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A Juneau tradition kicks off 38th season

Posted: April 10, 2012 - 12:03am
Calling themselves the Busman's Holiday, Patricia Hull, right, and Riley Woodford perform during the first night of the Alaska Folk Festival in Centennial Hall on Monday. The free music festival runs nightly through Sunday.  Michael Penn/Juneau Empire
Michael Penn/Juneau Empire
Calling themselves the Busman's Holiday, Patricia Hull, right, and Riley Woodford perform during the first night of the Alaska Folk Festival in Centennial Hall on Monday. The free music festival runs nightly through Sunday.

After 38 years, the Alaska Folk Festival is still going strong — so strong, in fact, organizers might soon have to come up with new ways to accommodate all the musicians who sign up for their 15 minutes in the spotlight. This year’s stand-by list for performers holds more than 50 names, a substantial increase over the usual dozen.

Alaska Folk Festival President Greg McLaughlin attributes the large number of stand-by performers to this year’s online application system, which made it much easier for local and out-of-town acts to sign up. This year’s first application was submitted a mere 13 minutes after the form went live, McLaughlin said.

“We kind of created a monster ourselves,” he said.

Trying to decide who gets to play and who has to wait is an agonizing process for the board, he said. No preference is given to early applicants, and organizers try to keep a balance between out-of-town musicians and locals. This year’s list of performers is about an even split, with 64 out-of-town acts and 65 local. But McLaughlin said there is just no good way to pick between a first-time teenager who’s finally gotten up the nerve to perform for a crowd and a folk-fest veteran who’s supported the event for decades.

“There’s no answer for it, certainly there’s no answer this year,” he said.

If the trend continues, other possibilities will be discussed, he said.

”We could really use a second venue, a second stage, but we’ll deal with that when we need to deal with it.”

For now, musicians have some other options. The Songwriters Showcase will be held from 3-6 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday at the Back Room at the Silverbow (sign up when you get there), and jam opportunities are offered all day long at various locations around town, including the Rookery Cafe and the Rendezvous, which open at 7 a.m. and 11 a.m. respectively.

There are also open mic nights scheduled tonight at the Rendezvous and Wednesday (after 10 p.m.) and Thursday at the Alaskan Hotel & Bar.

Both the Rookery and the Rendezvous will also be featuring live music all week. To see their schedules, visit www.therookerycafe.com and www.facebook.com/therendezvous. The Alaskan will have live music Wednesday, Friday and Saturday. Other venues featuring live music and jam opportunities are The Red Dog and the Hangar (jamming in the Wharf Mall is fine, but musicians should get permission to jam in the restaurant); check Thursday’s Arts section for a full schedule.

The festival began Monday at 7 p.m. with the Floyd Dryden Strings, followed by the young fiddlers of the Juneau Alaska Music Matters program of Glacier Valley Elementary School. Performances continue every evening this week through Sunday at Centennial Hall, as well as Saturday and Sunday afternoons. Dances will be held at the Juneau Arts & Culture Center on Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings beginning at 7 p.m. Workshops are also scheduled throughout the weekend, including those led by members of this year’s guest band, The Tennessee Mafia Jug Band from Goodlettsville, Tenn. The band performs twice, on Thursday at 8 p.m. and on Sunday at 9 p.m., the last act of the week.

For more on the Folk Festival, see akfolkfest.org.

• Contact reporter Amy Fletcher at 523-2283 or at amy.fletcher@juneauempire.com.

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