The Anchorage music scene has evolved considerably since the early 1990s, when local bars and clubs offered up mostly lounge singers and cover bands to bleary-eyed patrons in smoky rooms.
Local, original music almost didn’t exist — or if it did, it was hard to find. Bars and other potential venues seemed hesitant to book anything aside from cover bands, which were reliably well-received at the time.
Theo Spitler was barely of age when he formed the band Freedom 49 and set out to find venues in which to showcase his brand of blues, rock, punk and rap.
“Original music in Anchorage bars was basically unheard of at that time,” says Spitler. “There was virtually no alternative scene, and local artists weren’t accepted like they are today.”
Undeterred, Spitler and his bandmates rented a warehouse at Ship Creek, which functioned as a studio and an after-hours club. Soon they began to attract a loyal fan base.
“I saw his band and it was the first time I realized the power that a local band could have in small basement house party over me and everyone else in the room,” recalled Kurt Bunde of the production company AK Soul. “In essence, it was probably the first seed planted of what would grow to become AK Soul some seven years later.”
Spitler now fronts the Los Angeles-based Lost Marauders and has kept in close touch with AK Soul and the Alaska music scene throughout the years. While noted for catchy, blues-inspired hooks and soulful live performances, the band’s influences read like a ’90s high school mixtape: Fugazi, Metallica, Faith No More, Soundgarden, perhaps with a bit of early Offpsring thrown in.
Spitler, in particular, has a knack for improvisation and freestyling, which guarantees that no two performances are the same.
It’s the live shows that Spitler enjoys most. He’s passionate about “making music for the love of making music” and is thankful to be an independent artist.
“There’s a freedom in it. No pressure to 'make it,’ ” he said, having gotten burned out in the early years of trying to get his big break in Los Angeles. At this point, he saidm he’s not even comfortable charging for his music. But “we’ve got to keep the lights on,” he conceded.
To that end, Lost Marauders just finished mixing its latest independent release, an EP titled “POWER,” which will be for sale at the Alaska shows.
Spitler’s enthusiasm for the homecoming was palpable. “There’s nothing like playing for family and friends,” he said. “It makes everything sweeter. None of us could have predicted where we would end up. We’re ready to blow the roof off.”
Among Spitler’s friends is 36 Crazyfists frontman Brock Lindow, who credited Spitler with being a “big brother” that he and other musicians looked up to during their formative years. Lindow and 36 Crazyfists went on to achieve commercial success, and Lindow said that wouldn’t have happened if not for Spitler helping to set the stage for a thriving local music scene.
Lindow and other mainstays of Anchorage music — Ryan Brownell of Delmag, Aaron Wills and Michael Steward of Kallahan and Dave Vajdos of Freedom 49 — will be opening for Lost Marauders, performing as Elegy.
As a reunion of sorts, the shows offer Alaskans a chance to reminisce about the infancy of the Anchorage music scene and party like it’s 1991.
By Rachel Kenshalo
Daily News correspondent