10 Must-See Bands at Apache Lake Music Festival

Over the past few years, Apache Lake Music Festival has made the just-barely-perceptible leap from curiosity to institution, and it's easy to see why. As with most institutions, the core of it is a really simple idea done well: What if you could see a bunch of local bands in a novel, secularly fun setting?

Now that the weather's cooperating, it's a cheap -- $40 for a weekend pass and the easy-enough drive to Apache Lake Resort -- weekend getaway with a bunch of people you already know (and in some cases enjoy listening to). The complete, very long lineup is available via our online concert calendar. In the meantime, here are the bands we're looking forward to seeing out at Apache Lake.

The Apache Lake Music Festival is scheduled to take place Friday, October 18, and Saturday, October 19, at the Apache Lake Resort.

The Senators The Senators are aware that their acoustic sound and vest-friendly look create expectations they didn't even know about two years ago. "Everyone is wearing vests and suspenders now," Jesse Teer told us back in December. "That look is just vogue right now." Their sound is vogue, too -- "Cross of Gold," the title track of their 2012 EP, doesn't go to the overdynamic lengths of a Mumford and Sons single, but it's got the propulsive, bells-and-strumming sound that M and S made famous and/or infamous.

If you've been hiding from the Mumfords ever since they landed on American shores, though, don't write off the Senators -- the difference is in their tone, which lacks the stentorian sadness of the genre's most unavoidable earworms. The Senators take themselves seriously, but their loose, melodic songs don't collapse into the kind of acoustic-apocalyptic fervor that closes, say, Phillip Phillips' "Home." If you've found yourself listening to that song and liking something about it, almost against your will, The Senators, lighter and more versatile, are the answer to a question you didn't want to ask out loud. -- Dan Moore

Banana Gun Rock 'n' roll, that vague catch-all phrase bands shied away from for years, a phrase meaning anything from Slayer to Leo Sayer. Perhaps the much-abused term has fallen far enough into disuse to be operable again. If so, Banana Gun fits the bill. They cover enough musical terrain on their first full-length, The Elephant in the Room, to give a typical A&R man pause for concern.

"Attic," the song that the band agrees upon as the signpost of where Banana Gun's sound is heading next, incorporates good-timey folk, Cookie Monster metal, and punk jumbled together in one headspace. At the same time, they are capable of "Blue Sky," an effortlessly laid-back R&B folk groove, the kind that John Mellencamp has been chasing since people stopped calling him "The Coog" and that could make Kid Rock untold millions if he sampled it and called it something else.

"Just be one of those kinds of bands," you can imagine Mr. A&R saying. Would it make for a more easily marketable band? Undoubtedly. But that band wouldn't be Banana Gun, and that would be too bad. -- Serene Dominic

Read More: Eclecticism Is The Elephant in the Room by Banana Gun

Sister Lip Sister Lip brings the spirit of jazz to the rock scene, and local rock fans are feeling the music. And the year-old band (the current lineup has been together since April) is starting to land coveted slots on high-profile bills.

For instance, on Saturday, October 19, the local quartet will take its jazz-infused soul/rock sounds to the annual Apache Lake Music Festival to perform with Kongos, Future Loves Past, The Sugar Thieves, and more than 30 local acts. "Being the baby on there will definitely help us for next year," says lead singer and guitarist Cassidy Hilgers, who says the band has high hopes for the coming year, including an East Coast tour.

A full-band East Coast tour, that is -- Hilgers and drummer Ariel Monet hit the road in July, playing acoustic shows on a tour that briefly hopped over the border into Canada. But come next summer, after bassist Cheri French turns 18, the band envisions heading east together. -- Jeff Moses

Read More: Sister Lip Leaves Backhanded Compliments in the Dust

The Prowling Kind On a night when loathing everything came easy and liking anything new seemed doubtful, I caught The Prowling Kind -- which turned out to be a pretty great discovery. This despite sporting a cutesy band name and two instruments that have a lot to answer for these days: the banjo, for obvious reasons that don't even address minstrel shows and Deliverance, and the glockenspiel, which has supplied more forced sensitivity than emo records even needed.

Yet The Prowling Kind overcame all that within seconds of Mickey Louise Pangburn hammering the strings of her Les Paul goldtop with her fingertips as if she were Steve Howe or Bert Jansch.

Then she previewed "Babycakes" thusly: "This song is about running from state to state for 15 years hiding out from my ex-convict dad." Not even Johnny Cash Live at Folsom Prison had an intro so, well, fulsome. -- Serene Dominic

Read More: Tennessee Puts the Prowling Kind on the Map With a Runaway Debut

Dry River Yacht Club There is an aura of mystery surrounding Tempe's Dry River Yacht Club. The band says it's not intentional, but it is certainly there. Most bands trying to establish themselves in any music scene will offer as much background information as possible, accompanied by flashy comparisons to great bands before them.

DRYC keeps all this hidden, maybe because there isn't an easy predecessor to compare them to. Look up their band biography on social media platforms like Facebook and all a would-be researcher will find is an eloquent poem about a group of musicians on a yacht who are caught in a storm and marooned on a dried riverbed made of salt. To try and pigeonhole DRYC with a specific sound may teeter on impossible -- more than that, it's impractical. Neither the band nor the fans are interested in the gratification that may arise from classifying the music they love. -- Caleb Haley

Read More: Dry River Yacht Club's Garnet: You Don't Have To Be A Kardashian To Connect With People

Jared and the Mill Lest you think that "Mill" in Jared and The Mill is an ironic reference to the Valley's '90s alt-rock heyday, tune in to "The Returning Half," in which the mostly rootsy combo cranks up the amps and the intensity, breaking off a dusty chunk of desert jangle rock that sounds like it could've fit in quite nicely on the mythic Mill Ave circuit. The band doesn't get as rowdy elsewhere; instead, songwriter Jared Kolesar and his boys recall the influences noted in the band's Facebook bio: Mumford and Sons, Trampled by Turtles, Old Crow Medicine Show, and Ryan Adams.

Sure, the band's "Brave Young Man," with its references to "pockets full of dust" and "going south on a northbound train" might seem a little too on the nose, but the band's headed to South by Southwest this year, and that sort of folksy bravado ought to come in handy as the band crams its way into a festival featuring thousands of like-minded revival acts. You've got to be loud to be heard above the acoustic din -- and when Jared and the Mill plugs in, Kolesar seems capable of making the necessary noise. -- Jason P. Woodbury

The Wiley One Sam Wiley, the heart and soul of Tempe-based The Wiley One, is known around town for churning out acoustic-driven, reggae-infused hip-hop tunes with rapid fluidity. Since 2007, the "No. 7 Kid" has dished out bouncy beats and twangy guitar licks, spreading his sound across the Southwest while, at the same time, striving for ecological responsibility.

"Green" has plenty of connotations for a reggae singer, but Wiley's serious about the green movement.

"I've always been passionate about the environment," says Wiley, an avid snowboarder and surfer. "That mainly comes from my family in Mexico City, where they make wind generators. My grandfather had a hand in placing a lot of the wind turbines you see on the drive to California. So we always grew up energy-conscious in that sense." -- Anthony Sandoval

Read More: The Wiley One Is All About Going Green

Kongos Don't worry, Arizona hipsters: There still is time to get behind Kongos.

I know how you fickle fans operate. You drop a band and put your faith in someone more obscure the minute a band you formerly championed begins headlining shows and making money, with thousands of fans shouting out every word to every song. Once their record charms its way onto mainstream radio playlists and, Zeus forbid, they get a glowing writeup in Rolling Stone, that's when you bail.

Well, relax. None of that has happened to Kongos in the Valley of the Sun, but rather in that parallel pop universe of South Africa, onetime homeland of Johnny, Jesse, Dylan, and Danny, the four brothers collectively known as Kongos. -- Serene Dominic

Read More: Kongos Are Huge in South Africa -- Is Phoenix Next?

Sara Robinson and the Midnight Special There's a long tradition of women dominating the blues scene, from classics like Billie Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald to a new generation of genre-defying acts such as Grace Potter and The Nocturnals and Black Carl. These ladies have helped paved the way for soulful, heavy-hitting acts like Sara Robinson and the Midnight Special, which is a local supergroup of sorts.

Special comprises members of Haffo and Allen Barton Project who met Robinson at a blues jam night at Rhythm Room three years ago. Roughly six months ago, the band started jamming and tried their hand at an open mic night. "We started writing songs like crazy and decided to test them out one night in the battlefield a la Long Wong's open mic. We had such a good response that we have been booked solid ever since," says drummer Evan Knisely, "We knew there would be people out here who share our love for hard blues." -- Melissa Fossum

Future Loves Past Future Loves Past's debut album gives "polish" a good name. "Disco," too. That's not the only musical jargon the Tempe natives rehabilitate on All the Luscious Plants, but they're the first ones you'll have to confront when you listen to it. This is a polished, dance-y, slick -- that's another one -- album.

It all progresses logically from 2011's self-titled EP, but the band, an increasingly popular live draw, is progressing in one confident direction. Everything on the slinky, soulful end of FLP's sound has been turned up. Sometimes literally: Where the vocals once served as a quiet counterbalance to the steady, forceful rhythm, they're now its swaggering equal. An audible precision escapes through the spacey atmospherics on songs like the stuttering "Lupa." -- Dan Moore

Read More: Future Loves Past Makes a Statement (and a Good Excuse to Party)

The Apache Lake Music Festival is scheduled to take place Friday, October 18, and Saturday, October 19, at the Apache Lake Resort.

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