Storm Large had given up on music — certainly on music as a profession — when she moved to Portland 15 years ago.
But a favor to a friend kept her singing and her career has expanded to the point where she fronts not one, but two major musical projects.
Two years ago, Alaska audiences saw Large perform with Pink Martini. This weekend, they will see a significantly more ferocious version of the singer as she performs with Le Bonheur.
But neither project would have become a reality if not for the whim that brought her back to the stage after leaving the music industry with a bitter taste in her mouth.
"I was bartending at a friend's bar. He asked me to do a huge favor, sing a couple Wednesdays until he filled the spot. His Wednesday night act abruptly quit," she said. "I started performing with a band called The Balls. We were hugely successful. I thought, this is actually fun. I am making people happy and making my friend money. This is something I'll do until I can't do it anymore. That was 15 years ago."
Large gained nationwide attention in 2006 when she appeared on "Rockstar: Supernova," the reality show's second season. She recorded with The Balls and as a solo artist until she debuted with Pink Martini in 2011 as a fill-in for China Forbes, who has since returned to share singing duties with Large.
The sultry singer has used a canine comparison to describe the differences between Pink Martini and Le Bonheur: "The Westminster Dog show and a pack of wolves have some things in common. Both are beautiful … just in different ways."
Large's album "Le Bonheur," released in 2014, puts her brassy chanteuse spin on classic songs, covering Cole Porter, Tom Waits, Lou Reed and even Black Sabbath. The variety of songs and her unreserved stage presence leads to an unpredictable night of entertainment, she said.
"My band it's more of my own expression," she said. "I try to gauge the audience and see what their limitations are. It's a little more on the edgier side and also I really engage with the audience there's no separation between the band and the audience. It's a little more interactive."
Large believes the range of material and performance styles appeals to a wide audience.
"It's just songs I love, and because I love them, I can just generate a lot of positive vibes," she said. "there could be audience members who are there who are just into hip-hop or classical music and I think they'll enjoy (the show). I can take the conservative right-wing Republican or a left-wing tree-hugger and can get them to see the beauty in a Black Sabbath song or the danger in a Cole Porter song. It's a gift to be able to unify people."
Large was heavily involved in the San Francisco music scene before moving to Portland. But each time she seemed to be on the cusp of a big break, she was halted by efforts to change either her or her music in the name of mainstream success.
"It was my central focus for 10 years in San Francisco, and I just kind of gave up," she said. "The record industry was insisting 'You have to change your name. You swear too much. Your songs are too violent. Every time we'd get close to some sort of industry level, it was bull—-. They said 'you're never going to get anywhere being who you are.' "
Once she found success in Portland, Large's career blossomed.
She's sung with major symphonies throughout the country but says regardless of the stage, her greatest reward is the connection with the audience.
"People say, 'When you played Carnegie Hall, that must have been a dream come true.' I'm just surprised I'm alive, and I still get to sing for a job. Just the relationship between the band and audience was all I needed. It was the bottom line."
When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday
Where: Atwood Concert Hall in Anchorage
Tickets: $32.50-$66 at tickets.centertix.com
Note: Show contains explicit language and adult content. Recommended for ages 18 and older.