Folk festival brings music and dancing to Anchorage

The annual Anchorage Folk Festival will celebrate 31 years of music, dance and workshop events Jan. 15-26. The festival serves to represent community performers and perpetuate folk art culture, according to its website.

This year, the festival features Jontavious Willis, Feufollet and Jack Broadbent as guest artists, who will perform at 49th State Brewing Co, UAA’s Wendy Williamson Auditorium and the Williwaw Social. Concerts at the auditorium are free and tickets for other performances can be purchased on anchoragefolkfestival.org.

The 31st annual Anchorage Folk Festival takes place from Jan. 15–26, and performances are hosted at 49th State Brewing Co., Williwaw Social and UAA’s Wendy Williamson Auditorium. Graphic courtesy of Anchoragefolkfestival.org.

Jontavious Willis of Greenville, Georgia will bring blues to the stage with his soulful music. The 22-year-old multi-instrumentalist has been recognized by the Blues Foundation, a non-profit organization that preserves blues heritage and hosts annual music awards, and was given the 2018 best self-produced CD award.

“Many fans of Willis regard him as an old soul. His style of playing the instruments and his voice touches the very roots of country blues,” according to Willis’ website.

A five-member band from southeast Louisiana will also grace the stage to play a mix of Cajun, honky-tonk and string-band music. Feufollet plays an array of instruments, including the fiddle and the accordion. 

“At the outset, the group demonstrated that it played authentic Cajun music like a group of grizzled veterans as time went on, Feufollet demonstrates that the band wasn’t afraid to tackle new things and venture into new directions,” OffBeat Magazine writer Dan Willing commented in a 2019 article about Feufollet’s 20th anniversary. 

Jack Broadbent, originally from Lincolnshire, England, will perform in Alaska for the first time during the festival. He was coined “the new master of the slide guitar” by the Montreux Jazz Festival. The festival takes place on Lake Geneva, Switzerland and is the second-largest annual jazz festival in the world.

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“I would describe my musical style as roots music. It’s a melting pot of styles including folk, blues, rock, jazz and Americana,” Broadbent said.

He developed his style through years of traveling and performing in different places, but his father, a fellow musician, is his biggest inspiration. Broadbent taught himself how to play music by writing his own songs.

“I mainly play guitar and sing, but I also love to play all kinds of instruments and percussion,” Broadbent said. 

Along with the three headlining artists, UAA’s Wendy Williamson main stage will host over 120 community performers throughout the weeks of the Folk Festival. Local artists’ acts will rotate every 15 minutes. The main stage festival community performances are free and open to the public. 

In addition to the live performances, there will be dance sessions and festival workshops at the auditorium. Some of the special events include a kick-off party, Irish ceili dancing, swing dance lessons, folk dance for kids, Cajun dance lessons and instrument-related workshops. Lessons are free and open to all, with no experience needed.

Students will receive free admission to a Contra Dance held in UAA’s Student Union on Jan. 23. The dance is open to the public and will feature guest band the Pig Runners. The event provides students and community members a chance to enjoy a night of dancing accompanied by live music.

“We love that UAA is our home base for this festival,” Anchorage Folk Festival Board of Directors member Joe Selmont said. “We want to encourage UAA students to go to the festival and make a place that’s fun, welcoming and folky.”

For more information on the Anchorage Folk Festival and a schedule of the upcoming events, visit the 31st Annual Anchorage Folk Festival on Facebook. Times and dates of performances are also listed on anchoragefolkfestival.org.

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