Located just an hour and a half north of the Valley, Prescott is better known for its status as a premier Christmas getaway than for its artistic community. With a population composed of more retirees than the average small town, it's safe to assume that its music scene is also a little dated. Whisperfest, Prescott's first DIY, nonprofit festival, is looking to change that for good.
Hosted by the recently formed Squirrelcage Productions at the Whipering Pines Camp, located in the pine-covered mountains above Prescott, Whisperfest, held over July 27 and 28, brings together acts from across the Southwest, including a number of Phoenix darlings.
"The [initial] idea with Whisperfest was to give all the money back to the city," says Jordan Tomaeno, Squirrelcage Productions' sound engineer and a Prescott transplant himself. "It was kind of a 'fuck you' to the city, because at first we were trying to plan this within city limits -- we filled out the event papers -- but then they were like, 'You have to shut the music down by this time, no cursing, the band names can't be this, and you can't do this.'"
With the Yarnell Hill Fire tragedy and the loss of 19 Granite Mountain Hotshots, Whisperfest's mission was altered to support the families of the fallen firefighters. All proceeds from the event will be donated to the 100 Club of Arizona, a Phoenix-based organization dedicated to supporting the families of deceased first responders.
The change in donation efforts has proved to be a draw for Whisperfest acts. "I was pretty excited to find out about [the 100 Club]," says Trevor Hedges, vocalist and guitarist for Tempe's Sundressed. "I didn't have any part in planning that or anything, but it just kind of reassured us to say yes to it -- we get to go up and have a bunch of fun, play for a big crowd, and it's for a good cause."
The evolution of Prescott's independent music scene, with this incarnation in its earlier stages, doesn't seem to lack enthusiasm. Both Hedges and Robbie Pfeffer, of Playboy Manbaby, agree that Prescott crowds are some of the best they've played for. "I've been really happy with Prescott and the all-ages scene up there," Pfeffer says. "It's new, it's fresh, kids are excited to go to shows, they want to participate. That's probably the best place [Whisperfest] could possibly be."
Hedges' own experience with Sundressed backs up Pfeffer's claim. "We've kind of built a following up there, and the kids that come to shows are just so hungry for music," Hedges says. "It's totally different than a lot of shows down here."
Featuring acts like fellow Phoenix hometown heroes Saddles and Instructions, Whisperfest has a decidedly Arizonan angle, attempting to draw fans from the Valley up to the highlands.
And while Prescott just a short drive up the I-17 for Phoenix fans, Prescott's motto of being "Everybody's Hometown" rings truest for Pfeffer, and hopefully for Whisperfest's attendees. "Prescott's pretty much as close as we have to a home away from home as far as shows go."
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Whisperfest tickets are available on Ticketriver for $12.50 for general admission and $15 for tent camping overnight. Party cabins are available upon request.