Thoughts on Spin’s “The Call of the Wild: Alaska’s Untamed Music Scene”



I’m sure a lot of you have probably tried to work your way through this article by now. If not, and you are interested, here is the link:

While some of us have discussed this already to a fair degree, it continued to bother me. Half-drunkenly the other evening at Ivory’s, I wrote an email/response to the author of the article and Spin Magazine. The next morning, I actually still wanted to send it out and tell them how I felt. So I spent some time to edit and clean it up with the help of a few friends.

I sent it off this morning. After discussing it with fellow KSUA Staff members, I wanted to share with you, the KSUA reader base, all these thoughts as well. 

– Brady

Jeff Weiss and Spin Magazine,

I’m not sure where to start. Well, fuck, lets start here. After doing a minimal forty-five second search for ‘Jeff Weiss writer’ on Google, I came upon a bio on about the many accolades you have had over the whatever amount of years you’ve been writing. I didn’t get that far or care to. I just wanted to act like I gave a shit about doing some background research before ranting about how much your representation of the supposed music scene in Alaska blew absolute muktuk chunks (Muktuk, for your information, is a traditional Native Alaskan food made of whale blubber).

I understand your kitschy attempt at cultural jabs about Alaska. It’s a ‘supposed’ smart way to relate with your reader base. I’m not sure where you have been since Palin last tried to drunkenly convince someone that Russia really was a few arm lengths away, but every TV network and writer has already tried to make a mockery off of showcasing ‘real’ Alaskan life. The problem there, and here, is that you truly aren’t ‘trying’ to give a shit. You came up to Alaska; spent a few days in a city that, except for some crappy snow, and a couple months of Minnesota-like weather, didn’t warrant your ‘unique’ take on it’s music scene. A scene that is probably just as affecting as Omaha, Nebraska. At least that’s how you portrayed it.

I suppose I just expected more. Facts about how big, vast, and unapproachable Alaska are all well and good; and could be genuinely insightful if you had used them to approach musicians and how it affects their art and ambitions. You talked about one venue, one crapshoot of a ‘festival’ no one except the individuals in attendance has heard of, and managed to quote a couple bands about issues that aren’t breaking any cultural affective mold.

What about the inspiring music culture outside of Anchorage? Like the summer festival circuit that covers 1000 square miles and attracts national and local acts alike? A circuit that incorporates a multitude of backwoods folk/bluegrass outfits that make mainstream Mumford and Sons look like an outfit you’d want to drop off your whiney six-your-old off with for babysitting. A circuit that includes festivals like Chickenstock (in a town actually called Chicken with seven year round residents). To Trapper Creek, held in the deep woods near Denali National Park on private property with nothing except your liquor, hallucinogens, and Hell’s Angels security to keep the peace.

Of course this is biased (as I live in Fairbanks), but what the hell. What about Fairbanks? Too much money to head up another 350 miles? Too much trouble to check out the ‘other’ big city that everyone in Anchorage is too scared to live in, just because it’s a little darker, a little colder, and some of us shit in outhouses. Well we prefer the fuck out of it. If you want to talk about how extreme we are, and how we don’t wear coats until it’s fifty below out, that’s fine. But at least come up to experience it instead of mentioning Fairbanks as a side note instead of commenting on the actual music we have to offer.

If you did, you’d realize that yea, we do love Portugal. The Man. Not because they are from Alaska, but because they are a great band. You’d also realize that we love to dance. Instead of standing against venue walls with a New York hipster stare, we actually enjoy and appreciate the talent we have. We love supporting a music scene that has just as much culture and character as any other city our size. I can say that with extreme certainty as I have lived on both coasts, a multitude of towns, and gave Europe its chance to impress as well. Yea we have Top 40 and 90’s throwback bands that come through and everyone digs it. But when you’re not Boston, New York, or Seattle, wouldn’t any town our size be happy with acts from Snoop Dogg to 3 Doors Down? I mean what the hell do you want? A slab of tours that includes Phoenix, to Frank Ocean, to Death Grips?

It is expensive to get here and tour. That is one thing no one will argue with. It’s the number one point you DID hit upon that makes a bigger impact than the rest of your conclusions about music in Alaska. But the bands that have come up here learn quickly that there is a LOT of money to be made. So getting here and around is the major bump in the road, but that doesn’t hold bands back from being successful if they really want to be. Rather it makes them work twice as hard and appreciate every opportunity they have.

Bands up here have talent. Bands up here also suck. Every problem that plagues musicians and its fans around the rest of the Lower 48 is clearly as apparent up here as anywhere else. So next time, you should write about it. If you want to critique and/or praise what we have up here to offer, then do so. Don’t use Spin and music in general as a cultural ‘in’ to come to Alaska and exploit the same nuances everyone else is trying to. Don’t you think people by now have heard all the standard half-truths and extravagant tales of how ‘extreme’ Alaska is?

When it comes down to it, we would love to have you back; in the summer, the winter, in Fairbanks, in Anchorage, and even the backwoods if you’d like. We truly do welcome any and all to experience and embrace Alaska.  We may be a little ‘out’ there, but most of us certainly aren’t felons running from the law. We enjoy music just as much as you do and all most of us would like to see is a better truthful article on the music primarily; not as a side step to capitalize on Alaska’s trend as a 2012 buzz word.


Brady Gross

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