Music

Highlights from the past year in Alaska music, plus a look ahead at 2023

Sundown Solstice Festival, Showdown Productions, electronic dance music, edm, concert, downtown

In Alaska, 2022 was a transition year in music in many ways. After a couple years of diminished live music due to the pandemic, last year felt much more like a return to normalcy with performers returning to touring and regular live gigs.

And while musicians and audiences may have been prepared for that return, venues continued to change and evolve — leaving some gaps and, in some cases, creative solutions for places to showcase music.

That influx included new festivals like the Sundown Solstice Festival in Anchorage and Sacred Acre in Ninilchik.

The Daily News enlisted a battery of local promoters, artists and aficionados to give their take on the year that was in Alaska music.

Nick Carpenter’s project Medium Build was a favorite among the respondents for his recent recordings and 2022 live performances, and Ashley Young was tapped as a potential breakout star for 2023.

We asked our panel six questions about their favorites from 2022, predictions for 2023 and even about their dream duo of Alaska performers.

Favorite show by an Alaska artist in 2022

Jay Straw, bassist, The Jephries: Any by Estate Sale

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Annie Bartholomew, Juneau musician/playwright: Sitka Jazz composer Ed Littlefield with Jill Kaasteen Meserve in “Where The Summit Meets the Stars” at Perseverance Theater in Juneau this fall. Ed grounded Frank Henry Kaash Katasse’s ethereal new play in a soundscape of found percussion objects that was so creative and unexpected — even bringing actor Jake Waid into the action with a whistling duet of ‘70s dad rock classics.

Gamble and the High Costa Living’s Blues Brother concert and film showing in Juneau WAS INSANE! Anything Juneau movie mogul Collette Costa touches is legendary, but this was over the top — even for her. This show had set changes, dancing girls, a full brass band and even a cop car drive-by to take us all the way to Chicago.

Ed Washington, multi-instrumentalist/songwriter, The Ed Washington Experience: The Ed Washington Experience Live at Studio C.

Casey Smith, Fairbanks guitarist/songwriter, Casey Smith Project: I got the privilege of touring with SunDog this summer and the show we played together in Cordova at the Alaskan Hotel and Bar was epic. Their cover of “American Guilt” by Unknown Mortal Orchestra is amazing.

Abi Sparkman, guitarist/songwriter, SunDog: Halloweekend w/ Greenhouse, The Store, High Femmes, etc.

Cody Herron-Webb, AK Concerts: It’s hard to pick just one so I will go with a bunch! This year was the first time that I attended Trapper Creek Bluegrass Festival and I had a blast. Being able to catch music all day and into night while camped out close to the stage was an amazing experience. Plus it is BYOB, dog friendly and crazy outfits are encouraged, which is pretty hard to beat!

Favorite recording (album or single) from an Alaska artist in 2022

Straw: I have no idea. I listen to podcasts.

Bartholomew: Erin Heist’s “From the Land of Rusted Dreams” is one of my favorite records, just an instant classic with so many great tunes I wish I wrote and others I can’t get out of my head. No one better captures the loneliness, claustrophobia and beauty of living off the road system in Southeast.

Washington: Ed Washington, “Hedonism”

Smith: That’s a toss-up between “Never Learned to Dance” by Medium Build or “Evelene” by Quinn Christopherson.

Hellen Payares, ShowDown Productions: Tough one! There’s so many. “Never Learned to Dance” from Medium Build and “Strawberry Blonde” from Husse has made it onto tons of playlists for me. Album wise I’m currently vibing out to “Hedonism” by Ed Washington and “Polaris 1111″ by Jay Simmons.

Sparkman: “comeonback” by Medium Build

Herron-Webb: Roland Roberts released an album called “So It Goes” that I have been digging a lot lately. The whole album is good but the songs “35 and Single,” “Cover Band Blues” and “Better Off” are my favorites on that. “Cover Band Blues” gets me up and dancing and “Better Off” hits me right in the feels.

What Alaska band or artist is poised for a breakout in 2023?

Straw: Wash Your Hands

Bartholomew: Arias Hoyle/Air Jazz: He is such a talented emcee and one of my favorite performers to watch onstage. His creativity is boundless.

Ashley Young: Her performance at the Crystal Saloon’s Babe Fest this fall knocked me out! Gunalchéesh to Taylor Vidic for introducing her to Juneau.

Sundown Solstice Festival, Showdown Productions, electronic dance music, edm, concert, downtown

Ed Washington: Ed Washington, Saint Deon, Husse, Ashley Young, Rosie Rush

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Smith: I’ve got to give a shout-out to my fellow Fairbanks artist, Heart Machine. He’s got a voice like an angel and very poetic lyrics.

Payares: I think Medium Build has had breakout moments but I think 2023 will be the year where Nick and crew reach mainstream indie audiences worldwide.

SHE, a popular hardcore band in Anchorage, is set to release an album that was recorded in famed Los Angeles studio The Pit, known for producing some of the best music from punk/metal and hardcore labels. I have no doubt the album will break through nationally in that genre.

Jany Green is already down in LA doing the damn thing. You’ll see him on some big tours in 2023, I have no doubt.

Sparkman: Ashley Young

Herron-Webb: Nick Carpenter/Medium Build. They put on great performances when opening for national acts and have already toured a bit as a band, as well as when Nick and Quinn Christopherson were opening for Portugal. The Man. The band has a huge following on Spotify. Just recently, I saw a friend in the Midwest sharing Medium Build’s new song “Rage” to her story. Plus, the Bear Tooth is bringing back the First Tap with Medium Build kicking it off; go watch them now because I expect we (in Alaska) will be seeing a lot less of them soon.

AK4AK, virtual music, Pamyua, Medium Build, small boat launch, covid-19, coronavirus

What’s your dream-team Alaska music collaboration between two active musical artists, individuals or groups?

Straw: Saucy Yoda with Captain Bluegrass

Bartholomew: Ketchikan’s Patrick Troll (DJ Alternative, Whiskey Class, Revilla) and Medium Build!

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Washington: Ed Washington and Husse or Ed Washington and Ashley Young

Smith: Chad Reynvaan and Matt Hopper. Those boys would make wonderful music together.

Payares: Only two?!! I think Jany Green, and his funk style band with Pamyua would be super fun. The creative juices of those two groups would come up with something great no doubt.

Sparkman: James Glaves and SunDog

Herron-Webb: I would love to see TheMobPerpetual and Alaska Redd team up for a few hip-hop collabs. Alaska Redd is based in Fairbanks but is my favorite (Alaskan) rapper to watch perform and TheMobPerpetual is the best for producing beats and coming up with catchy hooks. The two of them would make for a powerhouse pair that would shake up the AK hip-hop scene.

What Outside artist would you like to see perform in Alaska in 2023?

Straw: Weird Al. My mom bought me tickets to see him in Oregon last summer, but I was up here for Vaniversary and Forest Fair. That’s right Alaska, I love you like that.

Bartholomew: Sierra Ferrell, Nick Shoulders and Willi Carlisle — together! I would melt if Sturgill Simpson came.

Washington: Lianne La Havas

Casey Smith of the Fairbanks-based Casey Smith Project

Smith: I’d say (Canadian singer) Andy Shauf has been on my list for a while and Tame Impala would just be epic.

Payares: The ones I would like to see perform are ones that Showdown are actively pursuing for shows this year. But let’s imagine for a minute that I had no budget constraints ... I’d pick Harry Styles lol.

Sparkman: Remi Wolf

Herron-Webb: I absolutely love Pepper and want them to come back up, preferably a summer solstice show on the lawn at Kincaid. I have yet to see Chromeo and they would be a wonderful show, especially if held at the Bear Tooth. But the concert that I think would be the biggest would be Nickelback. They are coming out with a new album soon so this summer would be the best time to try to get them in Alaska before they are once again playing giant stadiums across the world.

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What development in the Alaska music scene would you like to see that could really benefit musicians and performers in 2023?

Straw: Cody (Herron-Webb)’s been doing the lord’s work, so that everyone has a central place to find out about upcoming shows. We need that for performers and bands. That will help get the new folks in, who aren’t on Facebook or might not even be 21 and wouldn’t have the connections established acts do. This scene is special. We have to have a place new acts can go to make their presence known. Then, established venues can broaden their audiences, we can broaden our ears, and we can keep this scene special.

Bartholomew: Some enterprising music lover should create a block booking tour route for Alaskan artists to more easily travel and perform up north. There’s so much great music happening off the road system and we want to share it with you!

Payares: I know one is in the works, but we would benefit from a quality recording studio being built in a beautiful place in Alaska. So many national artists would like to vacation here and record but the resources are slim. I think something like that would help Alaskan artists too that could fly producers in (one flight vs. five flights for a group, etc.) to help them record on gear that they could find in large studios in the Lower 48.

Washington: More funding for the arts. More performance opportunities for R&B and hip-hop acts.

Smith: I think the hardest part about performing in Alaska is the inconsistency of fair pay at venues and that some venues don’t even pay musicians to perform.

Sparkman: More all-ages shows and midsize venues.

Herron-Webb: Is it OK to toot my own horn here? I would really like to see more people aware of and utilizing AKconcerts.com. I used to get frustrated by hearing about great shows after they had already happened, so I created a website where no one else would have to miss out on shows. Alaska has live music every single day of the week and I feel that the best way to support artists is by going out to the shows (plus tipping them/buying merch of course).

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