By John Christensen
From local jammers to gospel music, the second weekend of the 31st Annual Anchorage Folk Festival (AFF) was jam-packed with fun, laughs, warmth and shared love of all sorts of music. But the fun didn’t just stop in between weekend one and weekend two. Another sub-freezing week in the Anchorage Bowl helped many more people find their way indoors across town. During the week prior local restaurants, bars, and coffee shops opened their doors to many of the Folk Festival’s musicians, thus making for another vibrant Folk Week. From the AKIMI (Alaska Independent Musicians’ Initiative) Showcase on Tuesday night in Spenard, to The AllGood Family Band at Jitters, and countless others, music-lovers were not starved for music between weekends of music on the mainstage. But oh what a weekend Weekend 2 turned out to be.
Thursday night started music back on the main stage. The night started out with the Guido’s Pizza Paddleboat Jam with tunes that warmed the crowd right up, getting everyone singing by the end of the set. The rest of the night kept the energy going, highlighted by a special one-time only performance of a local collection of musicians, honoring the life of memory of friend and local musician Sherri Hadley, who passed away last year. Filling in for another group who was not able to make it to the stage for their slot, a handful of local musicians came together, practiced backstage and honored the life of one of Alaska’s best old-time fiddle players
This second weekend of the Folk Festival took the audience on a ride. At anytime one could close their eyes and imagine they were in Ireland, Tibet, New York, Texas, or Louisiana. Audiences were given a tour of the world’s music without ever having to deal with the TSA, and really, what more could one ask for?
As if that wasn’t enough to satiate the masses, as the first weekend was entranced by the playing of guest musicians Jack Broadbent and Jontavious Willis, the second weekend was graced with not one, but two performances by the self-proclaimed cajun country swamp-pop and rock of Feufollet. Keeping with the theme of taking the audience on a journey, their music transported us from the bayou of SW Louisiana to Texas and back. Though a good portion of the audience may not have been able to translate the French-based creole lyrics of much of the set, they seemed not to care, many putting the lessons of Saturday’s creole dance workshop into good use, in the wings of ‘The Wendy’.
The Anchorage Folk Festival was as it time and time again, a perfect blend of local and national acts. From kids as young as 4 playing Suzuki violin, to a small handful of musicians who have played in every Anchorage Folk Festival there has ever been. Families, friends, couples, church groups, school (ukulele) orchestras, and even a local acting troupe graced the main stage this year. One musician even framed their trip to come see family in Alaska around the Folk Festival so that he could be with us for another Folk Festival. Folks danced in the hallways and jammed in the lobby (and if the rumors are true, a couple of the local bars and coffee shops around town). In the dead of winter, Anchorage came alive with the sounds of Folk Festival, and though the sounds of this year’s festival have quieted, Alaska’s local musicians are just warming up. Keep your dancing shoes on, your ears piqued and listening, and your eyes on this and other local publications so you don’t miss out on whatever may happen next.