The best and worst of the 2024 M3F music festival in Phoenix | Phoenix New Times

The best and worst of the 2024 M3F music festival in Phoenix

We loved M3F's new home at Steele Indian School Park. But could people stop hitting us with their flow toys?
The larger space at Steele Indian School Park gave the three stages more room to breathe.
The larger space at Steele Indian School Park gave the three stages more room to breathe. Mike Bengoechea
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The 20th installment of M3F, originally known as the McDowell Mountain Music Festival, was a step in a new direction. The festival moved up Central Avenue from its long-time home at Margaret T. Hance Park near downtown Phoenix to Steele Indian School Park. The move grew the grounds of the event, creating a wider space for festival-goers, art installations and stages.

What didn't change, however, was the festival's local roots and its commitment to charity.

Here are the best and worst aspects of this year's M3F. And for recaps of many of the sets, check out our compilation of reviews.

Best: The use of space

At first glance, the move from Margaret T. Hance Park to Steele Indian felt a little odd. It's certainly a much bigger footprint overall, and when there's not nearly enough people in the space as was the case earlier in the day, things felt a little janky at best. But then you spend some time moving around it all, and all that added room really makes a difference. The way the stages were situated, for instance, meant no long walks (and still minimal bleed-over). There was also significantly more room for vendors and other merchants, which feels a little novel compared to some other fests. Similarly, there seemed to be ample choices for food — not to mention places to actually eat beyond awkwardly huddling near these food courts.

Even having random places to gather away from stages or areas for eating/shopping made just hanging out an even more appealing (and feasible) prospect. Maybe Hance and M3F had some kind of emotional connection for longtime attendees, but this new space offers heaps more opportunities for the event to further grow in the years to come. Chris Coplan

Worst: Creature comforts (or lack thereof)

For starters, the park’s bathrooms were woefully inadequate for the festival. I felt especially bad for the folks using the women’s restroom, which almost always had a massive line. In addition, I noticed there wasn’t any toilet paper in the men’s room, which I can imagine made for a less-than-optimal experience for many.

The small water station’s well seemed to be going dry at the end of Saturday night, making it difficult to get a full bottle to rehydrate.

The main downside of the festival was its no re-entry policy, which created what one festival-goer called a “hostage situation.” The inability to leave for a breather and come back prevented a number of attendees we spoke to from coming closer to the gate time and seeing some of the earlier acts. TJ L'Heureux

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The art activations at this year's event were popular photo backdrops.
Mike Bengoechea

Best: The art and retail vendors

The installations all over the festival grounds were fantastic. The glamorous, steel-constructed cacti between the two largest stages provided a little bit of shade for those looking to chill. The lake in the middle of the park was lit up beautifully at night and provided a nice respite from the pulse of the music. The rig of giant disco balls was a great spot to meet up with people you lost throughout the day.

A large section of retail vendors nearby provided groovy garb for those missing that extra touch for their festival outfit. One tent sold customizable denim jackets, creating a unique shopping experience.

Another personal favorite of the festival: Yerba Mate and Celsius tents handing out free beverages helped keep festival-goers cool on a warm weekend. TL

Worst: A different breed of fans

It was easy to be of two minds when it comes to fans at this year's festivities. Really, dance/EDM crowds in general often differ from the more "casual" crowds at other fests, but even that's not always inherently a bad thing. A lot of them tended to show up around 5 p.m. or so, and that's both a blessing — it sure helps with crowding and whatnot — as much as it's sort of irksome (it doesn't bode well for the opening acts).

There's also the use of hula-hoops and other flow art tools/toys. Sure, they're one of the ways that some of these fans celebrate the music, but moving through the crowd while someone absentmindedly hits us with a poi really diminishes the air of collaboration and community at these fests. Maybe as an extension of that, there's a sense of faux preening amid some in the crowd, like this is just a showcase for them and not a powerful gathering of people in the name of art and life.

So, if we're doing the math, the fans weren’t the worst, but they weren’t always the greatest, either. Individuality and mold-breaking are cool, but not nearly as much as general self-awareness in social settings. CC
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M3F attendee style is always on point.
Mike Bengoechea

Best: The outfits

Encountering annoying behavior may be an inevitability at any major music festival. What isn't, though, are creative, eye-popping costumes, but the attendees of M3F never fail to deliver some of the best people-watching of the year. Fur tails, fishnet everything, light-up fans, packs of friends wearing all pink, '60s and '70s flair, Hawaiian shirts, wild makeup, stiletto boots that made our knees hurt just looking at them — the looks served every year at the festival rival a fashion show runway (or even a Beyonce concert). The daring looks and diversity of style we saw is a testament to the way in which M3F has created an environment where everyone feels welcome and comfortable enough to be themselves. Jennifer Goldberg
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