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ALMF: The Phoenix Metro

Music Scene Rocked It

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Images by Jeff Moses.

Images From The Show

In Their Fifth Edition, The Apache Lake Music Festival Grew In Leaps And Bounds: They Attracted A DIverse Group Of Bands From All Over The Phoenix Metro  Music Scene With The End Result One Of The Most Fun Events Around

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By Jeff Moses
Modern Times Magazine

Oct. 31, 2014 —  Apache Lake Music Festival happened last weekend and in their fifth installment of the party by the lake, it is becoming blatantly obvious that organizers Brannon Kleinlein and Paul “P.C.” Cardone are getting good at it.

More than 400 people braved the windy, rocky, mountain roads to get out to ALMF 2014, and they were rewarded handsomely with two days of gorgeous weather, beautiful music, and campsite camaraderie that is otherwise seemingly unattainable in the Phoenix metro.

Every veteran festival-goer knows that the campsite can be just as much a headliner as any band. But at ALMF, that feeling is even more true to point because every person encountered could potentially be someone to collaborate with once the party ends, and people head back to the default world. The campsite and hotel area was just teeming with the possibility of future collaborative efforts between many of the Valley’s hottest bands.

Some of those collaborations even came to fruition right on stage. On Friday, Tempe-based rapper TKLB? found his way on to the stage twice even though he wasn’t on the bill. The nerdy alt-rapper made his way on stage with Japhy’s Descent and Sister Lip. He also found time to bust a rhyme on a SugarThieves and Captain Squeegee song on Saturday. The former definitely being his finest hour at the festival.

Saturday was all about Captain Squeegee front man Danny Torgersen. Besides setting up some really nifty stage props that stayed up all day. The mad trumpeter found his way on stage to perform with Sara Robinson and the Midnight Special, The SugarThieves, and The Hourglass Cats, as well as his own Squeegee set.

Friday definitely had less attendance: Many festival goers rolled in late after work, while others chose to just wait to head up until Saturday. But musically, Friday was just as good as Saturday. Even after arriving more than an hour after we had intended too, and getting our camp set up in the dark (shout out to Barry and the Sail Inn Crew for helping us set up) we were still able to catch The Haymarket Squares, Japhy’s Descent, Phoenix Afrobeat Orchestra, Sister Lip, and Playboy Manbaby.

The Haymarket Squares Kick It Off
The Squares proved what everyone in town already knew: they are one of the most talented and technically gifted bands in the Phoenixs metro. One does not need to agree with their political message, or even like their style of music to appreciate the level of talent going on, on stage when The Haymarket Squares play.

They weren’t even all in attendance because fiddle player Jason James could not wriggle his way out of work. But that didn’t matter to Marc Oxborrow, “Mustache” Mark Allred, Mark Sunman, and John Luther were more than enough to get their 8 p.m. set jumping. They played Squares favorites like “Bullet Catcher,” “The Rapture,” “Outside,” and others. They also gave the crowd a hefty helping of covers including “Hey You,” by Pink Floyd “Folsom Prison Blues” by Johnny Cash, and “Fortunate Son,” by Creedence Clearwater Revival. The CCR tune was particularly spectacular. Especially after seeing John Fogerty at the State Fair the week before with Sunman.

Japhy’s Descent was the next band we caught, and those guys really like to play at the lake. This is their fifth straight year making the trip out to Roosevelt, and after last year’s afternoon set, which lead singer Travis Ryder says they took for the great photo ops, Japhy’s played a much more well-deserved 9:15 p.m. set.

Following the wall of talent that is the Haymarket Squares is no easy task, but if someone had do it, the upbeat and entertaining Japhy’s Descent was a good way to go. The group is still definitely riding high following the release of their album Christopher Robin and they kept the set to mostly tracks off of their new album. They played “Owl” and “Bounce” and quite a few others, and also invited P.C. and radio personality Marc Norman to rock on stage with them as well. That was also the point that Steve Beer of The Woodworks hopped on and drunkenly stumbled around a bit before giving P.C. a back massage and posing for a picture or two before rejoining the audience.

Japhy’s and the Squares both also played in the acoustic cantina. The Squares played their second set at 1:30 a.m. Saturday Morning, while Japhy’s went with the Sunday morning bonus set. Both bands also saved some of their biggest songs for the acoustic stage with the Squares holding off on “Lets Start a Riot” for the cantina stage, and Japhy’s saving their track “Meet You in the Air.”

PAO Getting Funky
Phoenix Afrobeat Orchestra was up next and for them just transporting the entire 14-piece band to such a remote location is an accomplishment in itself. But then they played and their set was simply filled with wonder and amazement: When more than 20 of the Phoenix metro’s best bands are all represented on one stage it’s hard to go wrong. Drunken Immortals, Sweetbleeders, Hotbirds and Chili Sauce, Zero Zero, and Playboy Manbaby, are just a few of the bands that share members with PAO.

Their set was tremendously dancy, even the people seated in beach chairs and benches couldn’t help but tap their feet to the groovy rhythms of PAO (pronounced POW!). There's no denying that PAO is working with the best rhythm section in Phoenix. But what really makes their set memorable for many people is their horn section. It brings the energy of the music up to a level that not even ecstatic lead singer Camille Sledge is capable of on her own. Also, it must be noted that Sledge’s makeup was really cool.

Following the rhythmic tones of PAO, Sister Lip began on the indoor stage. I’ve been following these girls for a long time and I feel absolutely confident in saying that they have never sounded bolder. After a two and a half month nationwide tour, the blues-rock four piece “with the spirit of Jazz” sound ready to blow some folks away.

The L.P. they released in May, Thanks For The Mondays was a bit underwhelming in the overall quality. But with bass player Emily Schalick really starting to gel with her bandmates, their tunes are far more robust. During their set they were joined by TKLB? on some rhymes, as well as Brendan McBride of Sara Robinson and the Midnight Special to play guitar on “My Pony” by Ginuwine. Steve Beer also joined this portion of the show to play with TKLB?’s nipples, it looked enjoyable for both of them.

Sister Lip’s next recording will no doubt be amazing, and as their sound fills in more and more, it seems like could be time to add a horn section.

The Playboy Manbaby Experience
Playboy Manbaby closed out the official action with their midnight set on the inside stage, and they looked and sounded better than ever. The lights and sound system really played up Playboy’s set, and it was really weird being able to understand the words coming out of front man Robbie Pfeffer’s mouth, as they are usually garbled up gibberish.

The set started with a nearly empty room: I was one of the few inside and I was front row center. Once they got the first song going the room started filling in, and by the beginning of the second song there was a pretty strong mob in front of the stage. I did my best to start a mosh pit, but the crowd was resistant, and one girl even freaked out and shrieked “NO!” after the third or fourth time I bumped into her. But it’s hard to not mosh to Playboy Manbaby.

Their set brought the energy levels to a whole different stratosphere with Pfeffer jumping around on stage like the psychotic astronaut that he is. But even as great as he is without Chad Dennis, T.J. Friga, and Chris Hudson, he’s nothing. The band is just so tight, so high energy, and so genuinely happy to be creating the chaos that comes with every PBMB show. The Haymarket Squares may be hard to follow, but Playboy Manbaby is impossible to follow.

After Playboy, much of the revelerie moved from the festival grounds to the campsites. There was still some party to be had in the Acoustic Cantina, but the once in a lifetime jams were being had in the campground.

The campground presented an interesting dynamic where many of the artists from the “bigger bands” stuck to the hotel area. While fans, and some of the smaller bands stuck mostly to the campsites. There were no stated rules about, there weren’t even unstated rules. But that was just sort of how the cookie crumbled.

But on both sides of things jam sessions were springing up with members of all sorts of bands who wouldn’t usually mingle. Add in the great conversations and it really is the campground that makes ALMF such an unforgettable experience.

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