The 2019 McDowell Mountain Music Festival is in the books, and honestly? We don't have a lot of complaints. Thanks to a diverse lineup, cool people, and progressive policies, M3F is looking more and more like the shining jewel of the Valley's festival scene.
That being said, we wouldn't be Phoenix New Times if we didn't have a few quibbles, all in the spirit of making next year's fest even better. Here's what we loved and what we could do without at M3F 2019.
It's interesting to compare M3F to the other festival that happened this weekend: Innings. When Innings debuted last year, it offered a wide-ranging lineup that brought together indie electro-jams, radio friendly hard rock, adult contemporary tunes, and country. This year they pivoted to being a Dad Rock festival, going all in on a lineup designed to draw in an older Gen X/boomer crowd.
There’s nothing wrong with that approach, but for my money M3F’s “a little something for everyone” approach was a much wiser strategy. As I noted on Friday’s review, they programmed the three stages to offer something that appealed to indie fans, EDM lovers, and roots music fanatics. It’s a multigenerational approach to programming that kept things interesting, and the crowd reflected: There were plenty of kids and gray hairs circulating around Hance Park.
M3F’s programming isn’t exactly radical. There are no surprise “gets” on the bill, just a solid mix of locals, jam bands, EDM hitmakers, and Pitchfork Best New Music alumni. It’s middle of the road as all hell, manufactured to cater to everyone but rap and metal fans (two genres that historically haven’t been shown much love at M3F). But sometimes more can be a good thing. Sometimes you just wanna hear some chill tunes and dance in the cool spring air. Ashley Naftule
The Coyote Stage
2018 marked the addition of a third stage at M3F after many steady years of back-and-forth two-stage action. Logistically, this adds plenty to the mix for the good people putting this shindig on, including the difficulty of scheduling Coyote Stage bands directly against (oftentimes) much larger names on the Rattlesnake Stage. This year, for those M3F attendees who made the journey across festival grounds to find the not-obvious stage placement, they were rewarded with the best-kept secret of the weekend. It was rarely crowded, often shaded, and never hosting a bar line longer than four people. The Coyote Stage was the shining star of the festival, showing off some of the best sets of the weekend including NoMBe, Margo Price, and Kevin Morby, as well as easily the best sound mix of any of the three stages. Gerrit Feenstra
Music festivals are second only to comic conventions when it comes to primo people-watching, and M3F was no exception. Whether it’s the guy standing in line with a massive Sorting Hat on his head or the troupe of "butterflies” dancing around the grass with translucent capes threading with rainbow LED lights, there were all kinds of fun outfits and kooky styles on display at M3F. AN
This year, M3F made moves in reducing single-use plastics by giving everyone a cup with their first drink and then selling refills at a discounted price. The cups were good for the whole weekend, as long as you remembered to bring it back the next day. Furthermore, recycling and compost stations were evenly scattered across the grounds, manned by helpful volunteers who helped you sort things out just in case you tried to send a White Claw can to a landfill. While general cleanliness definitely decreased with the passing hours, festivalgoers largely followed suit and kept the grounds in halfway decent condition. DJ, please queue up “Change the World, One Party At A Time”, thank you. GF
If you think you can show up to music festivals with a vegan option that looks like leftover taco dressings, you’re gonna get roasted. Luckily, this wasn't the case at M3F. Freak Brothers Pizza came through with multiple vegan “meat” toppings and sauces to mix and match to your veggie-loving heart’s desire. Reef’s Kitchen served up fresh fries loaded with bits of falafel and veggies, and Killa Dilla took the cake with their soyrizo and marinated onion “dilla” that came with their vegan-friendly version of their tangy sauce. But the secret sauce was really on the other side of the grass as the chipotle Bitchin’ Sauce took the quesadilla to the next level. Vegan squad up. Julian Hernandez
Rick and Morty
Between numerous very different light shows, there was one visible constant at the Rattlesnake stage both Friday and Saturday night: a Cromulon. The potato-headed “Show Me What You Got” alien from Adult Swim's cult hit Rick and Morty topped a Go Pro extension pole held high by a guy in a cowboy hat. This was one of two camera sticks he had in the air, with the other pointed away from the stage back at the crowd. With this guy front and center for both evenings, not a moment went by where a Cromulon wasn’t bombing the shot. Maybe M3F will rethink their camera pole policy next year. As for me, I’ll never watch Rick and Morty the same way again. GF
Blame social media ubiquity for the slow but deliberate aesthetic merge of music festival culture and fringe paid-for human experiences like Burning Man. The scarf has long served as man's trusty companion in the battle against desert winds and dusty horizons. But on Phoenix's first weekend of 80-degree weather, with pasty legs finding solace in shorts for the first time in almost four months, the scarf presence at this windless M3F looked utterly ridiculous. Bring the outrageous coordinated outfits, impossibly kitschy graphic tees, and something you'll be embarrassed you wore when you see your coworkers, but please, unless you're expecting Darude levels of sandstorm, leave the scarves at home. GF
We've said it once and we'll say it again: Throwing a music festival during First Friday is insanity. You’re pretty much guaranteeing that your opening night is going to be a massive parking clusterfuck. And it was. It really was. All you assholes charging $20 for parking are a bunch of goddamn ghouls. Ashley Naftule
Cloudy With a Chance of ... Salad?
If you want to throw shreds of lettuce, or even a head of lettuce, at Lettuce (the band) while they perform, then do your thing. I guess they expect it by now. But no one in the crowd is asking for salad confetti, so maybe keep your lettuce to yourself. JH