What an amazing three days of music, beer, and sunshine at the McDowell Mountain Music Festival (M3F) last weekend in downtown Phoenix. Set in the easily accessed and well kempt Margaret T. Hance Park, the festival was successful in attracting tens of thousands of fans for its third year. With only two stages, many would set up blankets and chairs on the grass at the mainstage, taking advantage of the relaxed family atmosphere to hang out in the sunshine with friends.
While the mainstage entertained all with headliners Bloc Party, Animal Collective, Beck, The Avett Brothers, Griz, Porter Robinson and Gary Clark Jr.; it was the creatively named, Second Stage, where I was most impressed. Showcasing local talent, the intimate stage allowed for maximum crowd interaction and a cozy, fun danceable atmosphere.
For starters, Big Wild brought enough energy and hair to single handedly compete with anybody else to take the stage on Friday. I was really excited to see Animal Collective, and they played a great set of trippy electronic sounds among distorted vocals, but they understandably weren’t as well received as I hoped. Their stage set was a trip in itself with giant misshapen figurine heads and geometric shapes overlain by warping synthesizer type visuals, enough in itself to pack up the picnic blanket and take your kids home.
Saturday was all about The Main Squeeze, packing five big and boisterous dudes onto the second stage with a slew of instruments and robed afro sporting lead singer with so much soul. Saturday night was all about electronic music with saxophone touting DJ, GRiZ, getting the main stage crowd warmed up, before Porter Robinson really brought the noise.
If Saturday’s instrument of the day was the turntable, Sunday was the six-string. Blues-guitar legend from Austin, TX, Gary Clark Jr. brought a fury of sludgy southern riffs to the mainstage Sunday afternoon crowd. Winding down the festival, The Avett Brothers brought it home by showcasing their newest album, receiving a warm reception.
Having spent the weekend exploring the activities, sights and sounds of M3F, I was impressed with the organization, safety, access, and all around good times that were had. There were hammocks for relaxing, beautiful lawns you could walk barefoot on, discounts on drinks for reusing your cup, and great food, a recipe for a fine time if you ask me. Margaret T. Hance Park, is 32-acres large and is located above the Interstate 10 Tunnel, between 5th Ave. and 3rd Street in downtown Phoenix. Positioned near the Central Station METRO Light Rail and bus transfer stations and is surrounded by libraries, museums, educational facilities, and the arts district, it’s a great spot for any festival. April 2-3rd, it will play host to Phoenix Lights: we’ll see you there.
WORDS + PHOTOGRAPHY: James Oborne