From left: Andrew Heist, Taylor Vidic, Erin Heist, Annie Bartholomew, Josh Fortenberry at 2024 Juneau Folk Fest on April 11. (Photo courtesy of Brian Wallace)
From left: Andrew Heist, Taylor Vidic, Erin Heist, Annie Bartholomew, Josh Fortenbery at 2024 Juneau Folk Fest on April 11. (Photo courtesy of Brian Wallace)

Juneau-based music group the Muskeg Collective is made up of serious, critically acclaimed musicians. But lately, they’ve found another passion: cowboy outfits. 

“It’s an addiction, we can’t stop,” said member Annie Bartholomew. “We’re one-upping each other with Western wear.” 

There will be sequins, tassels and 10-gallon hats galore for Haines’ first-ever Cowboy Ball on May 19. 

But the group isn’t just modeling their thrifted outfits. The group formed last year and its five members are accomplished in their own right in Juneau’s vibrant music scene. Individually they’ve been featured on NPR, Rolling Stone and international publications, and they’re renowned in Southeast Alaska. 

Attendees can expect to hear the boot-stomping energy of original songs from Juneau musicians such as Josh Fortenbery, Taylor Vidic, and Erin and Andrew Heist. And, there will be plenty of familiar covers of tunes by Johnny Cash, Shania Twain, and Waylon Jennings. 

The members have been performing in Southeast for more than a decade. So far, the supergroup has played in Juneau and Sitka, but it’s their first time in Haines. They’ve been fine-tuning their set with the hopes of bringing a “Cowboy Ball” to as many Southeast Alaska communities as they can.  

“We’ve been relearning our own songs, and reinterpreting our own songs in a way that fits with this group,” said Fortenbery. 

Lately, Bartholomew said they’ve been expanding instrumentation, experimenting with drums, getting all the band members a turn on bass guitar, and modifying arrangements for original songs. 

At least three of the members have released full-length albums, meaning they have plenty of material to choose from. They plan to keep their style fresh throughout the night. 

The two-hour show will start with some slower-tempo originals performed solo or with just a few members. At halftime, the show is expected to liven up with a cowboy costume contest where participants can get up on stage and show off their outfits. The second half will be mostly covers of country hits from as far back as Hank Williams. 

“Second half is more of a party set,” said Fortenbery. “We’ll throw in a few surprises.” 

Beer and wine will be served in the lobby and at the top of the Chilkat Center with VIP seating on the wings. The front of the seating area will be open for dancing. Local musician Henry Leasia will be performing tunes during the pre-show happy hour from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. 

The Cowboy Ball is taking the place of KHNS’s usual springtime fundraiser, a sit-down wine tasting and silent auction. Programming director Marley Horner said he reached out to Bartholomew about the Cowboy Ball as a way to bring a different energy to the event. 

“As a whole, we’re looking at a slightly different style of fundraiser that might be more in line with the types of things we do, like music and entertainment,” said Horner. 

Horner said next year, they might hold the event in Skagway and think of other ways to expand it. For now, he’s focusing on his costume. 

“I’ve got me some snake skin boots that are real slick.” 

Correction: A previous version of this story misspelled Josh Fortenbery’s name.