For the eighth straight year musicians gathered in Sitka in the last weekend of July to spend a summer weekend singing, strumming, rapping, and otherwise music-making for the residents of one of Alaska’s most picturesque coastal communities. While organizer Nicholas Galanin has always made it point build line-ups for Homeskillet Fest that combine some of the best musicians Southeast Alaska with artists from all over the country, he has also built a special relationship with Seattle’s cutting-edge music scene.
The last time I attended Homeskillet was 2008 and the headlining hip-hop artist was the now international superstar Macklemore. Back then Mac occupied the highest rung of “Northwest Hip-hop,” having headlined many of Seattle’s best-known venues and boasting a large regional fan-base. This year’s hip-hop/electro headliner, Kingdom Crumbs, occupies a nearly identical place in today’s Seattle/NW hip-hop hierarchy. They were joined at Homeskillet by a conglomerate of fellow Seattleites including electro/hip-hop producer and songwriter OC Notes, dance rock band Iska Dhaaf and hip-hop/pop songstress Katie Kate. Other “lower 48ers” included Michigan-based indie rocker Breathe Owl Breathe and Los Angeles folk songstress Hanna Leess.
While the visiting headliners polished and professional showmanship brought down the house at the end of both evenings of music, it was abundantly clear that the local musicians bring their very best to Homeskillet. Highlights of Alaskan’s sets included an energetic performance from Anchorage emcee Adamn, a short folk set by Galanin (who performs under the name Silver Jackson) and a show-stopping collection of songs by Juneau folk duo The Wool Pullers.
This year both nights of the festival were held at the Alaska Brotherhood Hall. With walls covered with framed photos of past and present members of the Sitka Tribe and a stage backdropped by a gorgeous mural of Mt. Edgecumbe, the hall’s aesthetics seemed to fuse the variety of musical genres with the soul and spirit of the extraordinary place we were gathered.
I took some additional photos on the trip, which can be viewed here
Zach “Rockwell” Powers is a hip-hop musician and freelance blogger from Anchorage now residing in Tacoma, WA. His latest single is titled "Two Sides."