It’s been a long, strange trip for the McDowell Mountain Music Festival.
Since launching in 2004, the annual weekend-long event has changed its name (it now goes by M3F), switched locations several times, and totally reinvented itself.
Despite all the changes it's endured in the past decade and a half, M3F has remained a hallmark of the springtime festival calendar in the Valley, with a free-spirited vibe in its three-day mix of indie rock, jam-friendly acts, and electronic dance music.
The vibe at the 2018 version of M3F – which runs from Friday, March 2, to Sunday, March 4, at Margaret T. Hance Park – will be very much along those lines.
This year’s lineup includes sets by Nick Murphy (f.k.a. Chet Faker), GRiZ, Gorgon City, Dr. Dog, O.A.R., Father John Misty, and Big Gigantic, as well a slew of local bands. Meanwhile, the festival grounds will host free-form drum circles, vendor booths, and live art displays.
What else is in store for M3F 2018 this weekend? We’ve assembled a complete guide to the festival that contains everything you’ll need to know before attending.
When and Where: M3F 2018 will run from Friday, March 2, to Sunday, March 4, at Margaret T. Hance Park, 1134 North Central Avenue. Festival hours are 3 to 11 p.m. on Friday, 2 to 11 p.m. on Saturday, and 2 to 9:30 p.m. on Sunday.
Prices: Single-day general admission is $50 and a three-day pass is $90. If you’d like to attend the festival in style, VIP tickets are $180 per day and $540 for the entire weekend. A variety of perks are included, like a separate viewing area, complimentary food and up to five beers or mixed drinks, exclusive entry, and chair massages.
Age Limits: M3F is open to all ages, and children under 10 get in free. There will also be a “Kid Zone” with family-friendly activities.
Weather: It will be great pretty much all weekend long. Temperatures will be in the mid-70s during the daytime on Friday and Saturday before getting a little cooler on Sunday. Things might be a little chilly after dark, so bring a light jacket or hoodie.
Getting There: Light rail is your go-to option, since there are two stations along Central Avenue (at Roosevelt Street and McDowell Road) within a five-minute walk to the park. We also recommend riding your bike or taking a ride-sharing service like Lyft or Uber to avoid the hassle of finding parking. On that subject …
Parking: Forget about trying to score a street space anywhere within a few blocks radius of Hance Park, since those will go quickly. Try a few blocks south, where they’re more plentiful. It’s $1 to $1.50 per hour for street parking and the meters run daily from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. (pretty much during the entire festival). A few mobile apps like Pango are available, however.
If you’re coming by bike, however, you’ve got no worries. M3F will have bike racks available where you can lock up your ride.
Getting Inside: The festival’s main entrance is located at Second and Portland streets on the south side of Hance Park, while the VIP entrance will be near the Phoenix Center for the Arts. Each patron will be given a wristband with an RFID tag, which must be worn while they attend. Re-entry is permitted, but only if your wristband hasn’t been tampered with in any way.
Food and Drink: A dozen different food trucks and vendors will be stationed along the south end of the park and will have a variety of eats for purchase, including gluten-free and vegetarian options. The lineup includes Pho King, Island Noodles, Hungry Monk, Casa Rey’s, Even Stevens, Hitchin’ Post BBQ, Paletas Betty, Hot Bamboo, The Spot, and Jakes Treat Trolley.
Beverages of both the soft and hard variety will be available. Oskar Blues Brewery will set up a beer booth in the center of the festival and Rattle & Rum will have two outdoor bars.
Water: As with any festival, you’ll want to stay hydrated. And at M3F, you can do so by making use of the free refill station near the main entrance. Sealed and reusable water bottles will be allowed, and vendors will have H20 for sale.
Live Art: A number of local painters will create art throughout the weekend at M3F.
Drum Circles: It’s a hallmark of M3F and will be happening at this year’s festival. As always, Frank Thompson of AZ Rhythm Connection will conduct the free-form and inclusive performances, which will take place on the eastern edge of the park near the VIP entrance.
Anyone and everyone is encouraged to participate and drums and other percussion instruments will be provided. The circles are scheduled to run from 3:30 to 4 p.m. and 5 to 5:30 p.m. on Saturday, and from 3 to 3:30 p.m. and 6 to 6:30 p.m. on Sunday.
Vendors: M3F’s marketplace area will be located on the northern edge of the festival grounds and feature 30 different vendors offering everything from apparel and artwork to henna tattoos and sunglasses. You can even buy a cape and transform yourself into a superhero.
Schedule and Set Times: Performances begin 30 to 60 minutes after gates open each day, and a lot of the set times are more or less staggered between each of the three stages. Here’s the complete rundown of who’s playing as well as when and where they’ll be doing it.
Friday, March 2:
Gates open at 3 p.m.
3:30 to 4 p.m.: Treasurefruit
4:30 to 5 p.m.: Wyves
6 to 7 p.m.: Cut Copy
8 to 9 p.m.: Nick Murphy (Chet Faker)
10 to 11 p.m.: Big Gigantic
4 to 4:30 p.m.: Jane N' the Jungle
5 to 6 p.m.: Andy Frasco and the U.N.
7 to 8 p.m.: Lemaitre
9 to 10 p.m.: Mura Masa
4:30 to 5 p.m.: Spark Jack Daddy
6 to 7 p.m.: Seratones
8 to 9 p.m.: Too Many Zooz
10 to 11 p.m.: Dr. Dog
Saturday, March 3:
Gates open at 2 p.m.
3 to 3:30 p.m.: Phoenix Afrobeat Orchestra
4 to 4:45 p.m.: Magic City Hippies
5:45 to 6:45 p.m.: Father John Misty
7:45 to 8:45 p.m.: Gorgon City
9:45 to 11 p.m.: GRiZ
2:30 to 3 p.m.: Jerusafunk
3:30 to 4 p.m.: Daisy
4:45 to 5:45 p.m.: The Russ Liquid Test
6:45 to 7:45 p.m.: Washed Out
8:45 to 9:45 p.m.: Jai Wolf
4 to 4:45 p.m.: Romen Buffalo and the Loyal Order
5:45 to 6:45 p.m.: Brasstracks
7:45 to 8:45 p.m.: White Denim
9:45 to 11 p.m.: The Markus King Band
Sunday, March 4:
Gates open at 2 p.m.
2:30 to 3 p.m.: The Uncommon Good
4 to 5 p.m.: Anderson East
6 to 7 p.m.: O.A.R.
8 to 9:30 p.m.: The Revivalists
3 to 4 p.m.: Scattered Melodies
5 to 6 p.m.: Lucky Chops
7 to 8 p.m.: The Motet
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
You have successfully signed up for your selected newsletter(s) - please keep an eye on your mailbox, we're movin' in!
4 to 4:30 p.m.: Lonesome Wilderness
6 to 7 p.m.: The Noodles
8 to 9 p.m.: Kidswaste
Bring: All the usual festival staples, like a fully charged cellphone, sun protection, comfortable shoes, and some cash. Beyond that, picnic blankets, costumes, hula-hoops and flow toys, festival totems, non-framed backpacks, and selfie sticks are all allowed. Umbrellas and low-back chairs are also cool, but only in certain areas
Don’t Bring: Anything that could be considered dangerous or disruptive, like weapons, illegal drugs, laser pens, or air horns. Pets other than service animals are also forbidden. (Sorry, Fido.)