Best Bets: Bluegrass, punk rock and modern dance

Posted: Thursday, February 14, 2002

A renowned modern dance company, an alternative rock band and bluegrass, Alaskan style, are at the top of the entertainment lineup for the weekend.

Alvin Ailey II performs Friday at the Juneau-Douglas High School auditorium. A dozen young dancers in their late teens and early 20s will be featured in three modern dance pieces. One dance, "Sensory Feast" is a relatively avant-garde new work and another, "Revelations," is an acknowledged masterpiece of modern dance choreography. This is a rare chance to see a modern dance company from New York perform in Juneau.

Tickets are $18 to $22. I was checking out reviews and highlights from past performances and noticed that tickets last year for Alvin Ailey II performances in cities down south were around $50. I've found we frequently pay less in Juneau than folks in the Lower 48 pay to see the same artists on the same national tours. Usually this is because groups such as the Alaska Folk Festival or the Juneau Arts and Humanities Council underwrite costs to keep the tickets affordable.

This is certainly true for the Alvin Ailey II master class at 7 tonight, which for $15 offers an opportunity to learn from three of the company members. Call the arts council at 586-2787 for more information.

One of Alaska's premier bluegrass bands, Northern River, comes to Juneau this weekend for performances Friday and Saturday nights at the Alaskan Bar. The band mixes original songs with the traditional southern Appalachian bluegrass sound in the vein of Bill Monroe, the Stanley brothers, J.D. Crowe and the old Kentucky Mountain Boys.

With members based in Fairbanks and Anchorage, Northern River plays primarily in those two communities and parts between. The band has been together about five years but two of the members, mandolinist Joe Page and guitarist Carl Hoffman, have been singing and playing bluegrass for decades.

Hoffman was a member of the New Jersey-based bluegrass band, the Pine Hill Ramblers, in the late 1960s and early 1970s. The group recorded two albums, "Further up the River" and "Red and Rusty," before Hoffman moved to Alaska in the early '70s.

Ironically, 20 years later, a young banjo picker growing up in Interior Alaska was pouring over those recordings as he learned to play. Gary Markley especially loved "Red and Rusty," and a few years later at a bluegrass festival jam session he heard Hoffman singing some of those songs. He was surprised to realize that the singer and guitarist was the same Carl Hoffman he admired; Hoffman was more surprised to find a young picker who knew his material.

The lineup this weekend features Markley, Page and Hoffman. Juneau standup bass player and singer Maridon Boario from the Panhandle Crabgrass Revival Band is filling in as a guest bassist. Northern River plays 9 p.m. to 1 a.m. Friday and Saturday and there's no cover charge.

The Juneau-Douglas City Museum is well worth a visit these days. In addition to a wealth of Juneau area history, four shows are on exhibit - recent paintings by Juneau artist Dan Fruits, a look at Southeast Alaska lighthouses, a dozen works of wearable art and a display of portraits featuring a century of Juneau faces. The museum is open five days a week now, Tuesday through Saturday, and this winter admission is free, thanks to a donation by Harold Fossum.

An alternative rock band called The Line is performing an all-ages show at Centennial Hall on Friday night. The band has been around since 1990, when a couple of high school friends in Big Bear Lake, in Southern California, started playing hard-core and skate punk. The band, a four-piece, now has four CDs out. The Line is based out of Los Angeles these days, and has a decade of touring and performing to its credit. A review of the latest CD, "Monsters We Breed," said the members are still true to their punk rock roots.

You can learn more about The Line on line at theline@volcom.

com. This concert is sponsored by the University of Alaska Southeast student activities and tickets are very reasonable, $7 for UAS students and $10 general. Juneau is not overloaded with performances by professional rock bands so you may want to seize the day. Two Juneau bands, Bastards and Motivational Review, open the show at 8:30 Friday night.

The United Nations has declared 2002 as International Year of the Mountains, and the Banff Mountain Film Festival is Saturday night at Centennial Hall.

The festival is an international competition that highlights films and videos on mountain and adventure subjects. It is held every year on the first weekend in November. Last year, 250 films from 27 countries were submitted to the competition. A selection of nine films, ranging from 3 minutes to 28 minutes, (two and a half hours, total) are touring this year.

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