Takin’ Care of Bluegrass, seen here at Sandbar, consists of Jeremy Kane on banjo, Josh Fortenbery on guitar, Lindsay Clark on violin, James Cheng on bass and Andrew Heist on mandolin. They’re just one of five acts appearing on this month’s line up for the return of Gold Street Music concerts. (Courtesy photo / Annie Bartholomew)

Takin’ Care of Bluegrass, seen here at Sandbar, consists of Jeremy Kane on banjo, Josh Fortenbery on guitar, Lindsay Clark on violin, James Cheng on bass and Andrew Heist on mandolin. They’re just one of five acts appearing on this month’s line up for the return of Gold Street Music concerts. (Courtesy photo / Annie Bartholomew)

Gold Street Music returns home

“We’re really excited to be back where it all started.”

Gold Street Music concerts, a 20-year tradition, not only returns this month to Juneau, but it’s also returning to its original venue, the Church of Holy Trinity.

Co-founder Mike Truax said that while working through the process of resurrecting the popular series from pre-pandemic times, the only thing that he’s noticed has changed is the amount of talented musicians around town.

“Juneau in general, as far as musical talent, has really expanded,” Truax said. “There’s a lot of really talented musicians in Juneau, we have a much bigger crowd of talented people to choose from than we did when we first started.”

With the last performance taking place in March 2020, Gold Street Music concerts are now returning at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday after a three-year hiatus during the pandemic. For roughly 20 years prior, once a month from October to March, a small group of volunteers put together showcases of local music the first Saturday each month with five acts each varying in notoriety and each performing 20-minute sets, a format that co-organizer Riley Woodford said they’ve intentionally stuck with.

“We always wanted to have a mix of experienced people that will be a draw as well as some people that don’t get a lot of chances to play out, maybe they don’t play in bars or they write songs and they want a venue where they can go out and play some of their new original songs,” Woodford said. “So, we’ve always tried to have it be a mix of those two things and that’s what we tried to stay true to in bringing it back, as well.”

Truax along with co-founder Debby Johnson, are joined by Mark Heard and Woodford for this most recent iteration. Truax, a musician in his own right, has been playing music in Juneau since 1975 and was good friends with well-known local folk musician Buddy Tabor, who Truax said, along with Elva Bontrager were the true brains behind the operation.

“The main thing that started this was that Elva and Buddy decided they wanted some kind of venue where people like them could play and people who were just not professionals or performing publicly where they could get a chance to play in front of people because with folks music, you just can’t quite do that at a bar because everyone is there to talk or dance more than listen typically,” Truax said.

[Goldstreet Music Concerts are back for Season 14]

Tabor has since passed away and while Bontrager is no longer directly involved with the concert planning, Truax said the group plays music with her every Friday night, which offers an opportunity to seek her advice and counsel on all Gold Street related news. Truax said they’re already planning for Feb. and March, as well.

January’s line up consists of Joe Emerson, Dan Kirkwood, Takin’ Care of Bluegrass, Annie Bartholomew, and Mike Gamble with Caleb Wylie. In addition to being excited about this month’s lineup, Woodford said they’re equally excited for the opportunity to return to Gold Street in the Church of the Holy Trinity.

“The Church of the Holy Trinity burned to the ground around 2007,” Woodford said. “The series started at the corner of Fourth and Gold around 2000 to the best of anyone’s recollection, but when the church burned down we moved the music series to Resurrection Lutheran Church on 10th and Glacier Avenue. But the Holy Trinity’s congregation eventually raised funds and was able to completely rebuild, so we’re excited to be back where it all started.”

Woodford, a Juneau resident since 1985, used to emcee many of the past Gold Street performances and also played occasionally. He said one of the more distinct aspects of these concerts is the absence of amplified sounds and instead the reliance of the building’s acoustics.

“It’s nice to have a concert where you don’t have to mess with a lot of gear and musicians don’t have to work with microphones and what have you, they just get up and play just like when they’re practicing at home,” Woodford said. “So, it really is a nice acoustic experience and the venue has great acoustics, so it’s a chance to hear music in a really natural setting.”

Jeremy Kane of Takin’ Care of Business, has been performing in Juneau since the early 2000s and said he can remember meeting many of the Gold Street founding members when he was still in his late teens. Though Kane’s band frequently performs for many of the bars within the downtown area, he said, much like Woodford, he, too, appreciates the opportunity to play a style of acoustic music in a venue that’s so well catered for it.

“I think that’s where bluegrass music shines because it’s designed to not need amps or mics, you don’t need anything if you know how to play the music,” Kane said. “So, the opportunity to play in a venue with great acoustics and people that are excited about listening to the music on an acoustic level, it really highlights the singing and the intricate playing of our instruments. It allows us to deliver bluegrass music in its purest form.”

Truax said the inspiration behind bringing back the series was fairly simple, they just missed it.

“We enjoyed it and we had a pretty good turnout every time we did it, so it was clear that other people enjoyed it, as well,” Truax said. “We did maybe two or three shows right before COVID hit and since then Debby and I have just sort of sat in limbo waiting for the chance to bring it back. We knew there was a demand for it but we also just missed it, it also gives us a chance to play, too.”

Know & Go

What: Gold Street Music concerts

When: Saturday, Jan. 7 at 7:30 p.m.

Where: Church of Holy Trinity

Admission: $5 donation and/or treats for intermission

• Contact reporter Jonson Kuhn at jonson.kuhn@juneauempire.com.

Annie Bartholomew, seen here at Sandy Beach, will be joined by four other local acts for this month’s return of Gold Street Music concerts at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday at the Church of Holy Trinity. (Courtesy Photo / Julie Shelton)

Annie Bartholomew, seen here at Sandy Beach, will be joined by four other local acts for this month’s return of Gold Street Music concerts at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday at the Church of Holy Trinity. (Courtesy Photo / Julie Shelton)

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