Apache Lake Music Festival: What You Need to Know, and the Magic You Will Find There.

I don’t know about you, but when I started looking for information on what to expect at Apache Lake Music Festival, I found three things:  https://www.facebook.com/plugins/post.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2Fbubba.whicker%2Fposts%2F10217168405540080&width=500” target=”_blank” rel=”noopener”>Bubba’s helpful hints on Facebook (which were actually very helpful, thoughtful, and pretty comprehensive.  Thanx Bubba !); an article from the Phoenix New Times interviewing Last Exit Live’s Brannon Kleinlein (which, although cool, didn’t tell us much that we didn’t know in terms of Apache Lake); and the absolutely awesome 2018 Lineup!


So, that’s cool and all, but…. let’s just say that perhaps, you have never been to Apache Lake, or perhaps, you have kids and think it would make for a great campout, or perhaps, shocker of all shockers – you don’t have Facebook, and ALMF did very little promotion off of the social media platform.  Perhaps…. perhaps…. perhaps.  But, never fear… that is exactly the role that I fill in this amazing Arizona Independent Artist Community!  (Turns out, that Tom Reardon also dropped a pretty solid article on October 23rd, which spends a lot of time talking to both Paul “PC” Cardone and Brannon Kleinlein about the impetus of Apache Lake Music Festival.  The article also gives a hint at camping expectations and distances from town.)  But…..

Let’s cut to it shall we?

1. Transportation/ Travel

The last time I made the trek to Apache Lake was about…. maybe 8 years ago, and it was on a Kawasaki Vulcan Mean Streak Edition, with my wife on the back.

There is this fine line between stud and stupid, you see.

Jeez, so, well, obviously we didn’t die, and there was no way I was going to take Ghost on that road, so street motorcycles, for this rider are out.  You basically have two options:  From the 60 you head up State Route 88 {Idaho Road in Apache Junction} and follow the signs to Tortilla Flat.  About two miles out of Tortilla Flat, the pavement ends, leaving you with twelve miles of dirt road.  NOW…. when I say dirt road, be aware, in many places it is single wide only, in places the road is very eroded and rough, and there are some quite significant cliffs with very insignificant, if any, guard rails.  So, you will go about 10 miles an hour for a good portion of that 12 miles.  It really is not that awful, just plan for it.


Your second option is head up the 60 to Globe, and turn left to Roosevelt Lake.  At the dam, you can head to Apache Lake from the north.  This section of dirt road is not as rough, and double wide for most of the way.  It is obvious that most RV and camper traffic to Apache Lake comes from the Roosevelt Lake side.  Going this route is longer, but more doable for small vehicles.

From the North or West Valley, your best option may be taking the Beeline Highway to Payson, and then coming at Lake Roosevelt on the 188 from the Payson side, and then turn south to Apache Lake.

2. Motel vs. Camping

There are motel accommodations, and a lodge at Apache Lake.  The rooms are limited, and as far as the festival is concerned, go VERY quickly.  If you are wanting a room, your best bet is to book early in the summer, as soon as the Festival is announced.  Also, be aware, many of the bands stay in the motel rooms, so….. sleep may be ….. inconsequential.


Camping is certainly an option, and there are plenty of campsites to choose from.  Be aware, many of the seasons ALMF goers will start to show up on Wednesday to claim their favorite sites.  Again, the Apache Lake Music Festival is, like many modern music festivals, somewhat Bohemian…. so keep that in mind, and again… sleep may be…. inconsequential.  I saw folks camping in everything from RVs to tents, to parked house boats in the parking lot.

NOTE:  If you are camping, and trying to keep rock star hours, again, BE AWARE, sleeping in an 80+ degree tent, can be like an oven…. so, just plan your recovery time.  LOL.

Personally, because of particular necessities, David Cottle of D2 Photography and I drove in and out from Apache Junction/ East Mesa for both days.  Although not ideal, that too is certainly an option, but will most likely leave you missing the later bands and most certainly the Cantina appearances.

The Festival centers around the Lodge area, which has a Cantina, a small restaurant (used for its Indoor Stage not food), a general store (cigarettes are 10 bucks a pack, just for reference), and two restrooms… as in 1 Men’s, and 1 Women’s.  Porta-John’s may be advisable in the future “PC”.

3. Cost of Festival vs. Value

$30 for a single day.  $50 for the weekend.  This includes all related parking and camping fees.  For THIRTY BANDS !!!!  Are you kidding me?  Excluding camping…. you will have access to 30 60 min concerts for 60 CENTS a band.  Nuff Said.

Also, food is a consideration.  The general store has some items, again, on the pricey side.  The Cantina has plenty of beverages.  Their was a concessions booth set up outside where you could get a pretty tasty brat w/ chili, chips and a soda for $7.50.  Cards were accepted on Friday, but not on Saturday.  It’s a mystery.


4. Kid/ Pet Friendly?

I saw no issues with pets on leashes, and there were several dogs in the crowd.  None were obtrusive, and there were zero pet instances that I saw.

As far as children… My wife and I, and our two teenagers, are massive music fans.  Jillian, our Freshmen, has a hard time deciding between Bear Ghost and Jane n the Jungle as to which is her favorite band on a given day.  So, as a family, we think we would really dig ALMF as a vacation kind of destination.  That said, there is some tether ball…. and music.  A lot of music.  And a lake.  With no lifeguard.  And did I mention the Bohemians?

Know your kids.

Also, sleeping may turn out to be fairly consequential.  As “PC” mentions in the latest New Times article, “Camping on the waterfront is a very, let’s say, interactive situation. Everyone has guitars and plays music all night. If you want to sleep, you might want to camp a little ways from the festival.”

5.  The Ghost Writer 9th Annual Apache Lake Festival 2018 Review

Friday, as you can probably imagine, starts relatively slowly.  Many people may be having to get off of work to get out of town for the weekend.  Many folks may have come up for the camping early, but are using Friday for Lake fun and hiking.


Haley Green :  Playing to a beautiful day and several attentive early rising fans, Haley Green offered a stellar performance of folksy blues and a strummed acoustic guitar.  She did not fail to give a shout out to the late risers, who may still be down in the campsites.


House of Stairs : Looping live, ethereal takes on a ‘wet’ mic and vocal on a second ‘dry’ mic, Holly, of House of Stairs, is able to weave a sonically visceral modern jazz experience, and combined with the perfection of the Arizona Fall day, it was quite fantastic.


The Edisons : Bringing a lazy afternoon, almost punk, almost pop-rock, almost emotive, but often understated performance, it was easy to just kind of slide into the afternoon on the smooth jams of The Edisons.

Ali A & the Agency :  For me, the first ‘Whoah’ moment of the day came with Ali A and her band of phenomenally skilled musicians.  Commanding the stage, and drawing many of the music fans from the shade of the Lodge veranda, the Diva held court beneath the cliffs of Apache Lake.

Channeling something between Queen Latifah and Aretha Franklin, backed with solid blues and precise jam rock n roll, this band is not one to be missed!


Good Rust :  As the heat of the day began to subside with the lengthening shadows across the lake, it was time for some good-time half baked jams, or in Good Rust’s case, fully baked ones.  Very much a band in the vein of Black Bottom Lighters and Fayuca, many of the band’s songs are Ode’s to Green, not that the dancing and weaving crowd seemed to mind.

The Sugar Thieves :  “The Sunset Slot, on Friday night, going all the way back to Jeromatherapy, belongs to The Sugar Thieves!”, Meridith Moore called out to the now very large crowd.  And they proved it, with a dazzling sunset set, that was not only picturesque, but everything a blues fan would want, in the twilight, above a lake, staring at the flaming cliffs in the desert.  Definitely a band to add to your “Must See” list!


The Woodworks  :  This band brings the theatrics, every time I have seen them.  From elaborate home made stage designs, to costumes and makeup, The Woodworks bring something of a spectacle to their shows. Covering Bjork, certainly turned my head.

But, the band was up for their first time on the Outside Stage, delivering their brand of blues infused hard rock that can sometimes lull you into a place of folksy safety before screaming you back to reality.  Fun Band!


Los Chollas Peligrosas :  The only band I was able to break away and see at least half of their set of Friday was this all female band of Light’s Out Talent!  With a single drum, an accordion, a violin, a guitar, and a cello this group was able to bring the salsa to Friday night.  Very fun, almost sensual performance.  It made one want to dance a Tango.  I will be looking for this band to perform again very soon!

Sara Robinson Band :  Here, PC let’s go of the Master of Ceremonies mic, and straps on his bass to play with the very charismatic and captivating Sara Robinson.

With an absolute master of percussion on the drums, and a guitar man who is not only slick on the guitar but also plays steel, this band blurs husky female driven blues and good solid rock n roll roots.


Captain Squeegee:  This band is kind of like the Arizona answer to The Grateful Dead. You may not get it.  You may not understand their brand of ranting lyrics that seem to stray around a song with neither chorus or hook.  You may not fathom the particular type of mushroom they may be referencing.  You may not be down with their jam style sound.  But….. those who are…. are like zealots, waving their magical sticks, sharing them, and preparing to dance along whatever labyrinthine trail the Cap’n leads them on!


Bear Ghost : Hands down one of the tightest, most polished performance bands in town.  Bear Ghost brings something of an old school Oingo Boingo musical extravaganza and mixes it with a confidence one does not usually see in a “local indie” band.  The kind of confidence that says,” Cover Queen? Sure.  How about we make a medley of it.”  One of the stand out bands in Phoenix!

The Outside Stage closes down at Midnight, but inside, the final act goes on the Indoor Stage as well as whatever acoustic performances have been lined up in the Cantina until 1:00 AM.

Saturday, again starts out a bit slow but for a completely different reason.  Many of the campers have not gone to sleep until the early hours of dawn.  So, as the half-way-in-festival-goers start to stir, the music once again takes to the large, scenic outdoor stage.


Sara Robinson {lite} : With an unexpected cancellation, a stripped down, Sara Robinson band, this time led with the steel guitar, started off the day with a bluesy tribute to the previous raucous evening.


The Sink or Swim : Saturday morning came early, and The Sink or Swim began their set to a reluctant crowd.

But, never a band to shy away from a challenge, the boys brought a full energy set, and turned out to be one helluva way to start out the day!

The Future Exes :  A band that has honed its live show around covers that are simply beautifully arranged and played by stunningly talented musicians, the band has recently delved into writing their own original songs as well.  On this gorgeous Saturday, they started with a cover of Concrete Blonde’s Bloodletting, which I have never heard performed live!  I was having such a great time jamming, I forgot to even attempt to get video… which is actually, kinda cool, right?  Not a band to be missed!


Hyperbella:  Saturday’s modern jazz came with the very talented Hyperbella, and a near perfect afternoon.


Rose Colored Eyes:  A stellar light-rock three piece, the gents brought it down chill, as if knowing the night was getting ready to go off the rails and never….. come…. down.

Wyves: are a band that has come to demand quite a bit of respect in this town.

Coming off their fantastically successful R U OK? Album release at The Van Buren, it was obvious that the boys had come to rock that Saturday Sunset Stage right into memory!

New Chums: are very quickly becoming one of my favorite acts in town.  Dani Cutler, of KWSS FM dubbed me their official Fan Boy.  I wear it like a badge of honor.

A very solid, pop-rock n roll band, the Chums bring a party every time they play, and the fact that they are amazing musicians to boot makes them a pleasure to watch.

Banana Gun: One of the stars of the local Valley music scene, Banana Gun brings a blend of Rock, Jazz, Funk, and just grooviness to any place they play.  They seem born to play Apache Lake, and again…. add this band to your list!

The Black Moods:  The darlings of the Valley of the Sun, their song Bella Donna is currently on the rise on the Billboard Top 40, and their second single from their upcoming third album, Bad News, drops tomorrow (Halloween).

This band is absolutely lights out fantastic, and one you NEED TO see before we lose them to the rest of the wide world for months on end. This band is definitely going places, and as you can see from my interview with guitar player and vocalist, Josh Kennedy, these guys are just genuinely awesome dudes in the world of Rock n Roll.

Call your RADIO STATIONS !!!!


Harper & the Moths : a blend of everything you want to remember from Gene Loves Jezebel to Duran Duran, this band brings a flair for nostalgia mixed with a deep resonance in their lyrics that are not only dancey but enticingly introspective.  Quickly becoming a band I pay attention to in the Valley!

** I sincerely apologize to all of the bands that I did not get to see.  My #InnerRockStar is strong, but with having to go back and forth to the Valley, there was no way to stay for the late night closer bands on either stage.  I missed most of the shenanigans in the Cantina, but… anywhere Marc Norman plays is bound to be a hopping shindig.  Also, with overlapping sets, it was not always easy to get into a good position to take photos on the Indoor Stage.  Place is a wee bit tight.

I will say, I have a very strong list of Conversations that I want to have in 2019 and I also know a solid two handfuls of bands I want to pay much more close attention to.

So…. what do you do with this information.  First… you make a bucket list of all the amazing live music you are missing out on, and GET OUT.  Second… make plans.  Next year will be Apache Lake Music Festival’s TENTH ANNIVERSARY.

I would expect great things.


Keep The Greasy Side Down, Music Fans !

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