Viva PHX, the music festival that turns downtown Phoenix into a mini-South By Southwest for a night, will return on Saturday, March 11, 2017.
The 2016 festival brought around 70 musical acts to 17 venues across the city. If you missed it, you can catch a glimpse of the madness by reading our Viva PHX 2016 review. Organizers hope to make the 2017 edition even bigger than this year's event. Comerica Theatre will be part of the madness, which opens up the possibility of there being major bands with major draws in addition to the smaller acts that usually populate the festival. The goal is to book 100 bands, a substantial increase from this year.
There's the news. Now excuse me while I get on my soapbox.
For my money, Viva PHX is the best Phoenix music music festival in town. (Full disclosure, New Times co-organizes the event with Stateside Presents.) Viva PHX is more than just a festival; it's an ignition switch to the true potential of what downtown Phoenix could be. Streets close down. Music pours out of seemingly every building in a three-square-block area. It's surreal to watch streets that would be silent on any given Saturday night buzz with pedestrian traffic as people make their way from venue to venue. Anyone who's been to South By Southwest can relate to unique energy that comes from having a high density of quality bands in a single area.
Phoenicians actually walk places during Viva PHX. Again, it's surreal.
A close second to Viva PHX, in my mind, is McDowell Mountain Music Festival. MMMF is more of a traditional music festival than Viva, but its combination of location, lineup, and mission (MMMF is a nonprofit, and it donates proceeds to charity) lends it the most laid-back vibe of any festival in the Valley. It is also a fantastic music festival.
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The festivals overlapped this year; Viva PHX occurred on day two of the McDowell Mountain Music Festival, meaning that music fans in the Valley had to choose between Kid Cudi and Porter Robinson at MMMF and the 70 bands of Viva. In 2015, the Pot of Gold Music Festival hosted Kendrick Lamar the same day as Viva PHX, which undoubtedly pulled concertgoers away from Viva PHX.
This overlap seems counterproductive from both a fan's perspective and a business one. Yes, there are only a few months out of the year where the weather permits outdoor music festivals. The weather this past weekend was in the 80s. That's beautiful summer festival weather anywhere in the country, but there were no music festivals in Phoenix last weekend. (McDowell Mountain Music Festival has historically held its festival on the last weekend in March, but this year, that was Easter, spokesman Nate Largay told the Phoenix Business Journal.)
Viva PHX is locked to South By Southwest; the idea is to catch all the bands coming through town on their way to Austin and gather them all under the umbrella of one event. That's why it can announce, with certainty, its festival date so early on in the game. Hopefully, the rest of the springtime music festivals that happen in Phoenix take notice.