Things were pretty laid-back at this year's M3F in downtown Phoenix. That is, until they weren't, of course.
Not everything can go swimmingly for the Valley's homegrown nonprofit festival, which took place over three days at Margaret T. Hance Park last weekend. In the spirit of making the festival a better experience next year, we took a few moments to go over what worked and what killed our vibe.
Banger: The Silent Disco at the Oskar Blues Brewery Tent
Picture 100 people and a DJ with green glowing headphones dancing to music no one can hear. Is it the first generational retro dance party or ironic post-rave disco they're dancing to? No one but their Beats By Dre headphones know for sure. Serene Dominic
Buzzkill: Stage Placement
The east side of Hance Park isn't that large of an area, so fitting three stages in a small space can be a problem, especially when you have two acts performing at the same time. As I made my way to catch the last few minutes of Mayer Hawthorne's set on Saturday night at the Huxley Stage, I could still hear the thumping beats of RÜFÜS DU SOL from the Kerouac stage in my ear. It was distracting as hell, and disrespectful to those who chose something a little more soulful than the headliners from Australia. Maybe organizers find a way to utilize the west side of the park in future years. Jason Keil
Banger: The Food
If you came from out of town to see Bon Iver and you wanted to sample some of the local food, then you didn't have to go far. Vendors included Gadzooks and Casa Reynoso. For the budget-conscious, there was Jimmy Johns and Shake Shack without the festival markup. We have a strong culinary community in Phoenix, and it was nice to see them represented. And I also tried deep-fried Oreos for the first time and lived to tell the tale. Jason Keil
When you can get "award-winning" tacos for $8 instead of one overpriced taco and not have to break a $20, that's always a plus. Serene Dominic
Buzzkill: Getting In
Who closes the media tent at 7:30 p.m. on the opening day of a festival just as people are getting off work and takes all the credentials home with them? M3F, that's who. Will Call didn't help either. They told me that I needed to call someone like a slacker teenager. Serene Dominic
I took the light rail on Saturday afternoon, so I didn't have the same problem. Before I even got to the media tent, someone from Maricopa County stopped me in the middle of the sidewalk to ask me questions about how I got to the event (and it took longer than the two minutes I was told). Once I got my credentials (which also took a while because they couldn't find my name), there was a long line to get in. If you wanted booze, there was another line to stand through. It was the complete opposite of what I experienced at Innings Festival last weekend, and it wasn't a good way to kick things off. Jason Keil
Banger: Saturday's Openers
Every time I've gone to M3F, I discover a new band that I fall in love with. A few years ago, local jammers Spafford changed my life. This year, it was the New Orleans-based Generationals. With a psychedelic guitar sound and a tight cover of The Cure's "Just Like Heaven," I couldn't wait to get home and dive in to their catalog. (Of course, I found out I'm late to the party by about a decade.)
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Then there were the laid-back beats of Crooked Colors, who provided the perfect soundtrack as the sun went down on a perfect spring day. It shows how much time and care that festival bookers put into creating an eclectic lineup year after year, and I honestly can't wait another year to see what I'll discover next. Jason Keil
The funky jam band from Los Angeles probably didn't mean anything when they kept mentioning the coronavirus on stage, but with more and more events getting canceled, that's not a topic to keep bringing up. (Thankfully, there was plenty of toilet paper for everyone.) Then again, it's hard to like any band that says they support their audience, then practically beg them to buy their merch in the same breath. It's just bad form. Jason Keil
Speaking of merch, I say a guy who had a black face mask with the Yin Yang wheel on it as soon as I entered the grounds. I spent most of the time looking to see if someone was selling it. The face masks were scarce, but at least the hand sanitizer wasn't. Serene Dominic