Salmonfest 2017

Salmonfest 2017

By Whitney Branshaw

Photos / Kevin Bennett


A few weeks back I took a handful of my close friends and spent some time on the Turquoise Multimedia compound in Cooper Landing. Without saying too much, Turquoise Multimedia is an incredibly amazing and talented mix of people from across the country that can take the shape of any artistic idea you can imagine. I knew the Turquoise crew would quickly fall in love with the ones I love, and that is precisely what happened. Not long after we got to the compound, the crew realized that my friend and photographer Kevin Bennett was beyond talented.

Turquoise was in charge of live mixing all the performances on the main stage at Salmonfest, among other things. When Kevin and I were offered all access passes to the festival, we couldn't say no. So off to Salmonfest we went. We had no idea what we were in for.

Our intention was to document Salmonfest as candidly as possible, showcasing these artist's true talent in real life moments. 

Here is our experience, through moments and words, and through Kevin's lens.


Pimps of Joytime was the first performance we got to take in. Their show set the tone for the weekend. As everyone settled into the rhythm, the crowd’s energy was almost animalistic. I watched the band play with my mouth on the ground, tapping Kevin every once in awhile to point and stare at what was unfolding in front of my eyes. He would nod in agreement then go back to getting the shots he wanted. It was a perfect way to start the festival.


Kevin caught the California Honeydrops on the Ocean stage and came to find me immmediately after their set. He hurriedly waved me over to the screen on his camera and proudly displayed the moments he captured the band in. When I asked him to describe the performance in one word he replied, "Soulrich."


This is Dennis. We met him when we went to go visit the infamous Darby Andrews. Dennis was sitting at the RV table when we arrived and seemed to radiate the essence of Salmonfest. This shot of him says it all.


No Pebble Mine. Enough said.


Jewel made her performance at Salmonfest a family affair. There were appearances on stage by her father, brother, aunt Mossy, Zach Brown and Jewel's son. While Jewel seemed to have her nose slightly in the air, her vocals were incredible. That woman can sing. I sat with a majority of her family in the sound booth during her performance and many stood there and swayed back and forth with tears in their eyes. She had come home. 


Rusted Root was my favorite Main Stage act. We were lucky enough to have access to certain parts of the stage and this was by far the best part of that privilege for me. I stood on the left side, hidden by the speakers and curtain. I couldn't see the crowd, just the band. I found myself so moved by their performance that tears were streaming down my face. If you ever get the chance to see this band live you shouldn't pass it up.


Props to all the vendors and food trucks! This year’s vendors had some of the best merchandise I’ve seen at the festival for sale. There was also the added bonus of multiple food trucks that stayed open late into the night for us folks who found ourselves starving on the walk back home to the musician's parking lot in the wee hours of the morning.


Daniel performed this year at Salmonfest, along with his daughter Melissa Mitchell. When asked to describe Salmonfest in one word he replied without hesitation, “Heaven.”


Another epic addition to Salmonfest was the late night DJ sets on the River Stage. It was a solid choice in catering to the younger crowd, and added to the incredible showcase of talent over the weekend. Dodge and Fuski was a high point of my festival experience.


Eric Kross and Diana Z took the stage on Sunday and Kevin managed to snap this perfect shot with the festival's mission displayed in the background. #savethesalmon


I ran into Rising Appalachia on the trails while shopping. I seized the opportunity to ask them to describe Salmonfest in one word, their responses were delayed, but thoughtful. They settled on, “Local and Surprising.” I concur.


Hope Social Club's live performance never disappoints. They have a legit following and it was apparent during their set. Melissa has such a rich voice, and always gives her whole self to the performance.


Horseshoes and Hand Grenades Lost In the Music.


Railroad Earth smiles for the crowd.


Willow Rose enjoyed the festival along with hundreds of other kids. There was a kid play area, as always, and a never ending line to get your face painted that many parents begrudgingly stood in. So many families attend the event because of its kid friendly activities and ample space to pop a squat if you need to take a break with your little ones. Willow approves of this message.


The Road Home


Where it all comes together, on the Ocean Stage.


We stumbled upon Darby Andrews and his RV directly across from the fairgrounds. He directed us to the "Alaska flag flying high." There was no missing it. When we reached the flag, we shared a smoke and I met his friend Dennis. When I asked Darby what Salmonfest meant to him, he said, "Question there is, 'are they still donating to a cause, or is it just a party now?' You know what I'm saying? But, in my head it's still coming together to support the Wild of Alaska. So, what is sustainable about Alaska? The salmon. We do all this raping of the planet for all of these minerals and that's not sustainable. Salmon are the life line of so much of Alaska, and that's just an irreplaceable thing. These events bring together likeminded people that you haven't been able to see all year. We are all grown up and have our own lives now. We aren't just kids anymore. We don't get a chance to see each other as often and party every weekend. This weekend is different though, this weekend we are likeminded people coming together to support the wilds of Alaska. "