With the number of music-based groups in Flagstaff, there has grown to be a variety of genres and musical backgrounds that reflect local culture. As the city shifts and develops, its music scene does too, not only in size, but in diversity and novelty.
The Interference Series is a local organization that specializes in presenting experimental music performances. Owen Davis and Rob Wallace, the series’ curators, are both musicians and educators. Davis teaches music at Sturgeon Cromer Elementary School, and Wallace is an associate teaching professor at NAU.
Wallace, who was born and raised in Flagstaff, said the town is unique because of its cultural and geographical diversity.
“I have a fairly broad perspective on the Flagstaff cultural scene,” Wallace said. “There’s a lot of positive things that didn’t exist when I was growing up. The Interference Series is one of them.”
The Interference Series emphasizes improvisation and experimentation, placing jazz musicians at the forefront. In March, the series hosted a Primordial Light Show, which celebrated the spring equinox through light displays and world instruments. The event, held at Flagstaff Arts and Leadership Academy, featured improvised music on singing bowls and string instruments.
Wallace said a highlight of the Interference Series is the mix of musicians who have come together through live performances.
“I strive to bring local folks from a variety of backgrounds into contact with visiting artists from a variety of backgrounds to create a space for mutual exploration,” Wallace said.
While the Interference Series is unique in the kinds of music it promotes, it is not the only group that supports live music in Flagstaff.
Sierra Bryan is a Flagstaff indie-rock musician who was a finalist for the Emerging Artist Viola Award in 2021. Bryan is the co-founder of Mountain Town Sounds, a nonprofit organization dedicated to uplifting local singer-songwriters.
“Mountain Town Sounds was made for Flagstaff to create a community between musicians, to make songwriters feel valued and to help provide opportunities and resources,” Bryan said.
Since its creation in 2022, Mountain Town Sounds has held singer-songwriter socials, in which artists converse and share their work. The group also hosts FLG Listening Rooms, a series of small, intimate concerts which are recorded and posted on the Mountain Town Sounds YouTube channel.
These events have laid the groundwork for Mountain Town Sounds to expand to larger projects. On April 15, the organization hosted its first music festival in downtown Flagstaff, Femme Fest. This all-day event was intended to support women and non-binary artists in the music scene.
“The goal of Femme Fest for me is just for other musicians to feel celebrated and seen,” Bryan said. “I didn’t want this event to be centered around exclusively celebrating cis-gendered women. That’s why we landed on the term ‘femme.’ We have some artists that are gender fluid, in which ‘femme’ applies to them.”
Bryan said she was inspired to put together the festival after touring with the musician Red McAdam in March. After 26 days on the road, she had made connections with several female musicians across the country.
“As a femme musician as well, it was very encouraging for me to see so many other women pursuing music seriously in other states and giving themselves the power to put themselves out there,” Bryan said.
The festival featured Arizona-based artists such as Phoenix pop-rock band Diva Bleach, Williams folk singer Jess Ledbetter and Flagstaff indie duo Sleep Stampede. Performances were held at different downtown locations, including The Hive, Mountain Top Tap Room, Flagstaff Brewing Company and Late for the Train.
The growth of the Flagstaff music scene is evident, not only in downtown but also on NAU’s campus. Sophomores David Beley, Kendall Callison and Andy Campbell formed their band, The Home Owner’s Association, in 2022.
Beley, the band’s drummer, said The Home Owner’s Association has a relaxed attitude about their work.
“It’s not to be taken too seriously,” Beley said. “We do this because it’s just all around a fun and fulfilling time, especially when you get people dancing and being thrown around to what you are playing.”
As the band is still in its beginning stages, Beley said their Flagstaff basis has been a large part of their development.
“It started with us meeting last year and playing together in the dorms,” Beley said. “I feel Flagstaff has a really good set of people that are going to every show the band has. There’s such a good scene for live music, especially now that The Hive is up and running.”
The Home Owner’s Association performed at The Hive in December as part of the NAU Fashion Club’s runway show.
The band also performed at NAU Skate Club’s “Jam Sesh at the Fieldhouse,” an open skateboarding event on March 25 where students practiced skate tricks while listening to local bands. Campbell, who plays bass, said it is important that campus organizations host these events.
“There are so many great student groups like Fashion Club, Skate Club and KJACK Radio that have allowed a really cool diverse university subculture to develop that I hope continues to grow,” Campbell said.
Campbell said he credits the development of NAU’s music culture to the students.
“The NAU student body is a very accepting, creative and fun-loving group of people that really make it possible for people like us to share our love for music with others,” Campbell said.
Flagstaff’s unique culture will continue to be highlighted by its diverse local music scene.
Welcome to the discussion.
Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.