some point,” he said.
The first festival of the season was Deucefest, held at Nikiski Lighthouse Church the first weekend in June. Grammy-nominated, multiple Dove Award-winning DecembeRadio was the headliner with a three-day slate of other performers from around the peninsula and the state.
This marked the third year of Deucefest, a memorial festival tending to metal and punk music, held in honor of area musician Jacob “Deuce” Larson, who drowned in the Susitna River at the Moose Dropping Festival in Talkeetna in 2009. He was 22.
The Moose Dropping Festival has since been canceled, but Deuce’s impact on his friends’ lives through music is still going strong. Not only is there Deucefest, Fischer and his friends created the Funny River Bluegrass Festival in Deuce’s memory.
“Every musician in Alaska was a friend of our friend Jacob ‘Deuce’ Larson. A bunch of musicians basically come together once a year from all over Alaska to put this on,” Fischer said.
The event is held on a plot of Fischer’s family’s land 18 miles out Funny River Road. It’s a limited-entry festival, with only 500 tickets sold. All the money raised goes to the musicians, so organizers are able to attract big-name Alaska acts, mostly in a folk, bluegrass acoustic style.
“Five of us were really good friends with him and we plan this together. We talk everything out before we make a decision so it’s done right. He played acoustic guitar and liked folk music, for the most part faster folk music,” Fischer said. “Me and Deuce used to come out there (to Funny River) at the end of a gravel road and we always thought it was a great spot for music.”
Headlines for the three-day festival July 8 to 10 include Soldotna’s Luthor, the Ocean, a dance/blues/rock band on July 8, the acoustic/alternative/folk/rock Seaside Farmers, from Homer, on July 9, and Kenai’s Mabrey Brothers Band on July 10.
Last weekend was KDLL public radio’s Rockin’ the River concert, held in conjunction with the Kenai Watershed Forum’s Kenai River Festival at Soldotna Creek Park. Variety is the hallmark of Rockin’ the River, with acts ranging from acoustic to rock, folk, funk, big-band brass and even oom-pah band.
That’s the fun part of music festivals for Owen Gaard and Johanna Huhta, of Kenai — seeing and hearing something new every day. They attend several music festivals and community events in the summer. It seems like there’s always something to take their 13-month-old daughter, Adella Huhtagaard, to whenever Gaard is home from his job on the North Slope.
“Festivals are good to meet people and listen to music. It’s fun,” Huhta said.
“There’s a lot of good things for Adella to do, too. It’s fun getting out and seeing people that you don’t see too often. You always know you’re going to run into people you know, and you meet new ones,” Gaard said.
With bands changing every hour at the Rockin’ the River festival, it gave listeners a chance to be exposed to several different groups. On Sunday, the Army Alaska “Chill Factor” Show Band was Huhta and Gaard’s favorite, but their overall top performer of the weekend was “Dirty Dan” Pascucci, with the Kenai Watershed Forum, and his science songs for kids.
“Dirty Dan is definitely our favorite,” Gaard said.
“You see a lot of different bands, having them all together like that. It may not be something you would ordinarily go to see,” Huhta said. “The ones that we’ve seen have all been really good. It definitely is good-quality music.”
For anyone who missed these first two opportunities to soak up the sounds of summer — even if there may not always be a sunshine accompaniment — there are plenty more opportunities in the months ahead. A brand-new festival at the Ninilchik Fairgrounds the first weekend in August is already creating an audible buzz, with headliners including the Grateful Dead’s Bill Kreutzmann and the 7 Walkers, reggae artist Clinton Fearon, the rocking bluegrass of Great American Taxi and Seattle’s rock funk band Flowmotion. The event is Salmonstock, offered by the Renewable Resources Foundation, an opponent of Pebble Mine, as a way to raise awareness of threats to Alaska’s salmon streams.
Following is a listing of summer music festivals planned on the Kenai Peninsula this year. Information is subject to change, so be sure to check in with festival organizers as summer progresses.
Seldovia Summer Solstice Music Festival
Thursday to Sunday, June 16 to 19, in Seldovia
The 12th annual Seldovia festival kicks off this weekend, with four days of musical performances, workshops, open mic opportunities and jam sessions, starting with a jam session on the Alaska Marine Highway ferry Tustumena leaving Homer for Seldovia on Thursday and ending with a gospel jam on Sunday. In between is a robust schedule of free events, art opportunities, community happenings and musical performances, including headliners Moira Smiley and VOCO, from Los Angeles, and Jaime Michaels, from Santa Fe, N.M.
Admission: $39 for a festival pass
Music: Friday, June 17 — 7 p.m. Brian Slover: 7:30 p.m. Paul Thompson; 8 p.m. Don and Karen McNatt; 8:30 p.m. Diamonds in the Rough; 9 p.m. Dan McElrath; 9:45 p.m. Moira Smiley and VOCO; 10:35 p.m. Jaime Michaels; 11:15 p.m. Billy Goat Kirby Corwin, Jen Dickson, Curtis Dickson, Chris Lillo and Carl Kitrell. Saturday, June 18 — 7 p.m. Mt. Echo with Steve Hinds and Mike Childers; 7:30 p.m. Bianca De Leon; 8 p.m. Betsy Scott; 8:30 p.m. Acoustic Banana with Lisa Jaimeson, Mare Jaimeson, Kevin Cassity, Matt Crimp and Peter Crimp; 9 p.m. Robin Hopper; 9:45 p.m. Jaime Michaels; 10:35 p.m. Moira Smiley and VOCO; 11:05 p.m. Curtis is This/Dance, with Rob Rurka, Jen and Curtis Dickson, Tracy Philpot, Mark Jaynes and Ruth Sensenig. Sunday, June 19 — 2 p.m. gospel jam.
More information: http://www.seldoviamusicfestival.wordpress.com
Summer Solstice Music Festival
3:45 p.m. to midnight, Tuesday, June 21 at the Diamond M Ranch, Mile 16.5 Kalifornsky Beach Road, Kenai
Diamond M Ranch has been making the most of the longest day of summer for nine years now. This year’s music festival is also meant to raise awareness of the nonprofit Matti’s Farm organization, which seeks in enrich kids’ lives by exposing them to farm life.
Admission: Free, but donations to Matti’s Farm will be happily accepted
Activities: Vendor and food booths; beer and wine garden for 21 and over; free barbecue; tents in case of inclement weather; door prizes; raffle tickets sold to benefit Matti’s Farm; and activities for kids, including face painting, ring toss, sawdust coin search, nail pounding, pony riding, a petting farm and bounce toys from Jumpin’ Junction.
Music: 3:45 p.m. Diamonds in the Rough; 4 p.m. Rocking G; 5:35 p.m. Forget-Me-Nots; 6:30 p.m. Contra Dance; 7:40 p.m. James Durt; 8:25 p.m. Jim Scott; 9:20 p.m. Justin Boot; 10:25 p.m. Funny River Backwoods Group; 11:20 p.m. Free Beer Band
More information: Call 283-9330 or visit http://www.diamondmranch.com.
Friday, Saturday and Sunday, June 24, 25 and 26 at Baker’s Clam Shell Lodge, Clam Gulch
The sixth annual Clam Jam is held as a tribute to Clam Shell Lodge owner Kelly Guy Baker, who died in a motor vehicle accident May 10, 2011. It features free camping, and vendors are welcome. The lodge offers lodging and a restaurant.
Ages: Music is held in the bar.
Admission: $5 cover charge June 24, $10 cover charge June 25 and June 26.
Music: June 24 — 6 p.m. open mic; 7 p.m. Men with Guns; 8:30 p.m. Dan Lesperance; 10 p.m. Wishbone Creek. June 25 — 2 p.m. open mic with Bob, 3 p.m. Holly Wiley; 4 p.m. Fighting Silence; 5 p.m. Dan Lesperance; 7 p.m. Crew; 8:30 p.m. AK Free Fuel; 10 p.m. 907. June 26 — 2 p.m. open mic with Dave; 3 p.m. Unknown Connection; 4 p.m. Mabrey Brothers; 6 p.m. Smith Family band; 8 p.m. Credo; 10 p.m. Troubadour North
More information: Call 262-4211
Funny River Bluegrass Festival
Friday, Saturday, Sunday, July 8, 9 and 10 at Mile 16.5 Funny River
Road, right on Lake Road, follow the signs to the concert grounds near Brown’s Lake
Admission: Tickets are $30, sold in advance at the Funny River General Store. Only 500 tickets will be sold.
The second annual Funny River Bluegrass Festival is a peaceful, family friendly festival held in honor of Jacob “Deuce” Larson. Dogs are allowed with responsible owners. Glass is not allowed. Camping grounds are available.
Music: July 8 — 3 p.m. Andy Plastino; 4 p.m. Jimmy Jazz and Cherish Faith; 4:30 p.m. Squatters Temple; 5 p.m. Dan Pascucci; 5:30 p.m. Benchmark; 6 p.m. Ultraluscious; 7 p.m. Reed Lakes; 8 p.m. The Seth Freeman Band; 9 p.m. Rogues and Wenches; 10 p.m. Men With Guns; 11 p.m. Luthor, the Ocean; additional performance by Church of Flaming Funk. July 9 — 10 a.m. Bob Parsons, 11 a.m. Diana Z; noon The Wrick Luv Foundation; 1 p.m. Laren Eggleston; 2 p.m. Sourdough Biscuits; 3 p.m. Reverend Poor Child; 4 p.m. Sarahndipity; 5 p.m. Funny River Backwoods Group; 6 p.m. Saucy Yoda; 6:30 p.m. Mythological Horses; 7 p.m. Not Enough Flannel; 8 p.m. Bootleg Brown; 9 p.m. In the Belfry; 10:30 p.m. Hot Dish; midnight The Seaside Farmers; additional performance by AK Fire Circus. July 10 — 11 a.m. Lisa K; noon Sue Biggs and Jack Will; 1 p.m. Marc Renfrow; 2 p.m. Seth Freeman; 3 p.m. Emma Hill; 4 p.m. Stuck in a Jam; 5 p.m. The Wartime Blues; 6 p.m. Dan Lesperance; 7 p.m. The Mabrey Brothers.
KBBI Concert on the Lawn
1 p.m. Saturday, July 30 to about 9 p.m. Sunday, July 31, at Karen
Hornaday Park in Homer
This is KBBI public radio’s 32nd annual Concert on the Lawn fundraiser, bringing together arts, crafts and food vendors, and musicians from across Alaska.
Ages: All. No pets allowed.
Admission: $20 each day for adults, $10 each day for youth under 18, or free if accompanied by an adult guardian
Music: July 30 — 1 p.m. Rufaro Marimba; 1:45 p.m. Dan “Dirty D” Pascucci; 2:25 p.m. Sally Wills and Dave Gerard; 3:15 p.m. Seaside Farmers; 4:05 p.m. Kevin Worrell; 4:55 p.m. The Barroom Roses; 6 p.m. Nervis Rex; 7:15 p.m. Bare Roots; 8:35 p.m. Milo Matthews Trio. July 31 — 1:10 p.m. Work in Progress; 1:55 p.m. Diana Z; 2:40 p.m. Arlo Hannigan; 3:25 p.m. Carlyle and the Super Saturated Sugar Strings; 4:15 p.m. Bay Rockers; 5:15 p.m. Yellow Cabin; 6:20 p.m. Uplift; 7:45 p.m. Holy Santos Gang.
More information: http://www.kbbi.org/COTL.html
Friday, Aug. 5 to Sunday Aug. 7, at the Ninilchik Fairgrounds
Salmonstock is a weekend of music, fun, fish and art, featuring more than 40 musical groups on two stages. Dozens of local artists and crafters will be represented along with Alaska cuisine and brews. Camping is available, and this is a family friendly event.
Admission:Weekend passes are $80 for adults prior to July 16; $95 for adults in advance or $100 at the gate. Admission is free for kids 12 and under if
accompanied by an adult. Tickets are available online at http://alaskapac.centertix.net/eventperformances.asp?evt=825
Music: A full lineup still is in the works. Confirmed so far are the Grateful Dead’s Bill Kreutzmann and the 7 Walkers, reggae legend Clinton Fearon, Colorado’s upbeat rock/bluegrass favorites Great American Taxi; Seattle’s Flowmotion, Pamuya, Superfreakquency, The Old Believers, The Whipsaws, Ratfish Wranglers, The Dirt Band, Melissa Mitchell, Susan Grace, and Big Fat Buddah.
More information: Visit the Salmonstock page on Facebook
Kenai Peninsula Orchestra Summer Music Festival
Aug. 1 through Aug. 13 on the central Kenai Peninsula and Homer
This year’s KPO Summer Music Festival is a return of classic events highlighting classical music — including the free noontime concert series held at area restaurants and public facilities Monday through Friday Aug. 1 through Aug. 12 on the central Kenai Peninsula and Homer. The Madison String Quartet will perform again this year, at 7:30 p.m. Aug. 5 at Christ Lutheran Church in Soldotna and at 7:30 p.m. Aug. 8 at Faith Lutheran Church in Homer. The Champagne, Chocolate and Chopin à la Tutka music cruise will be from 6 to 10 p.m. Aug. 7 out of Homer. The gala symphony concert, this year featuring Beethoven’s famous “Symphony No. 9,” will be performed at 7:30 p.m. Aug. 12 at the Renee C. Henderson Auditorium at Kenai Central High School, and 7:30 p.m. Aug. 13 at the Mariner Theater at Homer High School.
Admission: Ticket prices vary for different events
More information: http://www.kpoalaska.org
Seward Music and Arts Festival
Friday, Sept. 23, through Sunday, Sept. 25, at the Alaska Railroad/Cruise Ship Terminal Building in Seward
This is the eighth annual end-of-the-season music festival put on by the Seward Arts Council and various other Seward nonprofits. It includes more than 30 artist vendor booths, nine food vendors, a beer and wine garden, a kids area with a root beer garden, a silent auction, a mural-in-a-day project and live entertainment.
Admission: Daily admission ranges from $4 to $7 with weekend passes available. Admission for kids 12 and under is free
Music: A full lineup is still is in the works. Confirmed so far are Woodrow, Hot Dish, Pretty Birds That Kill, Diana Z, JJ Tranquilla, and the Luna Dance Circle bellydancers.
More information: http://www.sewardfestival.com (not up yet but will be soon)