M3F Fest was a wonderful weekend jam-packed with dancing, family time, and tons of music to discover. Walking into the festival I was beyond excited to see a handful of artists but more excited to stumble upon new names. Us festival-goers were treated to some beautiful weather in the Phoenix Valley with warm sunny days and cool evenings. While some may recoil at the idea of a festival in the desert, M3F is held during the most beautiful season in Phoenix. Held in the heart of downtown, M3F delivered an exquisite experience at Hance Park where families, friends, and coworkers were able to join together and party for a good cause! As they remain true to their nonprofit roots and mission, M3F donated all the profits from the weekend to local causes, supporting the city I love so much! This was a great festival for families to come out and experience together. With each night ending by 11 pm, it made it possible to go out, enjoy yourselves, and still make it home at a reasonable hour without missing anything on the lineup! There were tons of kiddos jumping, dancing and singing throughout the entire weekend. If you’re on the lookout for a family-friendly festival this is the right ticket to pick up.
Logistically, this was a pretty great fest! At M3F’s suggestion, I decided to utilize the local Light Rail system to take a ride right up to the entrance with absolutely no issue. M3F Fest focuses on supporting Phoenix in any way possible. They featured three stages and matched their scheduling to complement the venue limitations. The smallest stage carried the name Huxley and was settled into a concrete amphitheater with plenty of space to dance in the middle of hang on the sides. The second-largest stage named Kesey was nestled in the middle of the venue and was host to some incredible talent over the weekend. The mainstage was dubbed Kerouac and had ample room for the festival crowd to pack in or spread out and groove. The M3F Fest team organized the weekend so the outer two stages would be running music while the middle stage was being set for the following hour. Then the next hour would be reversed with music happening on the center stage while the outer two set for the next acts. This drastically reduced the possibility of set time conflicts happening which is always nice to be able to maximize a festival experience. This was a pretty small fest so it was completely possible to catch half of one artist at Huxley and make it over to Kerouac in a few minutes to enjoy everything being offered. I do have one complaint and that is a lack of multiple water refilling stations. While this festival was generally on the smaller side I do believe more access to water was necessary as I was met with long lines several times through the weekend. For the local foodies in attendance, there was an entire row of delicious options to explore. I personally enjoyed some incredible street tacos, perfectly tart peach lemonade, and fluffy clouds of fresh-baked beignets.
The Friday night highlight was no doubt the Bass-oozing set San Holo treated us to. He hit us with a delicate transition into “lift me from the ground” and dropped right into some deep vibrating Bass that the crowd exploded in response to! San Holo is the master of balancing elegant and melodic phrases with deep and hard Bass, yielding an incredibly satisfying experience live. Even though it was no surprise when he pulled out his electric guitar, the crowd went wild and the energy went up another notch! Watching him jam on his guitar and also his soundboard while bursting with passion was amazing to witness. He is truly an excellent performer. San Holo has developed a signature sound in his studio produced music and he carries that sound over flawlessly into his live performances. I’m never disappointed when I see him!
After the amazing hour that we just experienced, I wandered over to the Huxley stage and stumbled upon The Infamous Stringdusters. They were a collection of five gentlemen who played an array of string instruments. I was completely enthralled by an intense fiddle solo where the intensity of the riffs were only matched by the player creating it! They delivered a very surprising cover of Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky” that was excitingly infectious and I’m certain that not a single person was standing still as they got down. I didn’t think I would ever let loose to a Progressive Bluegrass band but there was no denying their unique sound and it was impossible to stand still!
Saturday brought out the biggest crowd of the weekend which is no shock with RÜFÜS DU SOL being the headliner of the evening and some great names stirring up the energy leading up. The most fun and goofy hour of the entire weekend came from, of course, Justin Jay’s Fantastic Voyage! I was literally bouncing up and down with excitement as Justin and his squad came out for their set. They did not disappoint and came in hot with their signature vibe of “anybody is welcome” and “let’s freaking party”. Towards the end of their hour, they dropped a new song and to say Justin was excited would be an understatement. He ripped his pants off in preparation revealing a pair of shorts below that he had worn especially for the performance of this new song. I totally loved it and I’m keeping an eye out for an official release because it was beyond fun. The guy is an absolute crack up and delivers some excellent music to boot!
RÜFÜS DU SOL is on an extensive tour covering North and South America with M3F being one of their many stops. As it comes as no big shock, they completely killed their set in Phoenix! They started their hour of music with one of my personal favorites “Eyes” and the crowd was entranced. Everyone was packed in and towards the end of their hour, they dropped a rework of one of their iconic tracks “Like An Animal”. I was caught completely off guard by the tropical twist they hit it with. Originally released in 2015, I was beyond delighted to hear a fresh take on this incredible song. They closed out a gorgeous Saturday of music with a huge crowd feeding them electric energy.
To be totally transparent, heading into Sunday I wasn’t too hype on any of the artists on the bill. I was mostly excited to relax, enjoy the weather and see what kind of music I would stumble on. BARDZ is my gem of music that I am taking away from this festival. He opened the Huxley Stage for the final day of the festival and poured out some delicious Electro Rock vibes and I knew I was going to be hooked. He gave us a first listen to a new song he has in the works. It was powerful and relaxing at the same time which paired perfectly with the beautiful Sunday afternoon we were enjoying in the park. Keep an eye out for this guy because BARDZ has something stellar to share with the world.
Sunday held another spectacular discovery in the final hour of the festival. The Funk Hunters wrapped up an incredible weekend with an hour of music bursting at the seams with Funk! They dropped a mix of The Gorillaz “Feel Good Inc.” that was dubby as all hell! I was not expecting all the little surprises they had up their sleeve, especially when they worked their way into a cover of The Beatles “Come Together” with a DnB drumline! I distinctly remember my jaw completely dropping as I realized what they had successfully pulled off. They paired this with the cutest visuals of The Beatles themselves in cartoon form zipping in and out. The Funk Hunters wore me out with their upbeat tempo and high party vibe! They were the perfect way to close out the entire weekend of music and squeeze out that last bit of fun.
M3F Fest delivered an excellent weekend that blew my expectations away. This was my first time attending this festival even though it’s been going down in my own backyard for years. I’ve clearly been making a mistake because this was an awesome experience full of memories! I can’t wait for next year to bring my daughter out for her first music festival experience. With so many festival options out there these days, M3F Fest has differentiated themselves and created a unique and memorable experience for the whole family. Great music flowed all weekend long and there was no mistaking it while you’re surrounded by smiles! I give big props to the M3F Fest team for putting on a hell of a weekend!
*Featured Image Via Aryelle Brewster*