Downtown Phoenix will be going full-tilt boogie this weekend, thanks to all the Final Four events happening over several days and nights.
In fact, the area’s likely to be a madhouse of activity, with hordes of people checking out the Final Four Fan Fest at the Phoenix Convention Center or just hanging out and soaking up the vibe.
And then there’s the tens of thousands that will flock to the March Madness Music Festival up at Margaret T. Hance Park, one of the biggest events of the weekend not involving sporting equipment.
After all, the weekend-long event, which is comprised of three separate outdoor concerts at the park, boasts a blockbuster lineup of bands and musicians, many deserving of legend status.
Oh yeah, and it’s also completely free to attend.
Needless to say, the festival’s organizers are expecting all three concerts will be packed (which is why they’re advising people to get there early each day). It’s no wonder, considering the big acts that are scheduled to perform each day.
To wit: The festival tips off on Friday, March 31, with the AT&T Block Party featuring country crooners Keith Urban and Justin Moore. The following day on Saturday, April 1, the Coca-Cola Music event will take over the park with feature sets by chart-topping EDM duo The Chainsmokers, as well as Grouplove, Capital Cities, and Leon Bridges.
The weekend will then wrap up on Sunday, April 2, with the Capital One JamFest that will offer some of the biggest names of the weekend, including Aerosmith, Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, and Blink-182.
Even Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton is stoked about the festival, and isn’t shy about who he’s eager to see. “I'd say Aerosmith,” he says. “They're one of the greatest rock 'n' roll acts of all time and they're going to be in downtown Phoenix for an absolutely free concert and I'm going to be there. I'm really looking forward to it.”
You’re not the only one, Greg. A multitude of Aerosmith fans and Valley residents will be there, too. And if you’re one of them and would like a heads-up on what to expect, check out the following guide to the festival.
When and Where: The March Madness Music Festival will take place daily from Friday, March 31, to Sunday, April 2, at Margaret T. Hance Park, 1202 North Third Street, in downtown Phoenix.
Festival Hours: Gates will open in the afternoon each day and the festivities and music will last well into the evening each night. Hours are from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Friday, March 31; from 2 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. on Saturday, April 1; and from 3 p.m. until 10 p.m. on Sunday, April 2. Set times can be found below.
Admission: It’s free to attend. Space is limited to a first-come, first-served basis, however, which means no one will be admitted once things reach capacity.
Getting There: Your best bet is to take the light rail. It’s not only cheaper than paying for parking ($2 for a single ride, $4 for an all-day pass), but is also closer and more convenient (two stations are located near the park).
If you’re coming by car, keep in mind that the Third Street exit off of Interstate 10 (the nearest freeway access point) will be closed all weekend. And the closest place you’ll probably be able to park is one of the scant few street spaces available a few blocks away. If you can find one, it's $1-$1.50 per hour up until 10 p.m.
In other words, you’re better off hitting up a parking structure in downtown and grabbing a pedicab or free trolley to Hance Park or using one of the many park-and-ride facilities around the Valley and hopping on the train. Trust us. (There’s also a free “bike valet” service outside of the park at First and Portland streets if you're pedaling in.)
Getting Inside: Entrances to the festival are located on First and Second streets south of Moreland Street, as well as just east of the Central Avenue bridge near Burton Barr Library. Be patient, however, since lines are inevitable and security will be wanding everyone with metal detectors before they enter the event. Bags will also be searched.
Weather: According to organizers, the festival is a "rain or shine" event that will take place regardless of the weather. That said, it’s going to be mostly sunny all weekend long with temperatures ranging from the mid-70s to mid-80s. As always, sun protection is always a good idea. Speaking of which...
Water: It’s really important to stay hydrated. Really. Important. Attendees can bring a single factory-sealed bottle of water (up to 16.9 ounces) into the event and there will be two free refill stations located inside the festival. H2O won't be the only thing you can sip on at the event, however.
Food and Drink: A variety of food trucks (including Mustache Pretzels, White Eyes Fry Bread, Cactus Corn, The Gorilla Cheese Truck, and Q Up! Barbecue) and concession stands will be selling eats. Buffalo Wild Wings and Pizza Hut will also have booths set up. There will also be a couple of beer gardens and several booths with both adult beverages and soft drinks available for purchase. Coca-Cola and Sprite will also have booths at the festival.
Schedule and Set Times: According to the official festival schedule, performances will start anywhere between 15-45 minutes after gates open each day. In other words, you won’t want to dawdle, though, especially if you don't want to miss a minute of music. And, as we mentioned, big crowds are expected and it's going to be first come, first serve.
Specific set times are as follows:
AT&T Block Party
Friday, March 31
4 p.m.: Gates open
4:15 p.m.: Michael Ray (country)
5:15 p.m.: The Head and The Heart (indie folk)
6:45 p.m.: Justin Moore (country)
8:30 p.m.: Keith Urban (country)
10 p.m.: Event ends
Saturday, April 1
2 p.m.: Gates open
2:30 p.m.: El West (alternative rock)
3:45 p.m.: Capital Cities (dance-pop)
5:15 p.m.: Leon Bridges (soul, gospel)
7 p.m.: Grouplove (indie rock, indie pop)
9 p.m.: The Chainsmokers (EDM, pop)
10:30 p.m.: Event ends
Capital One JamFest
Sunday, April 2
3 p.m.: Gates open
3:45 p.m.: Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats (soul, gospel, folk)
5 p.m.: Blink-182 (pop punk)
6:30 p.m.: Macklemore and Ryan Lewis (hip-hop, pop)
8:30 p.m.: Aerosmith (rock ‘n’ roll)
10 p.m.: Event ends
What Else is Going On: In addition to all the music, organizers are promising there will be be "interactive experiences" and giveaways at the festival, as well as an enormous Ferris wheel. No joke.
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What to Bring: A government-issued ID card, a fully charged cellphone, sunglasses, sunblock, and hats are all a good idea. All vendors will take plastic, but cash is generally quicker and easier to deal with, so bring some with you (unless you want to pay ATM fees). You can bring in small bags and purses measuring no more than 5.5 inches by 8.5 inches. Organizers would prefer that you use a clear bag no larger than 12 inches by 6 inches by 12 inches, however.
What to Leave at Home: As with any major music festivals, there are a slew of items that are verboten. The list includes outside food or beverages (save for the aforementioned bottle of water), noisemakers, chewing tobacco or e-cigs, selfie sticks, totems, umbrellas, flags, chairs, laser pointers, weapons, fireworks, or anything else that’s potentially dangerous or disruptive. And you can forget about bringing Fido, since pets aren’t allowed, unless they’re service animals.
Editor's note: This story was updated since its initial publication to add additional event and performer info.