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Everything You Need to Know About M3F 2020

M3F returns for its 17th edition this weekend.
M3F returns for its 17th edition this weekend. Jacob Tyler Dunn
It isn’t easy to classify M3F. Is it an indie rock extravaganza, an electronic dance music rager, or a hippie-friendly jamfest?

The short answer: all of the above.

The annual springtime Valley music festival, which was originally known as the McDowell Mountain Music Festival when it launched in 2004, features all of the aforementioned genres, plus elements of hip-hop, Americana, funk, reggae, bluegrass, and soul.

Comparisons have been made to both Bonnaroo and Coachella, but the free-spirited M3F is its own beast. It stands apart from most other music festivals, both local or across the U.S., donating 100 percent of its proceeds to local charitable organizations. It's the longest-running event of its kind in the Valley.

M3F returns for its 17th edition this weekend, offering three days of music at Margaret T. Hance Park in downtown Phoenix from Friday, March 6, to Sunday, March 8. A total of 40 different acts are scheduled to perform this year, including headliners Bon Iver, RÜFÜS DU SOL, Stick Figure, The Growlers, LANY, and Local Natives.

What else is in store for M3F 2020? Read through the following guide to the festival, which features everything you’ll need to know before attending.

When and where is the festival?
M3F 2020 runs from Friday, March 6, to Sunday, March 8, on the east side of Margaret T. Hance Park, 67 West Culver Street. Gates open at 1:30 p.m. on Friday and at 1 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.

How much are tickets?
General admission is $85 on Friday and Saturday, $80 on Sunday, and $155 for the whole festival. VIP tickets (which include complimentary eats, five alcoholic beverages, chair massages, and access to shaded areas and a viewing deck for the Kerouac Stage) are $190 for either Friday or Sunday only.

Are there age limits?
No. M3F is open to all ages, and kids 10 and under can attend for free with a paid adult. You might want to consider ear protection, though, given the music tends to get loud. The festival will also have a kids' zone featuring family-friendly activities from 1 to 5 p.m. on Sunday afternoon.

click to enlarge One of the stages at last year's M3F. - JACOB TYLER DUNN
One of the stages at last year's M3F.
Jacob Tyler Dunn
Will there be wristbands?
Yes. Every festival attendee will be issued a wristband that must be worn at all times.

Where can I purchase tickets and pick up wristbands?
Next to the main entrance at Second and Portland streets.

What's the weather going to be like?
The forecast calls for partly cloudy skies and temperatures in the low- to mid-70s all three days of the festival. It will get down into the 60s by the end of each night, however. Plan to bring a light jacket, hoodie, or sweater.

What’s the best way to get to M3F?
We recommend embracing the green spirit of the festival and taking an alternate form of transportation. Light rail stations are located within walking distance from the park along Central Avenue at Roosevelt Street and McDowell Road and are within a five-minute walk to Hance Park. It's also free to ride with your M3F ticket.

Where can I park?
Many of the streets surrounding Hance Park will be shut down all three days. We suggest looking for individual street parking a few blocks south of Roosevelt Street. It's $1 to $1.50 per hour for each space and the meters run daily from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. (The Parkmobile app will allow you to reserve, pay for, and renew your street parking space.)

A few downtown Phoenix parking garages are located within a mile or two of Hance Park. You can check out this website for locations, availability, and rates. You could also use one of Valley Metro’s free park-and-ride lots around town and then take light rail the rest of the way.

There will also be free bike racks outside of the festival entrance at Second and Portland streets if you feel like cycling to the event. Ride-sharing services like Lyft and Uber are also an option.

click to enlarge M3F attendees at last year's festival. - JACOB TYLER DUNN
M3F attendees at last year's festival.
Jacob Tyler Dunn
What’s getting into M3F going to be like?
As we said, the main entrance is located at Second and Portland streets on the southeast side of Hance Park, while the VIP entrance is just north of the Phoenix Center for the Arts, 1202 North Third Street.

Will there be re-entry?
Yes. Attendees can leave and re-enter the festival if they’re wearing a wristband that hasn’t been tampered with in any way.

What’s security going to be like?
Just like at most other music festivals, there will be bag searches and pat-downs of every single attendee when entering the festival. If you plan to drink alcohol, you’ll also have to show your ID to receive a wristband.

How can you pay for stuff at the festival?
Cash and cards will be accepted at the event and certain vendors will be cash-only. ATMs will be available around the festival, but given the usual fees involved, we suggest having cash on hand.

What’s the food and drink situation going to be like?
More than a dozen different food trucks, local restaurants, concession stands, and vendors will be set up at M3F 2020 with options for meat-eaters, vegetarians, vegans, and those seeking gluten-free cuisine. The lineup includes Bubba Burger, Casa Reynoso, Drive Wood Fired Grill, The Farmacy Cafe, Freak Brothers Pizza, Gadzooks, Gypsy Cup, Hot Bamboo, Island Noodles, Jakes Treat Trolley, Killa Dilla, Louisiana Kitchen, Shake Shack, and Reef’s Kitchen.

A variety of liquor companies will have booths and tents at M3F, including Oskar Blues Brewery, Bulleit Bourbon, Deep Eddy Vodka, Don Julio, Mike's, Squatters Craft Beers, Stella Rosa, Tanqueray, and Wasatch Brewery. Soft drinks and water can also be purchased from food vendors.

Will there be water available?
Yes. M3F patrons can bring in sealed or empty reusable water bottles into the festival and there will be free refill stations available. Vendors will also have sealed bottles of water for purchase.

Will there be vendors?
You bet. According to the M3F website, close to 30 different local vendors and retailers will sell everything from apparel and artwork to henna tattoos and sunglasses. The full lineup can be found here.

click to enlarge Confetti floats through the air at last year's M3F. - JACOB TYLER DUNN
Confetti floats through the air at last year's M3F.
Jacob Tyler Dunn
What's the music schedule like for M3F 2020?
It gets going anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour after gates open each day. Performances will take place on three different stages located around Hance Park, each named after a famous countercultural author (Jack Kerouac, Ken Kesey, and Aldous Huxley). Here’s the breakdown of who’s playing when and where.

Friday, March 6
Gates open at 1:30 p.m.

Kerouac Stage:
2 to 3 p.m. – SLWLY
4 to 5 p.m. – Moby Rich
6 to 7 p.m. – Sure Sure
8 to 9 p.m. – Local Natives
10 to 11 p.m. – Bon Iver

Kesey Stage:
3 to 4 p.m. – Jawny
5 to 6 p.m. – New Madrid
7 to 8 p.m. – San Holo
9 to 10 p.m. – LANY

Huxley Stage:
2 to 3 p.m. – Wyves
4 to 5 p.m. – Toubab Krewe
6 to 7 p.m. – Neal Frances
8 to 9 p.m. – The Infamous Stringdusters
10 to 11 p.m. – Moe.

Saturday, March 7
Gates open at 1 p.m.

Kerouac Stage:
2 to 3 p.m. – Kharaci
4 to 5 p.m. – Young Sick N Company
6 to 7 p.m. – Generationals
8 to 9 p.m. – The Growlers
10 to 11 p.m. – RÜFÜS DU SOL

Kesey Stage:
3 to 4 p.m. – The Bash Dogs
5 to 6 p.m. – Crooked Colours
7 to 8 p.m. – Snakehips
9 to 10 p.m. – Sofi Tukker

Huxley Stage:
2 to 3 p.m. – The Canaries
4 to 5 p.m. – Thumpasaurus
6 to 7 p.m. – Phantoms
8 to 9 p.m. – Justin Jay's Fantastic Voyage
10 to 11 p.m. – Mayer Hawthorne

Sunday, March 8
Gates open at 1 p.m.

Kerouac Stage:
4 to 5 p.m. – The Green
6 to 7 p.m. – Greensky Bluegrass
8 to 9:30 p.m. – Stick Figure

Kesey Stage:
1 to 2 p.m. – Scattered Melodies
3 to 4 p.m. – Aqueous
5 to 6 p.m. – Los Colognes
7 to 8 p.m. – Cory Wong

Huxley Stage:
2 to 3 p.m. – Bardz
4 to 5 p.m. – Maddy O'Neal
6 to 7 p.m. – Flamingosis
8 to 9:30 p.m. – The Funk Hunters

click to enlarge One of the annual drum circles at M3F. - JACOB TYLER DUNN
One of the annual drum circles at M3F.
Jacob Tyler Dunn
Are there other things to do at M3F?
Absolutely. You can check out local artists creating various works around the festival grounds during the weekend. Yoga classes will be conducted in the Oskar Blues Tent from 1:30 to 2:30 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. And a silent disco will feature local DJs performing in the same tent while attendees listen to their mixes over headphones. It runs from 4:30 to 9:30 p.m. on Friday and from 6 to 9:30 p.m. on Saturday.

Will there be drum circles this year?
They're a hallmark of M3F, so yes. Frank Thompson of AZ Rhythm Connection will lead the free-form and inclusive performances inside the Oskar Blues Tent. Drum circles will happen 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.

Will there be any official M3F after-parties?
Yeah. The Walter Where?House, 702 North 21st Avenue, will host after-parties on Friday and Saturday starting at 11 p.m. A mix of art, libations, and music will be offered each night. Justin Jay, Thumpasaurus, and Young & Sick will perform on Friday, with DJ sets by Phantoms and Crooked Colours on Saturday. Tickets are $15 per person for each event.

What should I bring to M3F 2020?
A fully charged cellphone, sun protection, comfortable shoes, and your ID are all good things to have with you to the festival. Beyond that, umbrellas, low-backed chairs, picnic blankets, non-framed backpacks, selfie sticks, and hula-hoops (including the LED kind) will be allowed inside the event. Also, “funny totems” and “crazy costumes” are encouraged, so feel free to get colorful.

What shouldn’t I bring?
Anything that could be considered dangerous or disruptive, like weapons, illegal drugs, laser pens, or air horns. Outside food and beverages, pets other than service animals, ice chests, and bad vibes are also forbidden.
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Benjamin Leatherman is a staff writer at Phoenix New Times. He covers local nightlife, music, culture, geekery, and fringe pursuits.