Unpredictable. That’s the way 20-year-old Elliott Rivera best describes Alaska. On a sweltering March afternoon, the singer and a group of friends are using their skills in chaos and uncertainty—and a handful of supplies from the stationery section of a grocery store—to promote their band to the throngs wandering between stages at this year’s Extreme Thing music festival.
“Come see the world’s largest circle pit,” reads a handmade, handwritten and downright plain placard Rivera holds high above his head as he moves through the crowd. Sure, it’s ghetto, but for the fast-rising screamo group, it’s just another symbol of their unpredictable DIY attitude.
Launched in 2010, Alaska comes from Las Vegas’ often-overlooked all-ages scene. Their first show took place at now-defunct east-side hangout Area 702 Skatepark and was mired in confusion with potential for disaster.
“[The band] had just released their first EP, and I was there to see them,” Rivera says. But Alaska’s regular vocalist never showed up, so Rivera got tapped on the spot.
“They said, ‘Hey man, do you want to improvise?’ I knew the single they had released. So I did the song, and we kind of just started doing shows together.”
Since then, Alaska has slowly begun making a name for itself in town, playing frequent house shows and Yayo Taco sets and writing songs for a debut album, Everything Is Fine, to be self-released on July 9. On July 8, the band will embark on a monstrous 32-date tour that will wind from California to Chicago and back. Though Alaska has played across California in the past, the upcoming route—supporting an unrecorded upcoming full-length—is by far its most ambitious.
“It’s about making enough gas money to make it to the next city,” Rivera says, chuckling modestly. “There’s nothing set in stone. Anything could happen at any minute or any moment with us.”
Back at Extreme Thing, a crowd clusters near the stage, choosing to see the locals over national acts playing other stages. Without warning, Alaska begins a guitar-heavy assault punctuated by Rivera’s yells and near-constant stage dives. He sings most songs while crowd-surfing. It’s a daring declaration that says more about Alaska than any statement or symbol could, handmade or otherwise.