McDowell Mountain Music Festival 2015 hit its stride on day two with a stellar lineup that combined a big group of acts that don't really go together at all to make for an eclectic and fun festival Saturday.
I arrived in the middle of Pretty Lights protege Break Science's set, and 3 o'clock in the afternoon is just not the right time for them. They had a pretty big crowd for a midday act, and bless their hearts for dancing the way they did in that late-afternoon heat. But an act like that begs for a light show, and that was really the only thing missing from a tremendous funktronica set.
Real Estate followed on the main stage, and they were placed exactly where they belonged. Their brand of indie popped meshed into the hot spring day well and created a pleasant soundtrack for the few thousand people in attendance. Many attendees were grouped up in the shady areas on lawn chairs and blankets.
It's the years at MMMF where the temperatures go above 90 degrees in the afternoon that really makes you appreciate the difference between Bud Light and Deschutes craft brews.
Apparently, there were drum circles at the local stage during the afternoon. But what can you do, the Democrats have the White House.
Then, the most energetic act of the festival to that point took the stage. I didn't even get to see a lot of Trombone Shorty and Orleans Avenue, but the groove was just completely infectious all throughout the festival grounds. The horns were blasting and the music was uptempo, rhythmic, and fun. Let me tell you: You ain't never heard Green Day until you've heard a New Orleans jazz/funk band cover them.
Trombone Shorty's 6 p.m. set felt like the first time this year MMMF stopped swaying to the dulcet tones on the wind and really started to get down. Even from across the grounds of the fest it looked like every festival goer was at the very least tapping their feet during the set. I even caught more than one purple shirted security guard busting a move.
As phenomenally energetic as Trombone Shorty and Orleans Avenue was, I don't think they could hold a candle to Playboy Manbaby. For a crowd that couldn't have possibly been more than 200 people, TJ Friga, Chris Hudson, David Cosme, Robbie Pfeffer, and Chad Dennis put on a spectacle worthy of the main stage at Bonnaroo.
Playboy Manbaby and Trombone Shorty were also the two acts with the most in common, as far as sound on Saturday in my opinion as well.
The five-piece short-bus spazz punks actually got a mosh pit going in front of the local stage at a jam band festival; this is an accomplishment worthy of praise. Perhaps saying they were more energetic than Trombone Shorty makes me a homer, but I defy anyone to stand front row center at any Playboy show and say it wasn't one of the five livest shows they've ever been too.
Phantogram came next and if Trombone Shorty got the main stage crowd to to "get down" Phantogram got the MMMF crowd to "turn up." The fest just became a giant dance party set to Phantogram's psych-pop.
Sara and Josh were totally in synch and even though they weren't closing the evening they certainly played like headliners. It was a crowd situation where everyone in the festival had their eye's on the main stage. During other acts people meandered through the market, picked up beers, and spent some QT time with other festival goers, but during Phantogram you were either watching or dancing.
Thievery Corporation is, and I don't use this word lightly, the "perfect" headliner for McDowell Mountain Music Festival. It's worldly, dancey, jammy, and grabby just to use a few adjectives, and their sound goes a long way to entice the interest of both of the festivals biggest demographics which seem to be EDM kids and deadheads, with a large smattering of hipster of course.
Thievery Corporation headlined. They didn't just have the headliner slot, but they shut it down at the festival. They were the great release after a day of wonderful build-up. Day two definitely topped day one in my eyes, and day three is still on the horizon.
See the next page for Critic's Notebook.
Last Night: McDowell Mountain Music Festival Day 2
Quote of the Night: "If you've stuck around this long you're not a shitty hippie" Robbie Pfeffer of Playboy Manbaby before their last song.
Random Notebook Dump: I'm all for festival attire but these kids are starting to all dress alike. Male's short shorts, tank top, sunglasses, backwards snapback. Female's hammer pants and a halter top. Let's get creative, alright?
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
Find any show in Metro Phoenix via our extensive online concert calendar.