McDowell Mountain Music Festival

M3F 2019: Maribou State, Lettuce, and OPIUO Close Out Day Three

Take a walk on the wild side.
Take a walk on the wild side. Jacob Tyler Dunn
click to enlarge Fans gather at the Coyote Stage during M3F 2019. - JACOB TYLER DUNN
Fans gather at the Coyote Stage during M3F 2019.
Jacob Tyler Dunn
That's a wrap on M3F 2019. The festival gave us plenty of thrills and chills during its first two days, with epic sets by Empire of the Sun, ODESZA, Chicano Batman, Kurt Vile, Jungle, and so many others. But did the festival save the best for last? Did Sunday, the day with the fewest "name" artists, turn out to be a smorgasbord of hidden musical gems? Well ... not quite. Read on to find out what went down.

Maribou State
Why would an electronic music duo need to double in size while on tour? Can’t they just play all their sounds and samples off a myriad of computers, controllers, midi pads, and keyboards? Well, with an extra set of helping hands, Maribou State were able to mix the organic with the synthetic in the most mesmerizing midday set of Sunday.

The club-hardened DJs did not go easy on the crowd, and boy, was the crowd thankful. As Maribou State began playing “Feel Good” halfway through their set, the sun dipped behind the Burton Barr Library and a wave of heavy bass began to rattle my insides. It was blissful.

Their guest vocalist, Holly Walker, came on and off stage to perform her features. When she started grooving to “Nervous Tics,” there wasn’t a body not consumed by the beat. When Walker asked the crowd to dance on her signal and everyone complied, it looked like the Zion dance party scene in The Matrix Reloaded. Julian Hernandez

click to enlarge Take a walk on the wild side. - JACOB TYLER DUNN
Take a walk on the wild side.
Jacob Tyler Dunn
There are lots of amazing jokes in This is Spinal Tap, but my personal favorite is when the filmmaker reads to the band the two-word review a critic wrote for their Shark Sandwich album: “Shit Sandwich.” Part of what makes it such a beautiful joke is how wide-open the band left themselves with that name. How could you not make that joke? It’s right there!

On a related note: if you’re going to call yourself Ripe, you’re basically asking for someone to call your music overripe. And it is: The Boston groove band were just too much. Their blaring horns and bar band wah-wah guitars made them sound like Nu-Huey Lewis and The News. Frontman Robbie Wulfsohn gave it his all up there, pouring out buckets of sweat that turned his gray shirt into a Rorschach blot — he was looking pretty ripe (I'm sorry, it's right there!). And no amount of showmanship can make up for the lameness of doing Hall & Oates/Chance The Rapper/Outkast medleys. “Sunday Candy” is already treacly bullshit — hearing it get the Ripe treatment just makes it even worse.

And worst of all: The horn parts on one of their songs is a shameless lift of Suzanne Vega’s “Tom’s Diner,” which is a better song than anything anyone played at M3F on Sunday. Take Suzanne, Andre 3000, Big Boi, and Daryl’s names out ya moufs, Ripe. Ashley Naftule

click to enlarge Jammin' at the Rattlesnake Stage during M3F 2019. - JACOB TYLER DUNN
Jammin' at the Rattlesnake Stage during M3F 2019.
Jacob Tyler Dunn
It never really occurred to me to watch the same band perform twice in the same weekend, at the same music festival. But jam bands are just built for such occasions, aren’t they? A second day out in the sun did not lead to wilted Lettuce.

This sunset cruise was another perfect transition performance at the festival with plenty of rest periods interspersed between full-on blaring sections of brass. There isn’t a better saxophone and trumpet duo than Ryan Zoidis and Eric Bloom. I don’t know what the bassist Erick Coomes was like on Saturday, but on Sunday he could have handled the entire Rattlesnake stage just by himself.

Seeing the massive crowd in front of Lettuce did make me wonder what kind of performance Phoenix Afrobeat Orchestra would have put on if they were given the chance for a sunset slot. Maybe next year we’ll see PAO in the evening, and hopefully we’ll also see Lettuce return. JH
click to enlarge Getting creative. - JACOB TYLER DUNN
Getting creative.
Jacob Tyler Dunn
House of Treezus
I wasn’t expecting an exotica set in the middle of M3F’s Sunday Jam Band Apocalypse, so House of Treezus’s “Quiet Village” vibes came as a welcome surprise. House of Treezus was a one-man operation: one cheerful dude manning a DJ table. He did bring on a guest partway through the set to add some live African string parts to his jams, which added a nice bit of sonic variety to the proceedings.

The best part about Treezus’s set, though, was his literal set. The DJ table was flanked by a pair of burning tiki torches. Palm fronds were set up in the background. All that was missing was a coconut with a straw in it and an Easter Island head and House of Treezus would have completed its lounge music bingo card.

The island vibe spread out into the audience, who tossed around beach balls and lil’ inflatable palm trees throughout the show. There wasn’t a huge crowd over at the Coyote stage for House of Treezus, but the people who were there were into it. And the DJ offered some quality jams with a stirring mix of funk beats and world music. People came to dance and Treezus, like any good host, gave them exactly what they wanted. AN

click to enlarge Fans of all ages came to have fun. - JACOB TYLER DUNN
Fans of all ages came to have fun.
Jacob Tyler Dunn
Umphrey's McGee
All throughout the first half hour of their set, Umphrey’s McGee were flawless on their instruments, but it was at the expense of commanding the stage and making their presence known. Maybe it was just the chilly evening air that got to them, because it took them a while to find their groove. It certainly was strange hearing classic ‘80s metal guitar solos radiating over the crowd only to see a restrained guitarist hammering out the notes.

No one in the audience seemed to notice anything was off, however. In every direction, humans transformed into inflatable dancing tubes with arms and hips that swayed and changed direction without warning. Many drinks were knocked to the ground by free spirits.

Some decided to call it quits with 30 minutes still on the clock, and they didn’t miss a particularly spectacular ending or finale, but Umphrey’s McGee sure did close out M3F. JH

click to enlarge Late night at M3F 2019. - JACOB TYLER DUNN
Late night at M3F 2019.
Jacob Tyler Dunn
After a weekend of jam bands, Kurt Vile, and Willie Nelson’s son getting his Crazy Horse on, M3F wrapped with a closing set by Australian electronic act OPIUO. “This is my last night in the States,” the DJ said. “I go back to Australia tomorrow, so let’s make this one to fucking remember!” And so that begs the question: Was OPIUO's headlining set one to fucking remember? Not really.

To be honest, the best part about OPIUO’s set was the people-watching. There were all sorts of amazing neon get-ups and wacky outfits that were bouncing around and grooving in the crowd massed around the Rattlesnake stage. One reveler had a traffic cone perched on their head, while others spun in circles with glowstick collars gleaming orange and green in the night. They were a lot more fun to watch than the dude onstage banging out some nondescript beats.

OPIUO’s music was fine. Just fine. It had enough robotic squelching noises and bass drops to satisfy anyone looking to get a nighttime dance fix. And there were trippy fractal visuals spinning behind him to give his set an interesting visual component. But compared to the glammy sci-fi spectacle Empire of the Sun put on Saturday night, anything else would feel like a comedown in comparison.

Hey, at least he didn’t put “Sunday Candy” in his set. AN
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Phoenix New Times Music Writers