To describe Flagstaff’s music scene is to travel a series of hills and valleys — trying to put your finger on it at any given point in time is as about as effective as spinning a globe, closing your eyes, and pressing. In general, Flag can be a hard place to make it, and sustaining a band can be even trickier. Bands come and go, and during the course of a year the scene itself can ride multiple or even one genre. But in 2016, with rock and roll acting as the anchor, the high country has a number of talented groups holding it down, playing venues like the Orpheum Theater, the Green Room, Firecreek Coffee Co. and the Hive. So put a hand in the air and tune-in to the sounds of these 10 Flag bands filling the mountain streets up north.
10. Sol Drop
Power-trio Sol Drop is unique in that they have successfully hooked a punk rock sensibility up with the blues, and in turn what gets churned out elicits 100 percent thrashing and sweaty, sweaty bodies. The members of the band, with lead singer Kathryn Meyers at the helm, call it “fast-blues,” with vocals drawn from the Riot grrrl days, marked by snarls and yelps and extended phrasing. Also, Jimi Hendrix — because why the hell not? They just released their debut full-length album, It’s Alright, in September, and it’s got all that goodness wrapped up in seven songs.
Photo courtesy of the band
9. Tiny Bird
They might be named after a small animal, but damn if their sound ain’t big. Rowdy and relatively (emphasis on the word) new to the Flag music scene, Tiny Bird showcases hypnotic melodies, driven by energy, rawness and feeling. Their latest effort, Childish EP, sees the band take off with soaring soundscapes and true emotion. With its lead single, “Watercolor,” paving the way, you can pretty much learn everything you need to know about the band and its music by watching the music video. There’s a cannibal banana, smashing of guitars, masked merriment and So. Much. Paint. All in one take.
Four Cornered Room
8. Four Cornered Room
At a show a little while back, one of the guitarists for Tiny Bird commented on the “congregation” of rock bands lighting up Flag’s music scene. Four Cornered Room is one of them. Where they find comfort is in the sunny daze and psychedelic “spock,” as the band likes to say. Mellow and entirely groovy, this — you guessed it — band of four, features smooth, bluesy guitar and keyboards that’ll have you feeling like you’re floating head-first through a kaleidoscope. They just released their self-titled debut, and as good word has it, it’s music to get folks up on their feet and loosen up their dancing joints.
Tow'rs is one of many Flagstaff bands you should keep your ears on.
Hannah Rose Gray
You might be wondering why the “e” in this band’s name is missing. It’s an analogy for construction, of the band’s art making something bigger than just their petty selves — which is exactly what they’ve done since forming just three short years ago. Fronted by husband-and-wife duo Kyle and Gretta Miller, this folk-rock four-piece has built a solid reputation in town and around the world for crafting mellow, ear-catching hymns about life, love and faith, all woven together by acoustic guitar, banjo, trumpet, drums and cello. They’re currently recording new material, but check out their second studio album, 2015’s The Great Minimum—it’s one of the best albums to come out of Flagstaff in years.
6. False North
In the world of college dorm life, and, well … life in general, the tribal identifiers of band stickers can turn into great things. Such is the case for False North — or at least partly. It was rock 'n' roll, specifically tunes from the British Invasion, which brought this foursome first into a basement, then a recording studio, and out popped their debut offering, Burning Fast, released last year. It’s a lighter take on alternative rock, but walks a familiar line to outfits like the Arctic Monkeys, the Kooks, and the Libertines.
Photo courtesy of the band
5. Ice Sword
There’s something oddly brilliant about Ice Sword. Maybe it’s the Zelda-like start to their great 2015 demo album. Maybe it has something to do with Game of Thrones. Either way, here’s what you need to know about these guys: Five dudes, four guitars, a drummer, high energy, self-classified as power/high-fantasy metal. That demo is up on Bandcamp, but rest assured, they’re hard at work on album one. As they recently stated on Facebook, “The onset of recording is so close we can taste it ... All songs for the full-length concept album are written! Ready yourselves for battle!”
4. Heebie Jeebies
This humble outfit is pure, rock and 24-7 roll. They’re one of those cool, local bands that likes to fly under the radar, playing a solid mix of desert/blues rock and proto-punk at small spots around town. It’s loud. It's rowdy. It's fun. It’s exactly what you need to let loose. And while their name might suggest the creeps, every time they step on stage they always rock out so hard hair on necks rise and crowds can taste the sweat. Check out their first album, First Time, released earlier this year, and launch yourself into the good times that keep on comin'.
3. Le Trebuchet
In the vault that is Americana, rock 'n' roll remains one of the truest forms of raw freedom. And back before streaming music and jumping around from song to song, we had the radio — cranking up dials, rocking out in bedrooms and with cruiser tops down. It is from this place that the music of four-piece Le Trebuchet comes from. In May they released their quite-literally-named debut full-length, The Overthrow, which takes firm hold of influences spanning desert rock, psychedelia, and good ol’ country.
For just two dudes (we up north like to call them Dome and Domer), these guys put out a lot of noise, at least four people’s worth. And it’s loud. And rippin’. Comprised of guitarist Jeff Lusby-Breault and drummer Mike Seitz, they just dropped their second, self-titled album at the end of October, filled with hard rock jams heavier than any anvil. In 2015, they also entered the first-ever NPR Tiny Desk Concert Contest and placed in the Top 10 — out of thousands of entries. All they had to do was take over the then-mayor of Flagstaff’s office. Earplugs were a must.
Photo courtesy of the band
1. The Shindaggers
To be fair, these guys are now defunct-ish. And as only they would have it — save the worst for last. But, if you can track down any of their tunes, it’s well worth it. They are truly a unique staple to Flagstaff. To see a Shindaggers show (which could resurface in due time) is to rock the eff out, thrash around with wizard staffs, and throw empty Tecate and PBR cans at the band while they rip the stage to pieces. It’s truly raucous but comes from an honest place of jam in the name of bands like the Mummies and the Mono Men. Right now, Flagstaff’s music scene is just that: pure rock.