Under 21 crowd suffers from lack of ability to attend local concerts

There is no doubt that Anchorage’s local music scene has started to thrive once again. Local bands have emerged over the last few years, all in different genres, and all with a unique, genuine sound to them. With everything from indie, hardcore and hip-hop, there is at least one artist or group in this community that one will find they enjoy. The support that these artists receive is just as important as the music they put out. If no one listens to their CD or comes to their show, then they have no drive to continue on as an act.

Live shows are typically the primary way that bands receive support from fans. The live performances are the way that groups get in direct contact with their supporters, and physically see the impact their music is having on the community. With local venues in Anchorage such as Williwaw, TapRoot and Koot’s, this becomes easy for a band with a following to get in touch with their fan base — if they’re over 21.

Photo credit: Jian Bautista

When it comes to an underage support system, there are very few places that exist in the community to help bridge between the fans and the performers themselves. The only venue that consistently provides a place for people of all ages to come and support local artists is Anchorage Community Works. ACW opened a few years ago to serve as a hub for local artists and musicians to promote their work. Since their opening, they have been extremely successful in bringing out a group of underage kids and young adults into the local music and art community that exists in Anchorage.

Anchorage Community Works has a board of directors and staff that help in making the operation function properly, one of the them being musician Tyler Platt. He helps with planning the events that occur at ACW, and in turn has attended and gotten to know the crowd that shows up at these performances.

“I would love to see an expansion in the all ages music scene again. Venues like The Downstairs, Club Millennium and The Fiesta Room all used to exist for underage kids to attend shows at, but now its kind of just us, and no one really knows why,” Platt said.

There is without a doubt a large following of underage kids who feel very passionate about the local music that exists in Anchorage, and want nothing more than to be able to show up and support these bands. Blaize Carter is currently 18 years old, but has been attending shows for around two years.

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“When I started going to shows, there was at least one all ages show a month, and within the last year it has sort of died out. Shows were really the only consistent thing I had going for me so the lack of them now really throws a wrench in what I considered my safety net. I feel a lot more closed off now that I am not able to go to shows so often because they’re all 21-plus now,” Carter said.

The lack of all ages shows has created a push amongst underage fans to travel out of the state to find concerts featuring musicians they enjoy that offer a show to all ages. People in this age range are beginning to rule out all shows in Anchorage as even a possibility when it comes to attending concerts. The most upsetting part is that they want to be able to support these bands, but their age is what restricts them.

What is even more frustrating is that the bands that exist in Anchorage want to be able to play to all of their fans, however old they may be. Josh Springer is the guitar player from Anchorage’s local hardcore band Old Hounds. Springer agrees that it is frustrating to not have much of a choice to play anywhere except bars for venues, restricting the audience who can attend.

“With Old Hounds all being over 21 now, we’ve got several different bars we can play at. It’s most commonly Koot’s, but we’ve played at TapRoot and the Avenue quite a bit, too,” Springer said. “The biggest impact I think this has had, overall, is a shrinking population of younger bands.”

It seems that the problem does not lie with the bands, or the audiences, but rather the lack of venues willing to host shows for the all ages crowds. While Anchorage Community Works is doing a fantastic job at putting bands on their stage for the younger audience, it is still not enough for the demand that the all ages crowd has.

Many people argue that it is because, without alcohol involved, it is much harder to make any sort of profit, which prevents people from creating venues without a bar. While it is unfortunate that the profits are not as strong immediately, many do believe that consistency in quality shows will keep a constant crowd showing up and supporting the music, regardless of age.

“At ACW, we provide a space for people to book shows, and help younger people be able to get the chance to both attend and promote those shows,” Platt said.

Hopefully there will soon be actions taken among people to fill the gap that exists when it comes to venues open to all ages. Not only would the underage crowd benefit, but the local music scene that exists in Anchorage overall. The music that exists in this town means a lot to many of the younger people around the community, and it is unfortunate to see them unable to support the artists that they enjoy most.