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As someone who has always had an ear for a variety of genres, some of my favorite festivals are the ones that blend different styles and sounds. The first major festival I went to was Coachella, with artists ranging from Outkast all the way to Calvin Harris. As much as I adore genre specific festivals, I’ve always loved the option of being able to listen to different types of music in one environment. Throwback to last year when I had the pleasure of attending McDowell Mountain Music Festival. I got to see a wide range of remarkable artists while supporting a great cause at the same time.
McDowell Mountain Music Festival (M3F) is a 100% nonprofit music festival in Phoenix that started in 2004 and has grown exponentially. The festival has adopted a three c’s belief–community, culture, and charity in a commitment to give back to its local people. All of the proceeds go to local nonprofit organizations such as Phoenix Children’s Hospital, Teach for America, Arizona’s Children Association, and many more. So far M3F has donated over $2,000,000.
In addition to music, the unique experience they’ve created includes live art, yoga, drum circles, silent disco, and a marketplace with a variety of local vendors. M3F allows children under 10 in for free and even has a kid zone, with fun activities and crafts for kids to participate in. I loved the diverse group of people, from families to couples to young adults, collectively enjoying a few days in each other’s company. It truly felt like a festival anyone could attend without the worry of not fitting it.
The days started off sunny and warm as most Arizona days do. M3F is located at Hance Park in downtown Phoenix, which offered a spacious environment for festival-goers to roam or set up on the lawn in front of the mainstage. I chose to roam from stage to stage and explore the different opening acts building up energy early on like Evan Giia, a part of Foreign Family Collective. I noticed the glittered-out ravers excited for the big EDM acts and jamming out in the silent disco. The smaller stages filled up with hipsters and local fans and I found myself floating along with the mixture of sounds.
As the day went on and the sun went down, people poured through the gates and some of the more anticipated acts came on. The Knocks and Jungle filled up the mainstage with groovy tunes and colors while Toro Y Moi and Big Wild packed the side stages. Festival food is my second favorite part of festivals so, naturally, I made sure to snack on the many options of local food trucks and restaurants. I’m 100% going back for the unnecessarily large portion of fried Oreos that fueled my energy for the last half of the night.
Overall, I was mostly looking forward to the magical ODESZA performance that would ensue that night. I had gotten the chance to catch their A Moment Apart Tour in 2018 which was a surreal experience. There’s always so much anticipation whenever they headline a show and the crowd seemed like they were about to explode. They played into their fan’s impatience with a slow introduction before coming out full force and blowing the audience away. They performed with a live drumline and brought out artists they’ve collaborated with to perform alongside them.
This year, McDowell Mountain Music Festival features powerful EDM acts such as RÜFÜS DU SOL and San Holo, along with other popular artists like Bon Iver, Stick Figure, and Local Natives. M3F has made it clear that they strive to create a positive, cultured environment for locals to relax and enjoy.
*Featured Image via Aryelle Brewster*