Play Magazine takes a look back at some of 2012's highlights

Matt Sullivan
Rock and blues musician Gary Sloan.
Marc Lester
Nicolas Cage exits a building on 3rd Avenue downtown after the filming of a scene of "The Frozen Ground."
Marc Lester
The surf and turf from Maxine's Fireweed Bistro includes prime sirloin topped with spicy crab salas and a soy-maple glaze.
Marc Lester
The Whipsaws performed at a Bear Tooth Theatre's First Tap party on Thursday, November 1, 2012, in support of their new self-titled album.
Marc Lester

Friday marks the end of the 12th Baktun on the Mayan long-count calendar. In Gregorian calendar terms, it's the end of a 394-year cycle. You might have heard some people interpret this as meaning the end is nigh. Not us --- Play Magazine is ready to party like it's Baktun 13.

But for the purposes of this year-in-review, we're going to stick to the Gregorian calendar. While 2012 might have 10 more days before becoming history, we've decided to take a look back on some of our favorite local music, food, trends and events of the past 356 days. 

Hollywood, Alaska

Some Alaskans got the chance to see themselves on the big screen, sharing screen time with Drew Barrymore, Ted Danson and John Krasinski, when "Big Miracle" opened in February. The film, the first major motion picture to take advantage of the tax incentives intended to attract filmmakers to Alaska, is based on the 1988 effort to rescue three California gray whales trapped in ice near Barrow.

The movie received mostly positive reviews -- 74 percent on the Rotten Tomatoes website's tomatometer. Since then, Nicolas Cage and John Cusack have visited the state to shoot "Frozen Ground," while we assume every Alaskan will have appeared in at least one reality TV series by the end of 2013.

New tunes

This year was chock-full of CD release shows, with local musicians like Historian, The Modern Savage, Michael Howard, Jared Woods, Seth Boyer, Super Saturated Sugar Strings and Meg Mackey all releasing new albums.

Jazz saxophonist Rick Zelinsky released two CDs, while the Whipsaws finally made their long-delayed self-titled record available. Front man Evan Phillips even found time to put out a solo album and a collaboration with local cellist Molly McDermott called Evan & Molly. Then there was "Cold and Loud," the Kickstarter-funded, dual-disc compilation of nearly 30 Alaska bands.

But one of the most interesting -- and weirdest -- local releases of the year was Gary Sloan and Clone's "Harmonitalk." Sloan made a name for himself as an Alaska bluesman before relocating to Arkansas, but in 1980, he and a group of musicians recorded this piece of outsider electronic music. British label Finders Keepers Records, which specializes in the "obscure and esoteric," came calling with plans to reissue the album this year.

From a record review in Dusted Magazine: "If a weirder album than 'Harmonitalk' comes out this year, then whatever it is will go down in history as one of the most bonkers records ever." 

Just dance

While the local electronic music scene is nothing new, it's maybe bigger than ever. Dubstep has jumped from the small, makeshift venues and stretched its legs in places like the Dena'ina Center, which will host this Friday's At World's End party, with headliners from across the country like Chris the Junglist and Down Jones playing drum and bass, house, trance and jungle.

Then there are the ongoing, regularly packed local parties, like Alex the Lion's Mobile Disko or Clint Sample's offshoot, Dead Disko, which is going down Saturday at the Anchor Pub. 

Getting noticed

A couple national acts got Outside attention for making trips to Alaska, though each came about with very different sets of circumstances.

First was the Walmart promotion that sent Pitbull to Kodiak. The Miami rapper was doing a marketing campaign with the retail giant in which he would make an appearance at the Walmart store that received the most "likes" on Facebook. Boston Phoenix writer David Thorpe then orchestrated an online campaign "to exile Pitbull to the Walmart on Kodiak Island, an icy, bear-infested locale just south of Alaska."

It worked, and both Pitbull and Thorpe visited Kodiak in July. Now the Walmart in Kodiak has over 47,000 "likes" on Facebook, more than three times the island's population.

Our other brush with publicity gimmickry came when The Melvins booked their Guinness World Record-setting tour that hit all 50 states and the District of Columbia in 51 days. That tour kicked off in Anchorage, and it was the heaviest show we can remember attending at Bear Tooth. 

Meals on wheels

The nationwide trend of food trucks has been slowly finding a footing in Anchorage, pushing the Anchorage food vendor scene beyond reindeer sausage. The options range from cupcakes (Kastle's Kreations, Tiers From Heaven) to skewers (Urban Bamboo) to sandwiches (Eat). This season of "The Great Food Truck Race" even featured an Alaska team, Momma's Grizzly Grub from Wasilla.

The new mobile vendors weren't relegated to trucks, either. Kait Reiley attached a custom cooler to her bike so she could pedal around town selling her artisan popsicles. Her PopCycle even made an appearance on the Cooking Channel show "Chuck's Eat the Street." 

New to the neighborhood

There were welcome additions for a more traditional sit-down meal, too. Maxine's Glacier Bistro in Girdwood relocated to Anchorage and became Maxine's Fireweed Bistro; Midtown gained another sophisticated spot when Silk opened with its extensive menu that travels from Thailand to China to Japan to Korea; and downtown added a couple hip new hangouts with the Bubbly Mermaid and Brown Bag Sandwich Co.

But our new favorite sandwich came from an old favorite. When Marty's New York Bagel Deli closed shop early in the year, Spenard eatery Yak and Yeti opened a second location. This one's more of a grab-and-go place than the original Yak and Yeti, and it's tempting to grab one of their shapta sandwiches every day. The baguette full of stir-fried pork is almost too messy to hold, but it's too good to care.


Matt Sullivan