By Isabella Schneider
Hippies, charity fanatics, and music fans from genres spanning EDM to rock to bluegrass traveled from across the country to attend the McDowell Mountain Music Festival (M3F) at Margaret T. Hance Park in Phoenix from March 6-8.
M3F is a festival that has something for everyone.
They have yoga and drum circles, family-friendly activities (kids under 10 get in for free), and three stages where large scale and lesser-known artists perform.
I witnessed super fans who were there for just one artist and sat at the barricade all day. And I saw others who vibed and moved from stage to stage.
Though the festival is three days, I sadly only attended day one.
I’ve been to music festivals before, so this festival wasn’t an entirely new experience for me. However, the fact that all of the proceeds from M3F go to local Arizona children’s charities was definitely unique.
After seeing the posters with Bon Iver’s name plastered everywhere I turned, like my dorm lobby and the local CVS, I knew I had to attend. When I looked up the festival to get more information, I learned one-day passes were $95 and I was set on going since it was a good deal for seven artists.
I got to the festival at 4 p.m. and the first group I saw was Moby Rich.
The festival was still relatively empty at this point, and I was able to get right up to the front of the stage. I’ve known about Moby Rich for a while since I heard their song “Yoko Ono” on the Netflix series “Atypical,” so seeing them live was really exciting.
They were super funny and down to earth. Some highlights from their set include their “Truth Hurts” cover and their song “Loser.”
Once they finished their set, I had some extra time to explore the festival grounds.
The festival had brought in a lot of vegan food options, which is pretty fitting for Phoenix. The most exciting part about the vendors was the rows of stores selling hippy pants, tie-dye, embroidered denim jackets, and even customizable capes.
They also had generic merch stands, but I thought the local fashion stores were a nice touch and fit the laid back vibes.
The next artist I saw was New Madrid. I hadn’t listened to their music before, so I wasn’t as invested in their show as I was with Moby Rich.
Their set featured more electronic music than I normally like, and though it was crowded, it was still a really fun set.
After New Madrid, I went to see Sure Sure. I liked their set a lot because it was super interactive, having encouraged the audience to dance. I knew more of their songs so that also made it a more immersive experience for me.
After Sure Sure was one of the first really popular artists of the day, San Holo. I think San Holo was one of the artists that brought people to the festival who wouldn’t have otherwise gone, since he’s a very popular DJ, unlike the other acts who were of the indie-pop and alternative genre.
Before San Holo performed, John Largay, the founder of M3F came on stage and had all the attendees say a huge congratulations to the two other attendees who had just got engaged.
This moment really stood out to me since it showed the festival allows communities to come together, especially as the founder cared that his attendees were having a good time.
San Holo’s set was wild. He drew the first large crowd of the day, and there was a lot of moshing going on. He brought out the artist Bipolar Sunshine who I didn’t know, but I think it’s fun when artists bring out guest performers. While I don’t know if San Holo fit the overall vibe of the festival, I will say he had the best stage presence out of all the acts I saw.
I then grabbed a quick bite to eat before going to the same stage to wait for LANY. I was at the festival with my friend Jordyn, who is a huge LANY fan, so she really wanted to get up close. This meant missing out on Local Natives, but in the end, it was worth it since we wound up about two rows in front of the stage.
At M3F, you could get extremely close to the stage. The fence was only about two feet out, whereas other festivals and concerts I’ve been to separate the artists from the fans a bit more.
Some LANY fans had attended the festival just for them, having traveled across the country. It was interesting to learn this since I think the festival had a lot more going on than just one band. Regardless, their performance was really stellar and I enjoyed it a lot.
The last artist of the night was headliner Bon Iver. I’ve been a fan of Bon Iver since their 2016 album “22, A Million,” so I was super excited to see them perform.
I was slightly disappointed and thrown off guard since they played more of their newer songs. I also wasn’t able to be super close. Still, their performance was deeply emotional and a great way to conclude the festival. I could genuinely feel the positivity and love radiating all around.
Overall, I had a really awesome experience at M3F fest. It’s a wonderfully creative way to give back to the community, and the artists were amazing. There’s truly something for everyone there, and I would highly recommend it to anyone looking for a way to discover indie artists and feel-good energy.
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