The Chickenstock Music Festival was held this past weekend in the tiny town of Chicken, almost 80 miles northeast of Tok on the Taylor Highway. Last year’s census lists the old gold mining town’s population at seven, but there were several hundred camping out in RVs and tents on Friday and Saturday.
I’m a little ashamed to admit that it took me a long while to understand fully the multiple layers of pun embedded in the name “Chickenstock” (I didn’t get the soup part). That sort of goofiness colored the entire festival. Event staffers -- aka "event flock" -- wore helmets adorned in feathers and a comb, the stage was more or less a gutted cabin atop two old mining trucks, an organized chicken dance was repeated no fewer than three times and between all the “have a plucking good time”-type signs around the site, no fowl-based puns went unsaid.
It was a hoot.
When I got there the skies opened. Fittingly, Hurricane Dave was on stage. He was playing an Alaska-fied rendition of “Margaritaville” (“searching for my lost bag of rock salt”) while my crew and I set up camp. The clouds parted for a while as Canadian-turned-Palmer-resident Diana Z followed with a set of sweetly sung folk tunes, including a pretty take on Bruce Springsteen’s “I’m on Fire.”
The rest of Friday was spent ducking in and out of rain, but Saturday was all sunshine, with each performer saving their A-game for the festival’s rowdiest day. David Firman of Fairbanks-based gypsy-folksters Feeding Frenzy set the bar high with his opening solo set. Country songwriter Sean Tracey was maybe the festival MVP, playing in three or four bands after delivering one of the day’s standout sets on his own.
Carlyle Watt and the Super Saturated Sugar Strings (née Carlyle Watt and the Skillet Lickers) delivered another fest highlight, marking the point where the dance floor would be occupied for the rest of the day. Supplemented by fiddle, cello and piano, the combo attracted hula-hoopers, a unicyclist and a juggler, all of which lent to the carnival climate which carried the rest of the day.
Here's some shaky footage I shot of the third of fourth song in the band's set. Unfortunately my battery died about halfway through.
And here's part of the chicken dance.
Other sets I caught included Tim Robb, who is maybe the only folk singer/songwriter I can think of who I'd describe as having swagger. Sweet Ginger Heat rested its rustic country tunes on the strength of its vocal harmonies, but as the night wore on I had trouble distinguishing which act was which. For one, the posted schedule eventually became not all that reliable, as set times didn't always go according to plan. No one seemed to mind, though. A cast of country music and bluegrass movers and shakers from around the state assembled in various permutations to form different bands whose names I didn’t catch, but all I'd go see again
The event also had raffles and a silent auction that benefited longtime local bluegrass staple Carl Hoffman, who suffered a head injury after a serious fall this past November.
Anyone else make the trip this weekend? What were some of your highlights?