Muskeg Collective members Erin Heist, Annie Bartholomew, Taylor Vidic and Josh Fortenbery, plus special guest Andrew Heist, perform at The Golden Saloon in McCarthy in early August. The group will be featured at the Cowboy Ball on Saturday at the Juneau Arts and Culture Center. (Photo by Cam Jimmo)

Muskeg Collective members Erin Heist, Annie Bartholomew, Taylor Vidic and Josh Fortenbery, plus special guest Andrew Heist, perform at The Golden Saloon in McCarthy in early August. The group will be featured at the Cowboy Ball on Saturday at the Juneau Arts and Culture Center. (Photo by Cam Jimmo)

Cowboy up for an Alaska-style country music hoedown

Local musicians with eclectic styles come together as Muskeg Collective at Cowboy Ball on Saturday.

You might not have heard of Muskeg Collective, the group behind the Cowboy Ball this weekend. But if you like local music chances are good you’ve heard at least one, and probably more, of its players.

The group consists of Southeast Alaska songwriters who usually work on their own, but have come together for the Saturday night event at the Juneau Arts and Culture Center.

The collective includes Annie Bartholomew, Erin Heist, Josh Fortenbery, Taylor Vidic and special guest Andrew Heist. Musicians Ace-High Lindsay Clark and Lucky James Cheng will also play.

The promo describes it as an “eclectic blend of local vocals by local yokels to start the night, and end with a country music hoedown when they join forces.”

Those two parts will be split roughly two-thirds and one-third, said Erin Heist. There will be a costume contest between the two parts of the show, since attendees are encouraged to dress up. “Please come wearing your shiniest cowpoke duds and ride out on your horse to our star-spangled rodeo — you could win a fabulous prize.”

The $25 ticket price includes contest entry.

The idea for the Cowboy Ball jelled in August when Bartholomew was going to play at the Golden Saloon in McCarthy. She asked the event organizers if she could include friends and they readily agreed.

“It was probably some of the most fun musically I’ve ever had,” recalled Heist. “It was magical. We felt like we had to do it in Juneau, too.”

“We’d all been meeting and chatting, and sharing tips and tricks for a handful of months,” said Vidic. “That was our first time performing together in a more structured way.”

The commute to the gig provided fertile time to “dream and scheme and come up with a fun, energetic, true-to-us way to share with Juneau what we’re building together,” added Vidic.

The singer-songwriters that form the core group are at various stages of creating solo albums, each with their own style. Erin Heist’s album, “From the Land of Rusted Dreams,” was released in April 2022.

Bartholomew’s “Sisters of White Chapel” came out in June 2023. The collaborative songwriting project highlights the histories of women who “risked safety and virtue for a chance at a better life” in the north, according to her website. She developed the project as the Jenni House artist in the Yukon in March 2019, and took it to the 2019 Alaska Historical Society and Alaska Museums Conference, among other places.

Vidic and Fortenbery are working on their respective albums, both due out in 2024.

The other performers include Erin’s husband, Andrew Heist, who plays mandolin, fiddle, guitar and accordion; Lindsay Clark on fiddle; and James Cheng on upright acoustic bass.

The main point, Heist and Vidic said, is what they share. “We are all people writing and recording original music in Juneau,” said Heist.

The name of the collective adds some clarity to the music planned for the night and its lean toward country music, which might conjure up images of Texas and Tennessee. Muskeg is a Cree word used in Alaska and Canada for a type of wetland found in cool climates with other names, like bogs, moors and peatlands, according to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

Know & Go

What: Cowboy Ball

Where: Juneau Arts and Culture Center

When: Saturday, Oct. 14. Doors open at 6 p.m., music starts at 7 p.m.

Cost: $25 for entry and costume contest; $50 for a seat at a reserved table. The event also until Oct. 5 offered a limited number of $299 Covergirl admissions where Muskeg Collective will play a cover song of the purchaser’s choice.

Volunteer: Contact Vidic at for more information.


• Contact Meredith Jordan at or (907) 615-3190.

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