Arts and Entertainment

10 must-see acts at Salmonfest, Alaska’s folk-rock festival on the Kenai

Salmonfest, summer's big music festival on the Kenai with more than 8,000 attendees, will feature over 80 musicians on four separate stages this year.

Here are 10 of the standouts on this weekend's slate of performers. Bigger local and national acts will generally perform on the larger Ocean and River stages, toward the back of the fairgrounds. Newer acts can be found on the Inlet and Headwaters stages. Be sure to visit for a full list of artists and set times.

Friday, Aug. 4

Days N Daze
Headwaters Stage, 3:15-3:50 p.m.
"We mean folkin' business," Days N Daze declares on their Facebook page. The trash-punk meets bluegrass four-piece was awarded best punk act in 2015 by the Houston Press Music Awards. They released their seventh full-length album, "CrustFall," in 2016 and have spent the past year touring both nationally and internationally to spread their "thrashgrass" sound. Days N Daze will also perform on the River Stage from 8:15-9:40 p.m. Sunday.

Super Saturated Sugar Strings
Ocean Stage, 9-10:30 p.m.
Super Saturated Sugar Strings is an ensemble composed of Carlyle Watt, Theresa Anne Watt, Miriah Phelps, Kat Moore, Logan Bean and Kevin Worrel playing guitar, cello, violin, keys, trumpet and bass. They call their sound "alt-folk-rock-gypsy-dance-party." Whatever genre it belongs to, SSSS shows are always a good time. The band most recently released their third full-length album, "All Their Many Miles."

Pimps of Joytime
Ocean Stage, 11 p.m.-12:30 a.m.
Blending together funk, soul, dance and pop, New York City's Pimps of Joytime know how to have fun. Their sound has evolved over time, reflecting the artistic qualities of their neighborhood in Brooklyn. Their most recent album, "Third Wall Chronicles," takes bluesy sounds and blends them together with EDM-inspired beats.

Also performing: Foy Vance, Good Time Travelers, Rabbit Creek Ramblers, Rogues & Wenches and Steve Poltz.

[Meet Ava Earl, the youngest solo performer to hit Salmonfest's main stage]


Saturday, Aug. 5

Horseshoes & Hand Grenades
Ocean Stage, 4:10-5:10 p.m.
Growing up in a riverside town had a big impact on progressive-folk band Horseshoes & Hand Grenades, whose sound has strong roots in old-time and bluegrass. The band has previously shared the stage with Merle Haggard, Trampled by Turtles, Yonder Mountain String Band and Railroad Earth.

Hope Social Club
Ocean Stage, 5:40-6:40 p.m.
Like many of Alaska's folk-rock bands, Hope Social Club comprises an all-star cast of local musicians: Melissa Mitchell, Sean "Spiff" Chambers, Aaron Benolkin, Tim Haren, Tony Restivo and Rik Nielsen. With the addition of each musician, their sound has evolved from acoustic folk to multigenre, infectious tunes. They released their self-titled sophomore album in March.

The California Honeydrops
Ocean Stage, 7:10-8:10 p.m.
The California Honeydrops don't just aim to play music — they throw parties. Hailing from Oakland, California, the band takes the idea of folk-rock and melds it with soul, rhythm and blues and New Orleans jazz. Since coming together in 2006 the band has released four full-length albums and toured with B.B. King, Dr. John, Buddy Guy and Allen Toussaint.

Rusted Root
Ocean Stage, 10:45 p.m.-12:15 a.m.
Rusted Root started back in 1990 in Pittsburgh. Since then the band has spent their 20-year career touring with the Grateful Dead, The Allman Brothers Band, Dave Matthews Band and Sting. They are perhaps best known for their distinct percussion section that draws from African, Latin American and Native American roots. Their biggest hits include 1992's "Send Me On My Way" and 1994's "Ecstasy."

Also performing: Ava Earl, The Dirty Hands, The Forest That Never Sleeps and Gipsy Moon.

Sunday, Aug. 6

Rising Appalachia
Ocean Stage, 2:45-3:45 p.m.
Rising Appalachia describes themselves as a "genre-bending force," combining the sounds of Appalachian folk with whatever instruments they can get their hands on, including the jaw harp, trumpet, djembe and spoons. The group began as the project of sisters Leah Song and Chloe Smith, and now includes musicians Biko Casini and David Brown. Their most recent album, "Wider Circles," was released in 2015.

Great American Taxi
River Stage, 6:15-7:30 p.m.
Great American Taxi are no strangers to Alaska or Salmonfest. The well-received Denver-based quintet is a favorite national act and visits on a regular basis. Perhaps it's the fact that Great American Taxi brings a contemporary sound to Americana music, combining pop, rhythm and blues and hard country. The band released their latest album, "Dr. Feelgood's Traveling Medicine Show," this year.

Ocean Stage, 7-8:30 p.m.
Alaska's own celebrity singer-songwriter, Jewel got her big break in 1995 with the release of her debut album, "Pieces of You." Since then she's released 12 albums, received four Grammy nominations and sold more than 30 million records worldwide. Perhaps the most anticipated performance of Salmonfest, fans are looking forward to the return of this Alaska folk-rock icon.

Also performing: Dustin Thomas, Harrison B, JUNOsmile, Railroad Earth and Searson.

Zakiya McCummings is a features intern at Alaska Dispatch News. She has worked as a reporter for the Anchorage Press, The Associated Press and Salon. Follow her on Twitter: @realzakiya


When: August 4-6

Where: Kenai Peninsula Fairgrounds, 16200 Sterling Highway, Ninilchik

Tickets: $65-$145. Visit for details.