Apache Lake Music Festival co-founder Brannon Kleinlein really loves the Arizona music scene, and his track record shows it. He moved to the Valley 1994 from LaSalle, Illinois, to go to Arizona State University and has lived here ever since. After a few years of tending bars in Tempe, he decided, along with associates Doug Newman and Devin Schulte, that it was time to open their own spot and make an impact in the musical community.
Kleinlein and company bought BJ's Meeting Place, a dive bar in a plaza on the corner of Southern and Mill avenues in Tempe, and opened the original Last Exit in April 2003. Last Exit became one of the major hubs for Tempe bands during the early 2000s, and soon after opening they began bringing in touring acts as well. After selling the location in May 2009, Kleinlein began making his plans to start something even more ambitious.
In October 2010, Kleinlein, along with festival co-founder Paul Cardone, launched the first ever Apache Lake Music Festival, a tradition that is now coming up on its ninth straight year this October. He also managed to re-open Last Exit Live in downtown Phoenix; the new venue celebrated its fourth birthday earlier this year. New Times was able to catch up with Kleinlein prior to ALMF to discuss the secrets to the festival, why he loves bringing bands together, and the upcoming event taking place the last weekend of October.
Brannon Kleinlein: The secret weapon is our production manager Brian Stubblefield. He has been working for us since the inception of the festival and has earned a great reputation among all the acts he works with. Our team understands that the show experience for both the fans attending and the bands playing is heavily based upon how the show looks and sounds. It has helped us stay very consistent with with our production quality over the years, so people know what to expect when they come out to the festival.
What has been your favorite Apache Lake installment and why?
I really can’t say that I have a favorite one. Each one has provided so many great memories and all have come with a few challenges along the way. One that stands out to me as having one of our best lineups was in 2013 with Kongos, Mergence, Jared & The Mill, Future Loves Past, and a bunch of other great acts.
Any special story, or stories, over the years you like about the fest?
In our very first year of the festival in 2010, we were all on pins and needles because it was our first time and we weren’t sure how things would go. We only had one stage of music going on that first year, and it was outside. Everything was moving along nicely until we noticed storm clouds off in the distance. We all hoped it would pass, but sure enough it came in and just downpoured on us like crazy, along with a bunch of wind. It was obvious the show couldn’t continue outside under those conditions, so we decided to attempt breaking down all the gear and moving the show inside the restaurant space at the resort. The fans of the festival could see our crew was struggling in the bad weather to get everything moved, so a bunch of them jumped in and started helping us get everything in. We were all completely soaked, but were able to continue the rest of the show inside for the night. This in turn gave us the idea to add a seconnd stage on the inside the next year, and we have been doing it ever since.
Just checked out this year’s promo video for the festival. What vibe do you hope your video gives off?
Apache Lake is such a hidden Arizona gem of natural beauty that it’s kinda hard to explain it unless you’ve been there to see it in person. We hope the video can capture some of its scenic beauty along with showing how much fun people are having that come out for the festival.
You said during our phone conversation that you love how ALMF brings bands together. Can you expand on why you enjoy this about the festival?
I like that it essentially gives local bands their own festival that is focused solely on AZ acts and not necessarily national acts like most traditional festivals. It really is one of the biggest local get-togethers and shows for the bands of AZ. It’s not often that there are 30-plus local bands all together at the same gig playing music and hanging out. It’s also great to see all the acts out there supporting each other as music fans when someone else is on stage.
ALMF celebrates its ninth consecutive year this October. Any words you wish to share with readers about the upcoming event?
It’s one of those events that, if you go one time, you are most likely going to be hooked and become a regular attendee every year and will no doubt make a bunch of new friends. It’s within close proximity to Phoenix and is really reasonably priced when compared to most festivals.
Apache Lake Music Festival. Noon to midnight, October 26 and 27, at Apache Lake Marina and Resort, mile marker 229.5, Roosevelt; 928-467-2511; apachelakemusicfestival.com. Tickets are $53.74 via Eventbrite.