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On the west coast, the Californian music scene dominates. Often hailed as one of the best cities for music worldwide, Los Angeles is a mighty force in the music landscape. With a slew of festivals rooted in the state, it steals attention from smaller southwest music scenes. However, just one state over, Arizona has cultivated a thriving music landscape of its own. For a reprieve from some of the commercialized, scripted big-name knockouts, look next door. Arizonan artists make waves with ample sound experimentation and commendable gender representation, two things that are sure to please music enthusiasts. An impressive sense of community between performers and within audiences is a wholesome take on a notoriously ego-driven industry. Keep reading to discover more about what entices listeners in Arizona.

Arizona supports genre experimentation and unusual sound crossovers

Part of the appeal of music scenes in places like Phoenix and Tucson is that being off the beaten path, musicians have more reign in terms of what they create relative to larger, highly commercialized music scenes. Although some expect desert Arizona to be filled with country cover bands, unconventional genres have a chance to thrive in the local music realm. Unexpected mash ups such as folk punk and punk grass are positively received and have a chance to develop. Andy Warpigs, Red Tank!, Bacchus, The Demonsluts, and Hanymarket Squares are some of the many boundless bands doing their own thing on local stages. Concert-goers who want to transcend genres and enter fluid soundscapes will be thrilled by the direction these artists take. Without being bound to categories, artists are free to create.

Arizona features dynamo bands with strong female presence

For Arizona, diversity is part of genre expression, and it is also in the makeup of the bands themselves. In some states, music lovers will be challenged to find female led or female dominated local groups, but Arizona sees no shortage in wildly talented women. Some of Arizona-grown grown groups heavily shaped by women musicians include: Fairy Bones, Sun Conscious, Treasurefruit, Doll Skin, The Declaimed, Language Barrier, Venomous Pinks, Shovel, and Carol Pacey and the Honey Shakers.

Cherie Cherie is a personal favorite; as long-time members of the Phoenix music scene, their hypnotic, psychedelic sounds captivate listeners. Battered Suitcases—whose namesake is based on Jack Kerouac’s famous novel On the Road—delivers lyric-driven rock and roll. This 2/3 women group led by poet-vocalist Sharon Labor released their LP Oblivion earlier in 2018, which blends together bluesy 60s and 70s rock with ferocious girl gang jams. Another local favorite featuring dazzling women artists is Phoenix Afrobeat Orchestra; their sound is as unique to Arizona is their name. Formed in 2013, they offer a jazz, funk, percussion fusion that makes way to soul and groove. The chanted lyrics may take listeners away to international places or packed disco clubs. For music lovers lacking in sounds generated by incredible women, Arizona is a great place to start looking and listening.

Arizona fosters a sense of comradery among performers

It is no surprise that country is a big deal out in Arizona. Cowboy boots and line dancing are staples, particularly in rural parts. However, big western festivals in Arizona like Country Thunder have highlighted how a unique comradery is emerging between niche performers. While the main stage draws crowds for big out of town stars such as Luke Bryan, on smaller stages, the local scene holds its own. Just as much enthusiasm—in numbers and energy—meets the local lineup of performers. It is a common sight to see other local bands cheering and moshing in crowds during other groups’ performances. A refreshing lack of ego permeates this newer music scene. For those looking for concerts in Arizona, this means a more intimate, personable experience, even with the most hard-punk bands out there.

Venues and organizers are coming around to this supportive spirit. Instead of directing groups in terms of what songs they play and pushing for bands to play popular covers, people are increasingly likely to trust performers to go out and do their thing. This creates a freeing, fan-friendly atmosphere where originality and individuality are respected. What better way to make for an unforgettable, one-of-a-kind concert experience than to have artists who value that very approach to their sound? Ultimately, if for people who want a concert experience that is focused on community--between performers, between musicians and their audiences, and between organizers and artists--Arizona is the place to be.

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