Blue Loon

The Blue Loon on the morning of May 17, 2019, a day after fire ravaged much of the popular Ester establishment.

The loss of The Blue Loon Thursday to fire has sent artists, promoters and booking agents scrambling to find new venues in Fairbanks for concerts and gigs already lined up for the summer.

The nightclub, theater and performance venue has hosted politicians, rock bands and comedians in addition to being the home of large outdoor concerts that have been a staple of Fairbanks summers. Now, with the Ester business shuttered as the state fire marshal investigates the blaze, those concerts and gigs are searching for homes in a city with already limited venues.

"It will impact us, I'm sure. We're figuring out to what extent," said James Menaker, executive director of the Fairbanks Summer Arts Festival, a two-week event that brings artists, performers and musicians from around the world to Fairbanks each July.

The summer arts festival had six events lined up at The Blue Loon for the last two weeks of July. Menaker said he spent much of Thursday looking for other venues and seeing what is available in Fairbanks as well as checking with the Loon to see what its plans were.

Nathan Davis, the new owner of Loon, who just last week finalized the purchase of the property from state Rep. Adam Wool, was unavailable for comment on what's next for the facility.

"We have 59 days until Festival starts, and that's late in the game to find a new venue," Menaker said. "Once we have some firm information to work with, we'll be able to make adjustments accordingly."

One of the biggest scrambles was for Jerry Evans and Glenner Anderson, the frontmen of Alaska Comedy, the entity bringing stand-up comedian and actor TJ Miller to Fairbanks on Saturday for two sold-out performances. They were able to move Miller's performance to Pioneer Park Theater in the Alaska Centennial Center for the Arts, combining Miller's two Loon shows into one performance now slated for 8 p.m.

"It was the perfect room," Evans said of The Loon. "I had to put my shock and mourning for the place on hold. I'll grieve in my own place and time, but the first thing I thought was, 'Uh oh, now I have to scramble.'"

Both Evans and Anderson have been performing stand-up at The Loon for more than 20 years and have brought up such names as Jim Gaffigan, Bob Zany, Arden Myrin, Pauley Shore and Brian Posehn, among others.

"I was heartbroken, just heartbroken," Anderson said. "That place means so much to so many, you know? If you ask any comedian in the country who's performed there, it's one of their favorite places to do stand-up."

One of the biggest events kicking off the summer is the Scrap Metal Tour, a rock 'n' roll rat pack of classic rockers performing June 1. When concert organizers heard of Thursday's fire, they, too, scrambled for a new location, moving the concert featuring Matthew and Gunnar Nelson of Nelson, Mark Slaughter of Slaughter, Lita Ford, and Kip Winger of Winger to the Tanana Valley State Fair grounds.

"It gives us one less option for putting stuff in certain places," said Brad Erickson, the promoter behind Erickson Unlimited, the agency bringing Scrap Metal to Fairbanks along with Last Frontier Mediactive. "As a promoter, being here in Alaska, you only have so many venues and so many places to put things. It can make booking shows harder."

Erickson Unlimited also is the group behind the 2019 Backyard Country BBQ, a country music series that will play in Fairbanks this summer for the fourth year in a row, as well Queen Nation, a Queen tribute group slated for August. The country series will play at The Spur, while Queen Nation might take place at the fairgrounds, Erickson said.

"We'll have to look at different places," he said.

In addition to national touring acts like Snoop Dog, Barenaked Ladies, Jane’s Addiction, Bo Diddley, Cake, Crystal Method, Brandi Carlisle, Dropkick Murphys and Flogging Molly, among others, The Loon has been home to local bands as well, many playing there for years in front of fans.

Shagg, a disco/funk group and a Fairbanks favorite, first took the stage at The Loon five years ago.

"I think The Loon always had the vibe as being the place to play live music in Fairbanks," Shagg member Frank Gamboa said. "It had the biggest indoor stage and has been known for all the concerts it has had over the years. Not many other venues in Fairbanks support the amount of live entertainment that The Loon was bringing."

Barbie Keller, a member of the psychobilly band The Avery Wolves, also has played The Loon numerous times, often with the band opening for touring acts.

"It's had a huge impact on the bands in town and the community, that's for sure," she said.

Contact Features Editor Gary Black at 459-7504 or on Twitter: @FDNMfeatures.