Apache Lake Music Festival is not huge like the events Lucky Man Productions and Stateside Presents stage, but organizers Brannon Kleinlein and Paul Cardone put on one of Phoenix music's best fests of the year.
For the 2015 installment, scheduled for Friday and Saturday, October 23 and 24, Kleinlein and Cardone have booked a broader selection of local hip-hop acts. No disrespect to TKLB?, the fest's longtime resident hip-hop group, but it seemed a waste to not book any of the amazing hip-hop talent in Phoenix in favor of a group that has admitted it wasn’t even serious enough to record its music.
The Phoenix rap scene isn’t the only thing being repped, because the local indie, hard rock, and jam band scenes are sending emissaries, making this year's lineup one of the most cohesive representations of the Phoenix scene in the fest's history. Here are 10 bands you can’t afford to miss this year.
Lara Ruggles is one of the few touring acts making the trip to the lake. But given that her backing band features Henri Bernard and Andrew Bates of decker., Ruggles qualifies as a mostly local act, right? Either way, she is not to be be missed. Ruggles is on the singer-songwriter side of folk music, but she has a huge voice, and a slew of songs off her new album, Cynics and Saints, are both haunting and sad while remaining decidedly uplifting. Ruggles is scheduled to perform early Saturday on the inside stage, so a huge turnout isn't likely, but those who do catch the show are going to be ecstatic they did.
Corey Gloden is an electric performer, and Sara Robinson’s Midnight Special was a talented group of players. Put the two together and they are bound to make good things happen. Wyves is less than a year old, but there is no questioning the level of talent possessed by the veterans who make up the band. With Gloden at the helm, Wyvves is bound to to come with a harder edge than Sara Robinson, and after more than a year of playing together, Brenden McBride, Nick Sterling, and Evan Knisely have developed a solid rapport with one another. Wyves will close out the Inside stage on Friday night.
ALMF has always welcomed jam bands so it stands to reason that it would go after the best jam band in the Valley for Friday night's headlining slot. Spafford already has been a part of McDowell Mountain Music Festival’s main stage and local stage lineup and is a local favorite of many of the deadheads who used to inhabit the Sail Inn. The group is on the heavier side of the jam band spectrum, projecting a sound resembling Umphrey's McGee more than the Grateful Dead.
Drunken Immortals is one of Phoenix’s best-known hip-hop crews, and they definitely wouldn’t have said yes to playing the lake unless they planned to bring the party. Mic Cause, Brad B, Dumper Foo, and the rest of the Drunken crew have been throwing shows and parties around the Phoenix area for decades, and they've gotten to the point where some of them are even opening shops. They’re the right sort of hip-hop for the Apache Lake crowd, and though their song “Don’t Call the Cops” says they would prefer the friendly confines of a house party, there is do no doubt they are going to bring their "A" game to Apache Lake.
Like Spafford, Endoplasmic comes with the approval of Phoenix’s Deadheads, regularly playing the biggest shows Tempe's Sail Inn had to offer. And the band also has been present for more than one Firefly Gathering in Flagstaff. Endoplasmic isn't quite as heavy as Spafford but certainly is as trippy. The group describes its genre as “improvisational jam band journey,” and there really is not a better way to describe what it does. Endoplasmic takes everyone who hears the band on a trip.
Harper and the Moths
Harper and the Moths bring a completely different style of rock to the lake, one with more synth and a lot more pop. There's an obvious rock influence, but at the core, Harper is simply a really good pop band. They are going to be like the pretty new girl at ALMF, looking all chic and contemporary. Word to the wise: If you like to dance, make your way up to the stage for Harper and the Moths' late-afternoon/early-evening set.
The Woodworks are ALMF veterans, yet somehow they always end up with an early slot on the inside stage. Perhaps it’s because there need be consistently great music to ramp up the festival. The band blends an assortment of genres to create its signature sound, and with a new record out, the Woodworks look to make an impression on the festival crowd. Together a long time (by Phoenix standards), the heavy three-piece is one of the tightest bands in town, and their a late-afternoon set Saturday on the inside stage is not to be missed.
Bear Ghost is having a really latter half of 2015: They dropped a record, they opened for Mega Ran at Crescent Ballroom for his album release, and now they will be taking a nice evening slot at on the inside stage at ALMF. Bear Ghost has a ton of energy, and they get super-loud because that’s how rock 'n' roll is supposed to be played. They’re another act that has been impressing scenesters, but they also posses the look and sound a band that can take a step out of the scene and play for regular Phoenicians at city-sponsored events. The Bear Ghost boys also have a close relationship with Captain Squeegee frontman and trumpeter Danny Torgersen, so a collaboration is definitely on the table.
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The Stakes are one of the jazziest and funkiest hip-hop groups in the Valley, and they really got together with a desire to make it in the Arizona festival scene. Apache Lake will be the group's first foray into that world so there's no doubt they want to impress during their late-afternoon Friday set on the festival's indoor stage. The Stakes are also well known for their improvisation, so don’t be shocked if they jump into a full-on jam with rapping frontmen Zeedubb and Lord Kash freestyling over it or if the two MCs end up on stage with one of the fest's other acts.
Captain Squeegee became a highlight at last year's Apache Lake Music Festival, and they did it by upping the production value of their set. It wasn’t quite the LED light show of Pretty Lights, but for a low-budget local festival, it might as well have been. It wasn’t exactly a complicated process — all they did was cut some white cardboard into cool shapes and hang them up around the inside stage. But when they added their customized videos to project onto the cardboard, it really looked awesome. Maybe it looked cooler than it sounds, but Captain Squeegee and their atomic jazz fusion are sure to put on a great show for their second straight year at ALMF.