Theo "FySH" Houck plays the ukulele in his backyard. Now 16 years old and a member of the duo CodFySHJoe, Houck performed solo at Folk Fest for the first time when he was just 12.

Theo "FySH" Houck plays the ukulele in his backyard. Now 16 years old and a member of the duo CodFySHJoe, Houck performed solo at Folk Fest for the first time when he was just 12.

Folk Fest Performer Highlight: Theo “FySH” Houck

The first time Theo “FySH” Houck performed at the Alaska Folk Festival, he was only 12, and he’d moved to town less than a year before. He’d performed on stage before, but never alone.

“It felt like there were billions of people,” he said. “By the end of it I was still shaking, but I felt good. And people were really encouraging of little 12-year-old me. Looking back, it’s a very positive experience.”

He only recently turned 16 now, but he’s an old hand at performing on many of Juneau’s stages.

You may recognize him from Woosh Kinaadeiyí (he won last year’s poetry Grand Slam and is now on the board) as well as theatre performances with Perseverance Theatre and Juneau-Douglas High School.

This is he and Reed Gardinier’s third year performing together at Folk Fest as the dynamic duo behind CodFySHJoe. They even have matching guitars.

Houck goes by “FySH,” Gardinier goes by “Joe,” and they have an imaginary dog named Cod.

“We play off each other — we work well together,” Houck said. “There’s never a dull moment.”

They keep things light on stage. During one set, Gardinier danced and Houck interpreted the dance. Last year, they asked the audience for three chords and two words, and ended up singing a made-up-on-the-spot song about windshield wipers and peanut butter. They plan to have another improvisational song this year, Houck said.

Houck plays “a lot of instruments,” but mainly the guitar and the ukulele, he said.

His mother, Amy O’Neill Houck, and his grandfather are also musicians.

He first began playing music when his mother put him into Suzuki piano lessons when he was six. Then, the family moved to Cordova, and he attended the Cordova 4H Bluegrass and Old-Time Music Camp — launched by “Dancing with the Spirit” founder and executive director Rev. Belle Mickelson, from whom he said he learned a lot — took songwriting classes, and began “literally fiddling around” at the camp and on the many instruments available at the music time before school in the mornings. At the end of the three years in Cordova, he was helping to teach the program.

The family moved to Juneau between Houck’s fifth and sixth grade year, the same summer Houck wrote his first song. Now, he’s been writing songs five years and playing guitar for eight. (His favorite he’s written is “Allergic Attraction” — check out the Capital City Weekly’s website for a video of him performing it.) He may be best known, however, for the second song he ever wrote — a love song to his pet rock. (“I dedicated it to him because I forgot to feed him too many times,” he said.)

“I mostly just try to make people laugh and smile with my music. The more intense, angsty teenager stuff goes into my poetry,” Houck said.

He wrote his first serious song this summer while on a Wrangell-St. Elias National Park writing retreat and rafting trip — Riversong, through the Wrangell Mountains Writing Workshop and McCarthy River Tours & Outfitters — with his mother.

It’s in his poems that more serious themes tend to come out. The family has moved several times, which has been a big influence on his life, he said.

“I wrote a poem about that and performed it at the (Woosh Kinaadeiyí) spring showcase… afterwards, someone came up to me and told me that they really related to the poem, and really appreciated that I’d written it.”

That interaction influenced him to write things that may help someone listening.

“I feel like I have a platform and a responsibility but also a privilege when I’m standing on stage to be a voice for people who don’t have that platform,” he said.

Since then, he’s written a few poems about being transgender, and other more weighty topics, he said.

At a recent youth leadership summit of Identity, Inc. an Anchorage-based LGBT organization, he performed a poem “about being trans and fighting misogyny in the trans-masculine community,” he said. He got a positive, and supportive, response from many of the people there.

In music, however, he’s “just trying to make people smile,” he said.

“I’m trying to have fun, myself, and enjoy the spotlight,” he said.

That’s what he and Gardinier will be doing at Folk Fest at 9:15 on Saturday night as CodFySHJoe.

“…We spend half the time (rehearsing) coming up with jokes we can stay on stage… and I think we bring that energy to the stage. We’re great friends, and I think we try to be great friends with the audience.”

• Contact Capital City Weekly managing editor Mary Catharine Martin at maryc.martin@capweek.com.

More in Neighbors

Battered fish fillets frying. (Photo by Patty Schied)
Cooking for Pleasure: Fish and chips with homemade tartar sauce

For years I struggled with different fish batter recipes, usually with lousy… Continue reading

Jackie Renninger Park, which is scheduled to receive structural and safety improvements. (City and Borough of Juneau photo)
Neighbors briefs

See design ideas for Jackie Renninger Park at June 24 public meeting… Continue reading

Students from Juneau Community Charter School listen to a story at the Skagway Public Library. (Photo provided by Clint Sullivan)
Neighbors: Letters of thanks

Thanks to the community of Skagway The K/1 class of Juneau Community… Continue reading

Donna Leigh is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. (Courtesy photo)
Living and Growing: Small things

Have you ever had a small pebble in your shoe? Very irritating,… Continue reading

Dining out in Croatia. (Photo by Patty Schied)
Cooking for Pleasure: Almond cake from a trip to Croatia

I should have probably titled this week’s column: “Eating For Pleasure.” My… Continue reading

Matushka Olga Michael, a Yup’ik woman from Kwethluk. (Photo provided by Maxim Gibson)
Living and Growing: A new Alaskan saint

“God is wonderful in His saints: the God of Israel is He… Continue reading

Nick Hanson of the NBC show “American Ninja Warrior” kicks off the blanket toss at the 2020 Traditional Games in Juneau. (Lyndsey Brollini / Sealaska Heritage Institute)
Neighbors: Celebration begins Wednesday with mix of traditional and new events

Nearly 1,600 dancers from 36 dance groups scheduled to participate in four-day gathering.

“Curiosities of Alaska” by Junnie Chup, which won first place in Kindred Post’s 2024 statewide postcard art contest. (Photo courtesy of Kindred Post)
Neighbors briefs

Kindred Post announces 2024 statewide postcard art contest winners Kindred Post on… Continue reading

Tanya Renee Ahtowena Rorem at age 17. (Photo provided by Laura Rorem)
Living and Growing: ‘My name is Ahtowena’

My precocious two-year old broke loose from my grip and took off… Continue reading

The Pinkas Synagogue, the second-oldest building in Prague. (World Monuments Fund photo)
Living and Growing: Connecting to family ancestors through names of strangers on a wall in Prague

“Prague never lets you go…this dear little mother has sharp claws.” —… Continue reading

Individual eggplant parmesan rounds ready to serve. (Photo by Patty Schied)
Cooking for Pleasure: Individual eggplant parmesan rounds

These flavorful eggplant parmesans are a great side dish, especially served with… Continue reading