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.

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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

Pamyua premieres new video for 'Bubble Gum'

Local quartet Pamyua celebrated the release of "Side A/Side B" last week, and band member Phillip Blanchett spoke with Play in this feature about the making of the album, which takes mostly Yup’ik and Cup’ik language songs and treats them in both modern and traditional arrangements.

Above is the video for album track "Bubble Gum," which is described on YouTube as a song that "commemorates a student in band member Ossie's dance class who was chewing gum when he wasn't suppose to."

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Ghosts and ghouls haunting town

Fright Night Haunted House: BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily NewsFright Night Haunted House: BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News

There’s a haunted house for everyone this year. Some, like Haunted Trails and Haunted Halloween Fun Night, should be a blast for families with small children. Fright Night Haunted House in the Northway Mall is a perennial favorite and is fine for school-age kids and older. New this year? 3-D special effects. Gateway to Darkness in Wasilla is perhaps the scariest of them all. Recommended for ages 12 and older, their website says the littler ones “just don’t have enough meat on their bones.”

Those interested in supporting a good cause should check out the American Legion’s haunted house. Proceeds benefit military veterans. Animal lovers might want to visit the Mat-Su Animal Shelter. Money taken in supports the shelter’s cats, dogs and other critters.

Below is a roundup of what's happening where, and let us know in the comments of any we may have missed.

Fright Night
Celebrating 27 years of scaring Alaska, this year Fright Night Haunted House is 3-D, with specialty rooms like the Doll House, Pirate Galley, Elm Street, CSI Room, Clown Room and their signature scare, Chainsaw Alley. 6-11 p.m. daily through Halloween, Northway Mall, 3101 Penland Parkway. $10 per person and $15 for 3-D. (272-7126)

Haunted Trails
Celebrate this favorite creepy, crawly holiday with fun for all ages — carnival games, the Trick-or-Treat Trail and the Spooky Haunted Trail. The Trick-or-Treat trail is suitable for ages 3 and older and runs 4:30-6:30 p.m. Spooky Trail is best for ages 8 and older and runs 6:45-8 p.m. Purchase your tickets now at the Fairview Recreation Center. $10 per family in advance; $15 per family the day of. 4:30-8 p.m. Friday, Oct. 26, Goose Lake Park, 2811 UAA Drive.

Halloween Fun Night
For more than 20 years, student organizations at the University of Alaska Anchorage have sponsored Haunted Halloween Fun Night. UAA students organize this event for the UAA and Anchorage communities. Children and their parents are invited to the Student Union to participate in Halloween themed carnival games, walk through a haunted house and trick-or-treat. Each student club designs a booth that is fun, interactive and geared towards children between the ages of 2 and 12. 1-6 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 27, at Student Union Building. Entrance and parking are free; activity tickets are 25 cents each. (786-1385)

Haunted House at the Legion
Proceeds from the American Legion’s haunted house benefit programs for veterans. 4-9 p.m. Saturday, Oct 27, Jack Henry Post 1 American Legion, 840 W. Fireweed Lane. Cost is $3 for adults and $2 for kids. (272-5242)


Gateway to Darkness
Geared to teens and adults, this haunted house features zombies and ghouls galore. 7-11 p.m. Friday, Oct. 19-20 and Oct. 25-27; 6-9 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 21 and Oct. 29-31, 1241 Melanie Ave., Wasilla. Get a discount by purchasing tickets online. Early bird (by Oct. 21), $13 per person, $24 per couple, $11 per person for family of up to five people. Oct. 25-31, $15 per person, $30 per couple and $13 per person for family of up to five. (

Two Nights of Horror
This all-ages haunted house supports the animals at Mat-Su Animal Shelter. In addition to the haunted house, the shelter will also host Halloween activities, refreshments and a petting zoo. 7-11:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 26, 9470 E. Chanlyut Circle. $5 per person. (746-5500)

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More reality TV coming to Alaska

If you picked up this week's issue of Play, you might have seen the mention of the latest Alaska-based reality TV show. This one is called "Buying Alaska" and features potential home buyers shopping for properties around the state. The show premieres Sunday on Destination America, channel 105 on GCI cable.

Stream a clip from the show below.

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REVIEW: Richard Thompson is a master of fine dissonance

Richard ThompsonRichard Thompson

Singer, songwriter and master guitarist Richard Thompson gave Anchorage fans the show they’d been wanting for years. Mike McCormick of Whistling Swan persisted in convincing Thompson to come to Alaska, and the wait was worth the years that took. Saturday night’s performance was the best of three I’ve seen Thompson give, and it even topped the albums and videos that I’ve seen and listened for the past 30 years.

A key component of Thompson’s storytelling is his impeccable use of dissonance. The musical dissonance underscores the verses about life’s dissonances. What makes it work is his perfect intonation; it would fall flat if he didn’t sing and play in tune.

Most often, use of dissonance is found in jazz of the highest caliber. It’s what gives music its zing, surprise and, yes, even momentary discomfort, not unlike foods that include spicy hot, bitter and sour accents.

Thompson employed this risky musical tool on his version of the 1940s song “Dog Eat Dog in Denmark (Hamlet)” by Frank Loesser. Thompson not only delivered the four-verse story of Hamlet convincingly in jive style, but he wowed the audience with clustered tones zooming down the guitar fretboard while bending two strings simultaneously. He sang scat at the same time he played counter-melodies on the guitar. Many audience members could be seen leaning forward appearing to watch every new and astounding combination of fingering and picking.

The British folk-rock musician, a former member of the groundbreaking ’60s band Fairport Convention, writes music that expands well beyond the common folk style of AA, BB, stanzas and chorus. His melodies, inner voices and complex bass lines advance the story along a path more linear than circular. His musical themes are enriched by unusual chord progressions, challenging melodic intervals and modulating key signatures.

Thompson covered many of his old standards. He played many favorites called out by the audience, including “Persuasion,” “Shoot Out the Lights,” “Pharaoh” and “Crawl Back.” Though they were old standbys, the sound was fresh and invigorated by Thompson’s addition of a looping machine. It could have become overused and gimmicky in other hands, but true to form,Thompson used it with his usual restrained-but-with-intensity style.

It’s a style some might already be familiar with even if they don’t realize it -- Thompson wrote and played the guitar music for the soundtrack of “Grizzly Man” by Werner Herzog.

Starting the evening by saying he was jet-lagged, Thompson didn’t show it but gave a vigorous performance for a straight two hours without faltering. The audience rewarded him with three standing ovations, trying to convince him that he, at the very least, should “Crawl Back” to Anchorage before another 30 years go by.

I must give a shout-out to Simon Tassano at the sound controls. The concert would not have been nearly as pleasurable without him. The articulation of the guitar notes was very clear, and Thompson’s voice and vibrato were the most full I’ve ever heard. Combined with the fabulous acoustics of the Discovery Theater in the Atwood Concert Hall, the unsung sound technician made the concert the best it could possibly be.

Pamela Dunlap-Shohl is a designer at the Anchorage Daily News. Raised in a family of folk and classical musicians, she studied classical piano and then violin through college. Now a member of the Irish/Americana band Whiskey Jacks, she sings, plays electric fiddle and hopes to soon add her vertical viola to the mix.

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Alaska Railroad offers trips on the Alyeska Halloween Train

BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily NewsBOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News

Alaska Railroad offered rides on the Blues Train not so long ago, and now the railroad is teaming up with Alyeska to offer a Halloween-themed ride on the rails.

The ride includes a zombie costume contest and two drink tickets, and once in Girdwood there will be a disco dance party with live music by the Funkkee Hippeez, dinner and hotel room at Alyeska. The Halloween Train departs 4:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 27, from the Anchorage Downtown Depot, but organizers ask riders to check in an hour early. They also want to be able to ID riders as the check in (21 and older) and ask that costumed attendees finish their makeup or wait to put on their masks until afterward.

Tickets are $249 and include a bus ride back to Anchorage.

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VIDEO: Flogging Molly's sold-out show at the Egan Center

Flogging MollyFlogging Molly

Celtic-rock band Flogging Molly paid us a visit last week. Frontman Dave King spoke with Play contributor Toben Shelby about the band's motivations, and Play designer Pam Dunlap Shohl shot some clips from the group's sold-out concert at the Egan Center last Friday.

Stream clips of "Swagger," "The Likes of You Again" and "Revolution" below.

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Call to filmmakers: Make a movie in 2 days

Another 48-Hour Film Challenge is just around the corner. The annual event challenges teams of filmmakers to show what they can put together in a two-day window, with registration taking place Friday, Oct. 5, at Alaska Experience Theater.

Registration begins 6:30 p.m., and the prompts to be included in each film will be announced at 7 p.m. Films must be turned in as digital files no later than 7 p.m. Oct. 7.

There’s a $20 entry fee for each team, with films not to exceed 10 minutes. The event’s Facebook page says that teams outside of Anchorage will be able to enter without being present, but details aren’t available yet. Each movie screens Friday, Oct. 12, at the Alaska Experience Theater, followed by an awards ceremony.

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Oktoberfest is coming to Anchorage

It’s time for beer, bratwurst, lederhosen, polka dances and more beer. Oktoberfest is here and there are plenty of ways to celebrate this traditional German festival in Anchorage.

Humpy’s Great Alaskan Alehouse, 610 W. Sixth Ave., hosts Oktoberfest parties from 6-9 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 30, and Sunday, Oct. 14. They’ll serve lots of German-style food paired with great beers. Music by Alaska Baskapelle. $65 per person. Call 276-BEER (2337) for reservations.

Oktoberfest at Alyeska Resort in Girdwood is two full weekends of live music, souvenir steins and merrymaking. Get your polka on with live music by the Alaska Polka Chips, Chalon and Polka Dan. In a break from tradition, local bands Rebel Blues and Nervis Rex will perform during the second weekend. The menu includes sauerbraten short ribs, pork schnitzel and grilled bratwurst or bockwurst. 1 p.m.-midnight Fridays-Saturdays, Sept. 28-29 and Oct. 5-6, and 1-7 p.m. Sundays, Sept. 30 and Oct. 7. Admission is free from 1-7 p.m. and $5 from 7 p.m.-midnight. Food and beer are extra. Get tickets online,

The German Club of Anchorage presents the 46th Annual Oktoberfest, 7 p.m. Saturday-Sunday, Oct. 5-6, at the Egan Convention Center. Live music each night with Marge Ford and the Polka Chips, Chalon, the Alaska Blaskapelle, Bankerlplattler and the Alpine Bell Ringers. German-style food. Dirndl and lederhosen welcome. Tickets are $25, available at the Flying Dutchman, Anderson’s Bride, Alaska Sausage and the Egan Center. Tickets also available at the door.

Take a scenic journey Saturday, Oct. 6, along Turnagain Arm with a great designated driver, the Alaska Railroad. The Microbrew Express travels 80 miles roundtrip from Anchorage to Portage. Taste an assortment of local microbrews while feasting your eyes on the scenery of Turnagain Arm. The train leaves Anchorage at 4 p.m. and returns at 8:30 p.m. $159 includes the ride, appetizers, six half pints of BrewHouse beer with additional beers available for purchase. Book the trip online at Click on the "Specials" link.

The Alaska Aviation Museum hosts an Oktoberfest party at 6 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 13, 4721 Aircraft Drive. Enjoy beer and wine, brats, potato salad and munchies. Dance to the music of Marge Ford and the Polka Chips. A silent auction is planned to help fund the Living Legends Aviation History Project. Tickets are $20 in advance or $25 at the door. Call 248-5325.

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UPDATE: Local R&B and hip-hop artists kick off the Hometown Tour

UPDATE, Oct. 10:The Hometown Tour is now a one-night event called The '90s Throwback Jam (see the flyer above). Hosted by DJ Stewii, the party will now feature 809 Hoodz instead of Blaack, with the rap group adding '90s covers to their setlist.

The Hometown Tour is a series of hip-hop and R&B shows that’ll take place around Anchorage through November, and it’ll serve as something of a going away party for a couple local artists.

R&B and soul artist Chalease has her sights set on Arizona, while gospel/ hip-hop artist Overcomher will relocate to California. The two will be joined by Anchorage rapper Blaack for the Hometown Tour kickoff party at the Anchor Pub on Thursday, Nov. 8. Admission is $1, with proceeds benefiting Covenant House. Other shows are planned for Platinum Jaxx and Rum Runner’s.

Stream tracks from all three below.

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Alaskan Melissa Mitchell advances in Mountain Stage NewSong Contest

Melissa MitchellMelissa Mitchell

Earlier this month we posted about Alaskan singer-songwriter Melissa Mitchell participating in the Mountain Stage NewSong Contest. Her song "Ask" made Mitchell a finalist in the West region, and she'll move on to the Awards Round as the People's Choice winner, garnering the most votes on the NewSong website.

Mitchell will perform along with 11 other Awards Round songwriters at the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts In New York City on Oct. 20. In the meantime, you can hear her Sunday on public radio's "Mountain Stage" or catch her play Tap Root on Oct. 12.

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Movie theater in Eagle River closes shop

Chugiak-Eagle River Star reports that Eagle River Cinemas has gone out of business.

The theater opened as Valley River Cinemas in 1985, owned and operated by Hickel Investment Company until 2011, when Coming Attractions began leasing the building and changed the name of the theater to Eagle River Cinemas. Coming Attractions also opened The Valley Cinema in Wasilla that same year.

In the Chugiak-Eagle River Star story, both organizations cited an inability to compete with Regal Cinema Tikahtnu Stadium in Anchorage and stated that Chugiak and Eagle River residents seemed more likely to go to the more up-to-date theater in Wasilla.

Schweiger agreed, saying Chugiak-Eagle River residents who aren’t driving to Anchorage to catch a flick are going to Wasilla’s newest theater.

Schweiger also cited the cost it would take to upgrade Valley River Cinemas’ out-of-date technology — it still used 35mm film — as a reason to close down.

“It’s an old theater and it’s obsolete,” he said. “In order to justify the expense of operating the theater … several million dollars would have needed to be spent.”

It would cost an estimated $1.2 million to transfer to digital, Hickel said. And that price tag doesn’t include upgrades the theater needs, he said.

Read the full Alaska Star article here.

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Bootlegger's Ball to benefit museum

The Anchorage Museum will attempt to re-create the Roaring ‘20s with the Bootlegger’s Ball, a fundraiser for the Imginarium Discovery Center and the museum’s education programs.

The event is 7 p.m.-midnight Friday, Oct. 19, and features a costume contest and three bars. Tickets are available, selling at a discount of $50 until Oct. 9 (21 and older), which includes one drink ticket. After Oct. 9, the price goes up to $60. VIP tickets are $100, which include parking in the museum’s garage, two drink tickets and access to a VIP lounge.

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Roundup: Improvised edition

Scared ScriptlessScared Scriptless

Looks like we might have a brief reprieve from the rain. (UPDATE: Spoke too soon.) If the weather has kept you indoors for the past few days, you might be itching to hit the town this weekend. How about a few suggestions?

If you’ve never caught a performance by local improv comedy troupe Scared Scriptless, another opportunity presents itself Saturday. Lindsay Kucera spoke with members of the troupe for this week’s cover feature. The performance starts 8 p.m. Tickets are $9 ($7 for military and students).

Below are this week’s Hot Picks, and Mike Dunham’s Art Scene picks includes info on Chopin nocturnes, Anchorage Symphony Orchestra and the "Radio Land" exhibit at UAA.

Just dance
H2Oasis transforms into a dance club Friday, as the water park hosts Treasure Island: Curse of Pirates Bay, a party headlined by with Reid Speed, owner of Play Me Records, and DJ Comic Strips. Hit the dance floor 9 p.m., $25-$45 (all ages). Call 522-4420 for more info. Comic Strips is laying down his mix of electro and dubstep again the next night, playing a 21-and-older gig at Koot’s, 9 p.m.

Alaska Railroad and Blues Central have teamed up again for Blues Train, this year featuring the music of Rebel Blues as you ride the rails to Seward and back. Fare is $269 (21 and older), which includes round-trip pass, lunch, two drink tickets, barbecue dinner and a night in a hotel in Seward with shuttle service. The train leaves Anchorage 1 p.m. Saturday and returns 1 p.m. Sunday. Visit for info.

Drink up
Saturday could be tough on some livers. First there’s Bodegafest, the second annual tasting event at Kincaid Park, featuring craft beer, mead and cider from Alaska and beyond, 2-8 p.m. Tickets are $25, which includes 12 tasting tickets and a commemorative glass. If after that you still haven’t had your fill, slap on an eye patch and join the Pirate Pub Crawl, a fundraiser for Blood Bank of Alaska. The crawl starts 7 p.m. at Town Square Park, but you can jump in at any of the participating bars. Visit for the full list and details.

Reel to reel
Adrenaline junkies: There are a couple options for watching like-minded thrill-seekers on film. First is the Radical Reels Tour, part of the annual Banff Mountain Film Festival. Check out the mountain biking, BASE jumping, snowboarding and more 7 p.m. Friday, Wendy Williamson Auditorium, $5-$16. Visit for info. After that is Reel Rock 7, a collection of climbing films that will air in hundred of locations worldwide, including 8 p.m. Wednesday, Bear Tooth, $10-$12. Visit for info.

No average Joe
Reggae artist Ranking Joe has produced records for giants of the genre like Frankie Paul, Black Uhuru, King Tubby and many others. His own recording career stretches back to the '70s, and you can catch him in action 9 p.m. Saturday, Koot’s, $25 advance, $30 door (21 and older). Visit for info.

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Wasilla team eliminated from 'The Great Food Truck Race'

Team Momma's Grizzly GrubTeam Momma's Grizzly Grub

The current season of “The Great Food Truck Race” on Food Network features teams looking to get into the food truck business. Competing for their own food truck and $50,000 to start their business was Momma’s Grizzly Grub from Wasilla.

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Anchorage singer JR Aquino performs on 'The Voice'

JR AquinoJR Aquino

Anchorage’s JR Aquino started posting videos on YouTube as a way to get his music heard outside of Alaska. Now his channel on the video-sharing website has more than 400,000 followers and nearly 50 million views. The appeal of those videos helped carry Aquino through the blind audition round of Monday’s episode of "The Voice."

In the episode, Aquino – who also appeared on "American Idol" – talked about his online success before performing “Just the Way You Are” by Bruno Mars. His voice was enough to convince three of the four judges, with Cee-Lo, Christina Aguilera and Adam Levine each offering to coach Aquino through the rest of the competition. He opted to join Cee-Lo’s team after the rapper and R&B star offered some constructive criticism.

Blake Shelton was the lone holdout, but he provided some insights after Cee-Lo asked if there are many clubs or lounges in Alaska.

Shelton: “There’s not even a lot of bars – I’ve been to Anchorage.”

Aquino: “There’s three.”

Shelton: “I went to all of them in one night.”

Below is a clip of Aquino’s audition, followed by the full episode (skip to about the 50-minute mark for Aquino’s story and performance).

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Chimaira's Anchorage concerts canceled


Local promoter Family Tree Presents had previously booked the metal band Chimaira to play Oct. 12 at Koot's and Oct. 13 at Club Millennium, but a press release announced Thursday that the concerts have been canceled, citing a death in the promoter's family.

Tickets purchased at will be refunded automatically, while individuals who purchased tickets elsewhere are asked to return to that point of purchase for a refund. The press release said that the shows would be rescheduled for 2013 as the band’s schedule allows.

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From the Melvins tour blog: An Anchorage band signs to Sub Pop?

The MelvinsThe Melvins

Remember how the Melvins started their Guinness World Record-attempting tour in Anchorage? The one where they’re playing 51 shows in 51 days, one in each state plus the District of Columbia? Well, the band’s blogging about the tour on

Frontman Buzz Osbourne called the Anchorage show “a blast” and wrote about the wind storm that greeted the band when they arrived in town the night before the concert, the same wind storm that left much of the city without power.

The next morning I went to take a shower and found that the hot water didn't work and when I tried to call the front desk the phone was dead, so I shoveled on my clothes and stomped down to the lobby to see if maybe I could get a different room. At the desk they told me they did indeed have other rooms available that did include hot water but those rooms didn't have any power as a result of the storm but she said she could work all of that out no problem. At that point she handed me a new room key along with a flashlight….

He cracked some jokes about the bus used to pick up the band that came "complete with a bar, flashing lights and a stripper pole." But Osbourne also wrote about bumping into Jonathan Poneman and Bruce Pavit of the influential Sub Pop label. “They told us they were on their way to Anchorage to sign a band that sounded like the Stooges,” according to King Buzzo.

So, which band in Anchorage sounds like the Stooges?

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Anchorage featured in 'hipster' series

"American Hipster Presents" is an online series that travels to different cities, shooting five episodes in each that profile different trendsetters in each area. The series has posted episodes from San Francisco, New Orleans, Philadelphia and Austin, Texas, and last week the series added five episodes from Anchorage.

The Anchorage episodes focus on urban homesteading and permaculture with the group Red Edge Design, a profile of indie-pop band The Modern Savage (who were still calling themselves The Young Guns when the episode was shot), contemporary Native art with Drew Michael, subsistence living and wild harvesting with the Anchorage Food Mosaic and craft brewing at Midnight Sun Brewery.

Stream a playlist of each Anchorage episode below.

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Anchorage songwriter Melissa Mitchell competing in Mountain Stage NewSong Contest

Melissa MitchellMelissa Mitchell

For the past 11 years, popular public radio program “Mountain Stage” has teamed with the independent music organization NewSong Music to sponsor a contest for performing songwriters. Competing in the regional round is Anchorage-based singer-songwriter Melissa Mitchell, whose song “Ask” is included in the West region.

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Comedian Jerry Seinfeld to perform at Sullivan Arena

Jerry SeinfeldJerry Seinfeld

While he became a household name with a sitcom about nothing, Jerry Seinfeld got his start in the mid ‘70s doing standup. These days he’s performing in large theaters more often than comedy clubs, and now his schedule includes a date at Sullivan Arena – Thursday, Oct. 25.

“Seinfeld” ran for nine seasons, with the last episode airing in 1998 after the sitcom’s star famously turned down millions of dollars to do another season. These days Seinfeld produces “The Marriage Ref,” a TV show in which a panel of celebrities listens to the marital disputes of real-life partners and determines a winner.

Tanya Pont, Sullivan Arena’s director of marketing, said that the comedian’s booking agency reached out to the venue looking for new markets in which to send the standup. Seinfeld will also perform the next night at the Carlson Center in Fairbanks.

Tickets go on sale 10 a.m. Friday, Sept 14, at Ticketmaster outlets, ranging from $60 to $99 (service charges not included).

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