Ozomatli and Galactic at McDowell Mountain Music Festival, 4/13/12

See also: A Look at the Creamy Radio Stage at McDowell Mountain Music Festival See also: Galactic's Robert Mercurio on Carnivale Electricos

McDowell Mountain Music Festival Outside of The Compound Grill Friday, April 13, 2012

Dark ominous clouds, chilly 70-degree weather, and one of the most superstitious days of the year couldn't keep music lovers away from the McDowell Mountain Music Festival kickoff last night in northern Phoenix.

The outdoor music festival spans three days and features 15 bands from an array of genres brought together to benefit the Phoenix Children's Hospital and Ear Candy, the Phoenix-based charity dedicated to providing community youths with access to music education. Day one of this year's event got started with the funky sounds of Los Angeles-based urban Latino fusion band Ozomatli, New Orleans-based jazz ensemble Galactic and improvisational jam band, Endoplasmic.

Hundreds of tie-dye wearing, pony-tailed concertgoers trampled the bumpy sod setup just outside of The Compound Grill as they enjoyed the beer booths, food tent, and vendors organized around the temporary stage.

Endoplasmic began the festivities at around 5 p.m. while crowds situated their lawn chairs and laid out blankets across the grass. Ozomatli took the stage shortly after 6:30, prompting fans to crowd the stage once the party started. Right off the bat they introduced the uninitiated to their mashup up of salsa, cumbia and hip-hop with the horn heavy "Chango" and hometown-inspired "City of Angels."

The hour-and-a-half-long set was full of tracks off of their 1998 self-titled debut, which infected people with the urge to boogie down. The high energy and unique blend of cultural influences let everyone conjure up their own weird movements when they weren't jumping up and down at the band's request.

The seven-piece group worked the stage effectively, choosing to stay in motion and chatting up the audience between songs. "I got this thing right here, called a trumpet, and I'm not afraid to use it," Asdru Sierra warned before leading an impromptu scat-off. "Oh my God, there's a jazz community in this town. Where are we, Cleveland?"

Another highlight came when the band launched into a banda beat cover of "Just Can't Get Enough." As the group pointed out, if you're a Chicano you probably have a strong fascination with Depeche Mode and Morrissey (Guilty on both accounts).

The set ended with the whistle-driven carnivalesque jam, "Como Ves" while the group invited kids in the crowd up to the stage to help out with percussion.

The band ended in their traditional way chanting, O-zo-mat-li ya se fue, as they loaded up on hand-held percussion instruments and snaked their way into the crowd keeping the rhythm and dancing going, acoustic-style.

A few people packed up and left during the 30-minute intermission, but by the time Galactic went live, the area around the stage was full once again. With a little help from vocalist Corey Glover from Living Colour, and trombonist Corey Henry of Rebirth Brass Band, the Big Easy-natives broke it down smooth while the pungent scent of weed wafted through the air.

The seamless set was a mostly instrumental exercise in funk, with Henry and Saxophonist Ben Ellman leading the way. A booming bass line thudded against those close enough to the front monitors and the crowd kept a groovy sway the rest of the night.

Half-way through their set, winds really picked up, whipping hair about and swaying the trusses over the band. As much as the elements battered concertgoers, which included bouncing toddlers on parent shoulders, and sleeping infants in baby slings, fans reveled in it all.

The party starts again tomorrow at noon with locals, The Nameless Prophets, and concludes with headliners, Dark Star Orchestra.

Critic's Notebook:

Last Night: Ozomatli and Galactic at McDowell Mountain Music Festival

Personal bias: Ozomatli's self-titled debut fueled many a trip into Mexico-land.

The crowd: More hippie than hipster; a lot of dancing fools, and double-fisting beer guzzlers.

Random observation: The "licking the finger and touching the boob-thing" is still used seriously, eh?

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Anthony Sandoval
Contact: Anthony Sandoval