Bearfoot has treaded many miles since last in Juneau

Acclaimed Alaska band will perform on June 27

Posted: Thursday, June 26, 2008

The Anchorage-based Americana band Bearfoot has a new vibe since it last performed in Juneau, bassist Kate Hamre said.

Courtesy Of Bearfoot
Courtesy Of Bearfoot

While the band has been touring for a number of years during the summer, Bearfoot took its show on the road full-time last September, she said.

"We've stepped it up a couple of notches, I think, since we were last here," Hamre said.

Instead of being on the road for three straight months and apart for nine months, the band has settled into a two-weeks-on, two-weeks-off schedule that has allowed its music to progress, she said.

"We see each other pretty regularly so it's really starting to gel - in the van, on stage, business-wise," Hamre said. "Everything is starting to gel a little bit more than it was before."

Bearfoot will perform at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, June 27, at Centennial Hall. Tickets are $15 and available at Hearthside and Rainy Day bookstores.

Fiddle player Angela Oudean said she has learned over the past year that she enjoys being on the road full-time.

"It's a lot of fun," she said. "It's hard to be away from home so much, of course, but I think as far as a band learning together we've got a lot tighter because we're playing all year."

All the band members now use wireless acoustic instruments for the shows and the three women of the five-piece outfit wear dresses and high heels during the shows, which has added some extra flare to the concerts, Hamre said.

"We've gotten a lot better playing together and I think we've got a much-more confident sound now after playing all year," Oudean said. "It just seems really natural."

Bearfoot has been performing together since the members were teenagers and has continued to grow its sound over the last nine years, mandolin player Jason Norris said.

"We've started out as 15- and 16-year-olds and now we're all in our early to mid-20s, so we've all undergone all those changes that people go through and it's amazing that we're still together," he said.

The band began performing under the name Bearfoot Bluegrass but has since shortened the name to Bearfoot to better reflect its present sound, Norris said.

"We started out as more of a traditional bluegrass band, doing a lot of covers and songs that people already knew," he said. "Since then we've branched off. The main reason being that we'd never had a banjo in the band and it was hard to call ourselves a traditional bluegrass band."

Oudean said the band has branched out to perform more genres, but still considers its roots to be heavily influenced by bluegrass.

"When you go around calling yourselves a bluegrass band people expect to hear traditional bluegrass tunes and we didn't want to be false advertising, shall we say," she said.

Oudean said in one interview she called the band's sound "Original, contemporary Americana" while Norris described it as "young, hot and feisty."

"You put those together and I think you pretty much got it all," Oudean said.

All five of the band members sing as well as play instruments, including guitarist Mike Mickelson and fiddle player Annalisa Tornfelt.

Along with performing, the band also hosts music camps for children. Bearfoot recently held one in Homer and has been hosting a weeklong music camp in Juneau prior to the Friday concert.

Unfortunately the band missed its annual pilgrimage to the capital city for this year's Alaska Folk Festival because of the tour schedule, Norris said, something it had done for years.

"We all felt really bad that we didn't get to see it because we always look forward to it every year," he said.

Bearfoot is already planning to attend next year's festival, Hamre said.

"I told Mike, because he talks to our agent, I told him we're not missing folk festival ever again," she said. "So we're blocking out the weekend."

The band is also looking at getting a record contract and plans to record another CD when it finds time in the next year or so, Hamre said.

It could be awhile before Bearfoot finds itself performing back in Juneau so the band intends to make Friday's concert one to remember, Norris said.

"I think they are in for a very lively performance this year," Oudean said.

• Contact reporter Eric Morrison at 523-2269 or

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