Time to get those jammys on

Anchorage group brings mix of folk, rock and originals to town

Posted: Thursday, August 10, 2000

Jammy rock and bluegrassy-country is coming to Southeast Alaska.

Yukon Ryder, a four-piece folk and rock jam band from Anchorage, brings its music to Juneau for the weekend. The band plays a half-hour set at the season-finale Concert in the Park on Friday night, and moves into the Hangar on the Wharf for shows Friday and Saturday nights.

Electric guitarist Jon Dykstra used the term jammy rock to describe the band's emphasis on improvisation. The material is mostly its own.

``As far as covers go, we do everything from Hank Williams to Pearl Jam, but we play at least two-thirds originals,'' said Dykstra.

He described the band's songwriting style: ``It's like Hank Williams is having a picnic with the Grateful Dead and Phish shows up.''

Yukon Ryder has recorded two CDs featuring its original music, ``Respect for the Cold'' and ``City With a Smile, Anchorage Live,'' also known as ``Live at Humpy's.''

Dykstra said the band has sold all its copies of ``Respect,'' but will have the second CD available in Juneau. Band members have material written for a third recording and plan to return to the studio this fall.

``We've written the songs and we've been playing them live. They kind of evolve, get their own personalities, and the guys definitely get to know the songs,'' Dykstra said.

The guys are acoustic guitarist Matt Tullar, bassist Louis Stein and drummer Steve Stanford.

Guitarists Tullar and Dykstra met in Fairbanks in 1997, and their open-mike-night collaborations at a local tavern grew into a singing and songwriting duo. They set up a series of gigs throughout Alaska for the fall of 1997 and quit their jobs to tour. They recorded the next year, added a percussionist and expanded their tour schedule to include gigs in the Lower 48. About that time they relocated to Anchorage.

``We found we needed to be around the population center to survive, `cause we're doing this for a living now,'' Dykstra said.

Last fall the band recorded the live CD and embarked on a two-month, 11,000-mile road-trip tour that took it through the Pacific Northwest and from Denver back to Anchorage.

This spring the band teamed up with a new rhythm section and plans to do a three-month tour for the coming winter.

Tullar said he lived in Juneau in 1988 and he's looking forward to returning. He explained the story behind the group's name, Yukon Ryder.

One hundred years ago, in March 1900, a man named Edward Jesson left Dawson City in the Yukon and rode a bicycle 1,000 miles down the frozen Yukon River to Nome.

``He was chasing a girl and gold, I guess,'' Tullar said. ``He didn't want to deal with dogs and packing their food, and he didn't really trust them.''

He said others followed Jesson down the river that same year. He said they tied rags on the rims instead of using rubber tires, because tires would pop.

``Imagine this guy pulling this off by himself -- 1,000 miles. It's been our dream to re-enact the trek today, but it's never come together,'' Tullar said.

Yukon Ryder plays at 7 p.m. at Marine Park, and takes the stage at the Hangar at 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday. There's no charge for any of the performances.

The band is also playing this week at the Southeast Alaska State Fair, and next week in Haines and Skagway.

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