10 Things We Learned at McDowell Mountain Music Festival

Phoenix does have hippie chicks!
Phoenix does have hippie chicks!
All pics by Melissa Fossum. For more, click here.

McDowell Mountain Music Festival is Phoenix's Most Cohesive Festival. I'll leave the designation of "best" music festival for the voters to decide when the Best Of issue comes out later in the year. But I feel completely confident is saying MMMF is by far the most cohesive. The bands on both the main and local stages really weaved into each other quite well leaving very few seams the unravel the show. One of McDowell's old slogans was "Enjoy The Journey," and I gotta say I really did enjoy it in 2015. Friday's acts didn't impress me as much as Saturday's and Sunday's, except Portugal. The Man, but all of it was part of an exquisite build up that came with a completely satisfying release in the end. JEFF MOSES

Just relax.
Just relax.

Chill Festivals are the Best Festivals The entire experience of McDowell Mountain Music Festival felt incredibly relaxed. No one was fighting, no one was outrageously intoxicated (though midday naps weren't out of the question for a few overly ambitious festival-goers). Security pat-downs were respectful and not overly invasive, like they are at certain venues around the Valley, and inside, everyone seemed content to get high, relax, and take in the good vibes. There were booths and other commerce-oriented offerings around the park, but it never felt like the nonprofit organizers were trying to nickel-and-dime you out of every dollar you brought. DAVID ACCOMAZZO

Trippy.
Trippy.

Terrible Air Quality Compounds over Time Spending six to eight hours a day for three days standing in a park is tough enough on an aging set of legs, but combine that with Phoenix's terrible air quality and several thousand people smoking cigarettes and other substances for hours on end, and you get a recipe for torn up lungs. After spending three days at the festival, I had a terrible, raspy cough and shortness of breath, and I don't even smoke. Dancing in front of the main stages felt like jogging behind a semi, or maybe doing calisthenics in a hookah lounge. DAVID ACCOMAZZO

You can only look that smug when thousands are dancing to your songs.
You can only look that smug when thousands are dancing to your songs.

Phoenix LOVES Widespread Panic I've gone to see bands with more national pedigree and more expensive tickets headline their own shows that did not maintain the level of fan retention Widespread Panic did at Margaret T. Hance park Sunday night. It was seriously like something I have never seen before. For more than two hours the Athens, GA based jam band kept thousands of MMMF concert goers completely enthralled. Rumor is the festival sold out of general admission tickets for the festival for the Sunday lineup, which also included heavy hitters Beats Antique and Trampled By Turtles. JEFF MOSES

Hoop dreams
Hoop dreams

Phoenix is Becoming a Real Festival Town McDowell Mountain Music Festival 2015 came after a month of live music events that included, just to name a few, Pot of Gold Music Festival, Viva Phoenix Music Festival, and Phoenix Lights. Though it was still able to not only draw massive crowd, but also get that crowd more engaged and dancing more than any of the previous events. When Phoenix is rocking at least one major musical event every weekend in the month of March and all of them are drawing thousands, it says that Phoenix's taste for live music is definitely taking an upturn. Plus, it really looked like more festival goers came out with utility belts, hoods, fur boots, and other festival garments -- another sign that Phoenix is feeling its growing festival culture. JEFF MOSES  

Take note, belly dancers make everything better.
Take note, belly dancers make everything better.

All EDM DJs/Producers Should Follow the Lead of Beats Antique and Thievery Corporation Beats Antique's set included belly dancers, burlesque, live drums, and a giant, inflatable cyclops kitty. Thievery Corporation brought their music to life with a full band, including sitar players and singers. Live music is so much more entertaining than watching some dude/dudette twiddle knobs and hit spacebar. DAVID ACCOMAZZO

The Roots, from back in 2013.
The Roots, from back in 2013.

Upcoming Events

Wanted: More Hip-Hop Two years ago when McDowell Mountain Music Festival first moved to Margaret T. Hance Park The Roots headlined the festival's Saturday night, and it was glorious. But since then the festival has been almost completely devoid of any sort of rap acts. I don't know why MMMF didn't book any hip-hop this year or last year, but in 2016 it is definitely time to bring rap back to Phoenix's biggest jam band fest. I could easily see acts like Big Boi, Sidewalk Chalk, or Action Bronson among many others taking a turn on the Mainstage, while locals The Stakes, Drunken Immortals, and Injury Reserve are primed to take local slots next year. JEFF MOSES

Trash Matters Here's the thing with festivals: Patrons focus on the music and how it sounds, while organizers focus on a million different tiny details that, like municipal waste workers, only get attention when something goes wrong. It seemed very difficult at times to find a trash can -- and while there were recycling stations set up around the park, people seemed to disregard them, as there were no helpful volunteers to help people distinguish between the two bins. At other festivals across the country, there are three-tiered waste stations manned by volunteers to help sort compost from recycling from waste. Waste diversion isn't something that Phoenix does naturally, so a festival like MMMF could really help lead the charge in helping to normalize recycling and composting and reducing Phoenix's environmental impact. DAVID ACCOMAZZO

10 Things We Learned at McDowell Mountain Music Festival

Trombone Shorty Might be Better at Trumpet than Trombone We've already praised Trombone Shorty's glorious, festival-unifying performance Saturday night, but one thing that took us off guard was that T-Short went absolutely nuts when he picked up his trumpet, namesake be damned. Seeing him dance around the stage, playing two instruments with absolute mastery of both, singing flawlessly, and leading one of the most talented funk ensembles to grace Phoenix this year cemented him in our minds as one of the most talented and exciting frontmen around. DAVID ACCOMAZZO

Playboy Manbaby
Playboy Manbaby

Phoenix Locals Deserve a Bigger Stage I totally get why the locals get a smaller stage than the national acts, I even understand why the local stage isn't as big as most festival second stages. But with all those huge acts and all the money getting tossed around MMMF I feel like the locals could be afforded a little bit bigger of a platform than the one provided this year. Especially when the locals playing are some of the hottest bands Phoenix currently has to offer. Playboy Manbaby, Snake! Snake! Snakes!, The Haymarket Squares, and Captain Squeegee all provided MMMF festival highlights. Imagine how much higher those lights would be if the sets were coming from more proper stage. JEFF MOSES

Use Current Location

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miles
Margaret T. Hance Park

1134 N. Central Ave.
Phoenix, AZ 85004

602-534-2406

www.phoenix.gov


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