Play Blog

Welcome to the Play Blog, an insider’s guide on everything from music to pop culture, local dining, drinking, art and nightlife. Alaska or Outside, it’s fair game. Who's hot, who's coming to town, who's doing something worth noticing. We're on it.

Reader input is a big part of this blog, so express yourself and post comments. And if you have gig announcements, press kits, news briefings, story ideas, MP3s, CDs and reviews please ship them our way

Pamyua premieres new video for 'Bubble Gum' - 10/23/2012 4:32 pm

Ghosts and ghouls haunting town - 10/19/2012 4:55 pm

More reality TV coming to Alaska - 10/19/2012 11:49 am

REVIEW: Richard Thompson is a master of fine dissonance - 10/17/2012 4:04 pm

Alaska Railroad offers trips on the Alyeska Halloween Train - 10/10/2012 2:32 pm

VIDEO: Flogging Molly's sold-out show at the Egan Center - 10/4/2012 12:12 pm

Call to filmmakers: Make a movie in 2 days - 9/28/2012 2:45 pm

Oktoberfest is coming to Anchorage - 9/27/2012 3:25 pm

Sail the high seas with Kenny G

Kenny GKenny G

It’s been a little over a year since Kenny G last played at the Dena'ina Center. He’s coming back to Alaska in 2013, but Mr. G is going to take his time getting here. Celebrity Cruises is offering a special vacation package featuring performances by the smooth jazz saxophonist. The press release said that the artist will also “mix and mingle with guests onboard throughout the cruise.”

So if there’s a Kenny G fan in the Lower 48 who’s been meaning to pay you a visit, let them know that May 13-24 next year is the time to do it. Book before Jan. 31 with a $600 dollar deposit to hold your reservation. Accommodations range from $1,999 for a stateroom to $7,299 for a royal suite with a veranda. The penthouse suites are sold out.

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Mammoth Music to close South Anchorage store

Photo courtesy of Howard Grayboff: Sick Puppies perform an acoustic set at Mammoth Music on Feb. 15, 2008.Photo courtesy of Howard Grayboff: Sick Puppies perform an acoustic set at Mammoth Music on Feb. 15, 2008.

Mammoth Music announced today that it will consolidate its two stores under one roof, with the inventory from the South Anchorage location moving to the downtown spot at 500 E. 5th Ave.

There’s a post on the music shop’s website that explains the decision. The original plan for the Southside location was to purchase the building at 9200 Old Seward Highway, but when that didn’t pan out, management decided to cut the added expense once the five-year lease expired.

The post also said that the store plans to reinvest the money saved into more sales space, a café and a venue.

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Last minute show at Crossroads

Turquoise BoyTurquoise Boy

You might remember seeing local indie-pop group Turquoise Boy in our Hot Picks last week. If you missed those two shows this past weekend, you’ve got another chance Wednesday. The band just announced a show at the Crossroads in Fairview and will be joined by Historian, the Sweeteners and Kevin Worrell.

Show starts at 9 p.m. in the basement, $5 cover. The money raised will sponsor Crossroads bartender Shannon Haskin, who is participating in Seward’s Polar Plunge to raise money for the American Cancer Society.

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New local collective to launch monthly artist showcase at Out North

Seth BoyerSeth Boyer

The newly formed Anchorage Music Co-op is a collective of local musicians, and the group is teaming with Out North Contemporary Art House for the Artist Showcase Series. Taking place the fourth Thursday each month, the showcase is designed to give audiences a chance to hear musicians outside of the regular bar scene.

"I think Anchorage is exploding with local talent at the moment,” said co-op co-founder Laura Oden in a press release. “There's not enough places for musicians to play. Bars in town don't offer music until often 9 or 10 pm. This is too late for anyone with an 8-5pm job and kids that are tucked in by 8:30.”

It’s also designed to offer another all-ages venue in town.

Melissa MitchellMelissa Mitchell

The first showcase takes place 7 p.m. Jan. 26, featuring Melissa Mitchell, Emma Hill and Seth Boyer. Tickets are $15, $10 in advance through Centertix. A pre-launch show a few weeks ago with Marian Call sold out, and organizers expect this one to do the same given the theater’s capacity of 110.

Emma HillEmma Hill

Below are future performances scheduled in the Artist Showcase Series. The performers chosen for the showcase are members of the co-op. To join, visit and donate $15 with "music co-op" in the description field. Membership also offers discounts for shows, while the fund covers the sound engineering at the shows.

Tickets for each of are $5 in advance, $10 at the door.

Feb. 23 – Kass Smiley (comedian)
March 22 – Evan Phillips
May 24 – Emma Hill

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AEDC sponsors film contest

The Anchorage Economic Development Corporation has adopted the grassroots campaign Live. Work. Play., a initiative that exists in several other cities as a way to improve living standards in each community.

AEDC is measuring how current standards compare with those cities and looking for areas that need improvement. In the meantime, AEDC is sponsoring a film competition highlighting how people live, work and play in Anchorage.

The deadline for submissions is 5 p.m. Jan. 18. Entries must be no longer than 5 minutes, feature the words “Live. Work. Play.” (spoken or written) and must be filmed in the Anchorage area (Eagle River and Girdwood included). Participants can drop off a DVD copy of the film at the AEDC office in Peterson Tower, 510 L St., Suite 603.

Screening and judging will take place 7 p.m. Jan. 20 at Anchorage Museum, and each entry will be posted on A $50 gift certificate to Orso/Glacier Brewhouse will go to a People’s Choice winner. The grand prize includes two tickets on the Alaska Railroad from Anchorage to Seward, two tickets to the Sealife Center, two tickets to the Anchorage Opera performance of “Macbeth” and two tickets to the sold-out economic forecast luncheon with speaker Steve Forbes where the film will also be screened.

For more info, visit

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Roundup: Pass the mike

Marc Lester/Anchorage Daily News: 61º North Justin Boot plays his guitar in Chief Alex Park in Eagle River shortly after performing on stage at the Bear Paw Festival nearby, July 13, 2007.Marc Lester/Anchorage Daily News: 61º North Justin Boot plays his guitar in Chief Alex Park in Eagle River shortly after performing on stage at the Bear Paw Festival nearby, July 13, 2007.

This week, contributor Rosey Robards compiled a list of some of the open-mike night events around town, including at Tap Root and Jam Night at Humpy’s, that offer a platform for comedians, singer/songwriters and bands to find an audience or test out material.

Today is also First Friday, so you can drop by the receptions at galleries around town and check out the new exhibits.

Below are this week’s Hot Picks.

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Group organizes public lectures in pubs

Science pubScience pub

Anchorage Science Pub makes its debut Sunday at the Tap Root. The recently formed group will organize regular public meetings with informal talks on a variety of scientific topics. Sunday’s lecture is “Why They Do Those Stupid Things: Young Male Risk Taking Behavior,” by UAA psychology professor John Petraitis, with a Q&A session to follow. Doors open at 4 p.m., and a science trivia contest begins 4:15 p.m. Admission is free.

Below are other topics and presenters ASP has planned, each taking place at Tap Root.

Sunday, Feb. 12
“Trends in Intensive Management of Alaska’s Grizzly Bears, 1980-2010” by John Shoen, Alaska wildlife scientist and bear biologist with 35 years of experience working for wildlife agencies and conservation organizations throughout Alaska.

Sunday, March 4
“Shwing and Bling: Sex, Evolution, and Choosing a Mate” by Claudia Lampman, professor at the UAA psychology department, researcher and author in human sexuality/gender studies.

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Roundup: End of the year

ERIK HILL / Anchorage Daily News: Fireworks light up the sky in the finale to the Fire & Ice New Year's Eve Celebration Thursday evening December 31, 2009 in Town Square.ERIK HILL / Anchorage Daily News: Fireworks light up the sky in the finale to the Fire & Ice New Year's Eve Celebration Thursday evening December 31, 2009 in Town Square.

Many of you will be ringing in the new year at one of the many events happening around town this weekend. Reggae-rockers from Hawaii, Pepper is on the cover of Play this week, and contributor Toben Shelby wrote this preview of the band’s New Year’s Eve show at Bear Tooth.

Another high-profile year-end event at the Egan Center is in the Hot Picks, but you can check the rest of our New Year’s Eve calendar at On the dining page, Josh Niva has a roundup of what restaurant kitchens around town are offering for one night only.

Below are this week’s Hot Picks

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Girdwood restaurant Maxine's moves to Anchorage

Bill Roth / Anchorage Daily News: Maxine's Bistro's old location off Crow Creek Road in Girdwood.Bill Roth / Anchorage Daily News: Maxine's Bistro's old location off Crow Creek Road in Girdwood.

There was a moment of panic among my group of friends when we called Maxine’s Bistro and heard the message: “Thanks for a wonderful run! Maxine’s is closing…” We were saddened (and hungry) until a messenger of goodwill mentioned that Maxine’s had reappeared at the Grape Leaf on Fireweed Lane.

I invited nine friends to join me – they thought they were there to help me celebrate my birthday when my primary goal was to have a greater quantity of food on the table. The new space is much smaller, but warmer, with beer and wine still available.

Maxine’s has always been notable for its variety and spectrum of flavors, and its latest menu adheres to this same globe-trotting philosophy. Old and new dishes make up the revamped selection. Duck cassoulet, surf and turf “sushi” and a meze platter are unified in an overarching standard of conscientious and exacting preparation.

Chef Robert Lewis added a pizza section in order to make use of the pizza oven that was already housed in the restaurant. Like everything else, these pizzas feature simple ingredients in imaginative combinations: beef brisket with caramelized onion jam, pesto, artichoke hearts and pepperoncinis, goat cheese and arugula.

Top-notch ingredients are used and dishes have the stamp of epicurean finesse, but almost everything on the menu is under $25. Maxine’s move to Anchorage is the best birthday present this food lover could have received.

Maxine’s Bistro
Location: 302 W. Fireweed Lane
Phone: 770-7600
Hours: 5-10 p.m. Monday-Saturday, closed Sunday

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Portugal. The Man perform on French TV

In the Q&A posted last week with Portugal. The Man singer and guitarist John Gourley, he talked about performing on French television and how nervous he was during the interview.

The show is called "Taratata," and you can watch Gourley's interview below. You can also see the band perform "In the Mountain in the Cloud" opener "So American" and a cover of Gnarls Barkley's "Crazy."

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Revisiting Food Network's North Pole visit

Last night Food Network aired a rerun of the “Diners, Drive-ins and Dives” Christmas episode that host Guy Fieri filmed in Alaska. It originally aired in 2009. The road-trip TV show featured Fieri visiting North Pole favorites like the Elf’s Den, Country Café and Pagoda Restaurant, dropping by the Silver Gulch Brewery in Fox and hitting up Big Daddy’s BBQ & Banquet and Cookie Jar Restaurant in Fairbanks.

More than a few times, Fieri and others mention that Christmas is coming soon. Judging by the snow cover during the time of filming – roughly zero inches – and the fact that Fieri has the top down in his convertible, I’d guess that there were a lot of shopping days left.

--Matt Sullivan

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Roundup: Homecomings and holidays

This week we’re all over Portugal. The Man’s return to Alaska. The band plays the Egan Center tonight, which is what the cover feature is about, and you can read a big chunk of the interview for that story. The show is 8 p.m. today. Turquoise Boy opens.

In the Hot Picks, we’ve got another homecoming to talk about, plus some holiday season celebrations.

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Whipsaws front man Evan Phillips previews new album

Evan PhillipsEvan Phillips

The Whipsaws are still sitting on their third full-length, with a release date tentatively set for early next year, but front man Evan Phillips has kept busy in the meantime. He produced the “Rendered Useless” EP by Juneau musician Meg Mackey, has booked shows for the local promotion/booking agency Monolith and he recently released a couple tracks from his upcoming solo album “Goodbye My Dearest Stranger,” scheduled to drop March 6.

The first song is lead single “Stereo.” The other is an instrumental track called “Her Glorious Morning.”

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Q&A with John Gourley from Portugal. The Man

Portugal. The ManPortugal. The Man

Friday's issue of Play features Portugal. The Man, a band with roots in Wasilla that released its major-label debut this year. I talked to front man John Gourley over the phone from his home in Portland, Ore., this past Saturday, and below is part of that conversation.

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Rapper Nelly missed meet-and-greet with troops


St. Louis rapper Nelly visited Alaska last week to perform at Sullivan Arena, and that visit was originally supposed to include a meet-and-greet with military personnel stationed in Anchorage.

That meet-and-greet didn’t happen. When a number of Twitter users accused the rapper of bailing on the appointment, Nelly took to the social networking site to defend himself, saying that he was running a 102-degree fever the day after the show.

“I apologize 2all the troops and fam 2day n anchorage!been fighting off flu 4fewdays n it caught up2me!after my show sweating n going out!”

He was impressed with the stuffed bear at the airport, though.

--Matt Sullivan

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Film festival winners announced

Note: There's a moment of strong language in the trailer above.

The Anchorage International Film Festival has announced its awards for this year’s selections, with “The Dead Inside” by Travis Betz – a musical about a possessed girlfriend and her artist boyfriend – taking the Golden Oosikar for best feature. The winning documentary was "Give Up Tomorrow" by Michael Collins, which explores corruption in the Philippines.

Audience Choice awards went to opening-night film “Inuk” in the features category, while “With Great Power: The Stan Lee Story,” a documentary by Will Hess about the iconic comic creator, took honors in that category.

Among the local films, “Tashalaska,” Tessa Morgan’s documentary about the World Beard and Mustache Competition, won a Snowdance prize, while the same award for short documentaries went to Luc Mehl’s “Bike/Ski/Raft Denali Traverse,” which was shot during a 25-day traverse over Denali with no motorized transportation.

Best of the Fest screenings at the Alaska Experience Theatre begin 7 p.m. tonight with an encore presentation of “Inuk.” Audience Choice runner-up “Love You to Death” screens the same time Tuesday. “The Dead Inside” plays 7 p.m. Wednesday, with the theater’s smaller room also screening the winning short films, including “Bike/Raft/Ski;” “North Atlantic;” “Love, at Last” and “Something Left, Something Taken.”

Below is the full list of festival winners.

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Olive Garden planned for Dimond Center mall

From Kyle Hopkins in Anchorage –

This one is for you Olive Garden nerds:

The Tikahtnu Commons branch of the popular Italian restaurant chain will open in “late January,” the company says. Meantime, a second Olive Garden is in the planning stages in South Anchorage.

An application to build an Olive Garden in the Dimond Center is currently pending before the city, planning records show:

Yup. That's an Olive Garden.Yup. That's an Olive Garden.

The plans show the restaurant located in the northwest corner of the mall.The plans show the restaurant located in the northwest corner of the mall.

The Dimond Center Olive Garden would go in the old O'Brady's Burgers and Brew location, said city permit management supervisor Gretchen Stuller.

“They’re renovating and adding on approximately 2,000 square feet,” Stuller said.

Note: I wasn't able to reach an Olive Garden rep this afternoon. I'll update if the company has any statement on the South Anchorage location.

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VIDEO: The Builders and the Butchers perform in the Bear Tooth lobby

Last night’s First Tap concert with the Builders and the Butchers was much better attended than the first one the band played back in April. And as I noted on Twitter, I’m pretty sure Turbo Perfecto is the heaviest band to play Bear Tooth.

Just like last time, the highlight was in the lobby. Here’s a video of the band playing "Find Me in the Air" after leaving the stage. It cuts out in the middle because my phone ran out of memory.

The Builders and the Butchers at Bear Tooth from playadn on Vimeo.

--Matt Sullivan

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New music from Emma Hill

Emma Hill and bandmate Bryan DasteEmma Hill and bandmate Bryan Daste

Emma Hill grew up in the small village of Sleetmute and spent some time playing gigs in Anchorage before moving to Portland, Ore., and we’ve typically made mention of whenever the folksy singer/songwriter returns to play shows in Alaska. In January, fresh off a jet-setting tour on Jetblue, she played a string of dates around town to promote her album “Meet Me at the Moon.” She made a return visit in July, which also included a set at Salmonstock in Ninilchik.

Hill has since moved back to Anchorage. She also has a new EP coming out, appropriately titled “Alaska Dear, I’m Coming Home.” She’s playing a release show 8 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 17, at the Alaska Experience Theatre. Tickets are $20, available at

Here’s a track from the EP – the also appropriately titled “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” (not the traditional one).

”I’ll Be Home for Christmas” by Emma Hill and Her Gentlemen Callers

--Matt Sullivan

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Roundup: Movies, mugs and mixes

A scene from "Inuk," which opens the Anchorage International Film Festival on Friday, Dec. 2, at Bear ToothA scene from "Inuk," which opens the Anchorage International Film Festival on Friday, Dec. 2, at Bear Tooth

The 11th annual Anchorage International Film Festival opens tonight with a screening of “Inuk” at Bear Tooth. Read about it and some of the other selections at this year’s fest in Daily News contributor David Harper’s feature in today’s issue of Play. You can also check the full schedule of events, movies and workshops over here.

First Friday is also going on around town, with new exhibits unveiled at galleries across Anchorage. If you head out, be sure to check our map of participating First Friday venues.

Here are the rest of this week’s Hot Picks.

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