Though Anchorage’s music scene shares some similarities with other local ecosystems we’ve featured, the thing that makes the biggest city in Alaska stand out is its isolation, to the extent that all of the other states are referred to as the capital O Outside. Like Boise, it has a youth scene that craves the rare big show and goes nuts when it finally arrives, and almost like Burlington, its entirety resides within the same area code (except for the city of Hyder, an Alaskan city in the southeast part of the state that uses Canadian money and whose townspeople send their kids to Canadian schools). It’s a town with an always shifting youth culture thanks to its proximity to several colleges — University Alaska at Anchorage being the biggest — and a town keen on metal (of the deathcore/metalcore variety), as well as other sounds trying to explore shaded regions in between genres like indie and Americana.
“It’s a pretty small scene. It’s a small city, not quite 300,000, I think,” Matt Sullivan, the editor for the Anchorage Daily News culture supplement Play Magazine, says over the phone. “There’s a metal scene, that’s a popular thing here. On the flipside, really rustic Americana does well here. Most things kind of swing on that pole. There’s a sizable granola contingent. They all just kind of stick in their own little pockets. There’s only a handful of bands that do this cross-pollenization and they generally are the best ones, any semblance of scene cohesiveness comes from that handful.”
With regards to the town’s robust metal scene, the success of outfits like 36 Crazyfists paved the way for bands like Turbid North, who grew up and out from a similar environment. “I moved back to Alaska in 2004 and at the time, the only shows coming to Alaska as far as metal, were really big shows, like Ozzy or Metallica,” says Sarah Pederson, a local promoter that came up as a street team member for the 36 Crazyfists and now runs her own unit called Family Tree Presents. “I decided to become a concert promoter and start filling the void.”
Though Alaska is a great place to make music, it does lose bands hoping to make their passion a day job to the Pacific Northwest, where bands like Portugal. The Man have moved out to have easier access to Lower 48 tour circuits. Turbid North has been in Texas for some time after an Outside tour partner implored them to make the move. It’s nearly impossible to make it here, compounded by the fact that it’s a costly exercise to leave Alaska and tour.
Sullivan keeps it level, though, about the town that rural Alaskans call “Los Anchorage.” “In a lot of ways it’s not as different as a lot of other places. Except you run into a moose on the way downtown or something. As cloying as it is, it’s pretty tough to overstate how gorgeous this place is.”
- The Anchor Pub
- The Avenue Bar
- Bear Tooth Theatrepub: “It’s a restaurant and a second-run/art-house theater. The same people who run the place also own a brewery called Broken Tooth, and the first Thursday of every month they have a First Tap concert where they unveil some new beer and usually have some Outside band play (Outside and Lower 48 are pretty interchangeable terms here)” — Matt Sullivan.
- Blues Central
- Chilkoot Charlie’s
- Tap Root
- S Lounge
- Wendy Williamson Auditorium: “The high-profile shows at the University of Alaska Anchorage happen here. St. Vincent, The Antlers, Menomena, Patton Oswalt, Seth Meyers, that sort of stuff” — Matt Sullivan.
- Dish Sushi Bar
- Hott Stixx
- Moose’s Tooth
- Peter’s Sushi Spot
- Pho Lena
- Snow City Cafe
- Spenard Roadhouse
- Table 6
- Home Skillet Records (Juneau)
- Family Tree Presents
- Out Da Cutt (label)
- Title Wave Books
- KRUA University of Alaska Anchorage radio station
36 Crazyfists – “We Gave It Hell”
Decepticide live at Chilkoot Charlie’s
Turbid North – “Between The Glacier And The Sea”
View Area Codes: 907 – Anchorage, AK in a larger map