Matt Lewis and his band aren’t Alaskans, but they could be.
That’s how much admiration Lewis and his fellow musicians have for the state that they’ve performed in and toured around off and on since the early 2000s. Now, after a break from the road in support a recent album, Lewis and his band are back, kicking off a summer tour starting in Fairbanks this weekend as part of the Boatel’s 48th birthday celebration. The band is playing two nights, Friday and Saturday, in the yard at the popular riverfront spot starting at 9 p.m. with opener Sam Densmore.
“One thing I love about Alaska is there is a real appreciation for live music that I don’t think there is in a lot of places,” Lewis said Monday from his home in Utah near Salt Lake City. “Some of the best-kept secret bands are there.”
Lewis and his then-bandmates arrived in Alaska in 2004 to work for the summer. They ended up renting and living in an empty office building in downtown Anchorage where, after work each day, they would jam all night. Those jam sessions led to booked gigs in Anchorage and as the gigs grew, so did their popularity.
“A bunch of people saw us and liked us,” Lewis said. “We had this fan base growing up there.”
They returned the following year as a band and started touring the state. “We just played the right shows,” Lewis said, noting gigs at Forrest Fair in Girdwood and spots around Southcentral Alaska as well as summer solstice parties in at 49th State Brewing in Healy and even opening for Snoop Dogg at The Blue Loon in Fairbanks. The more they played around the state, the more musicians they met, and the more they all played together.
“Alaska became our place,” he said. “At the time, we had a huge following here at home but we love it there. The vibe up there is a big appreciation. It’s a tight-knit community because we’re always gigging and playing together.”
The group’s current lineup includes Lewis on vocals and guitar, Adam Cook on bass, Camron Levanger on guitar, and RB Graves on drums. Their most recent release, “Vague Concern,” is billed as “a more somber side of the Salt Lake City based quartet,” according to their social media platforms, but still offers the same Matt Lewis Band style fans became accustomed to on previous albums, including “Summer Soulstice” and “Matt Lewis Band.” Their sound is a uniquely fun mash of acoustic, rock, reggae and American roots, and that’s what fans will hear when they take the stage this weekend at the Boatel.
Lewis and band mates have been to the Boatel — like so many Fairbanksans, they’ve ended up there during summer solstice parties — but have never played the yard, mentioning they have played The Blue Loon, The Marlin and Howling Dog Saloon. Now, they’re checking one of the city’s popular outdoor music venues off their list.
“As a band, we’re rooted in Alaska,” Lewis said. “If I meet someone out on the road from Fairbanks, it’s cool knowing that someone has been to a show. Fairbanks is a really unique place.”
Contact Features Editor Gary Black at 459-7504 or on Twitter at twitter.com/FDNMfeatures.
If You Go
What: Matt Lewis Band with opener Sam Densmore
Where: Boatel, 3368 Riverside Drive
When: 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday, June 14 and 15. The Boatel will close early for non-concert customers at 6:30 p.m. with doors opening at 7 p.m. for the concert.
Tickets: $25 each, available at the door or beforehand at the Boatel.