McDowell Mountain Music Festival: A Party for the Community

McDowell Mountain Music Festival 2015
McDowell Mountain Music Festival 2015

The 12th edition of MMMF solidified the vision of an intimate music festival everyone can enjoy. Local, cultural, big names and small, MMMF has one of the widest ranges of appeals to the everyday music festival-goer.

Attendees danced for three days under the sun to an unforgettable range of tunes. From Friday’s groovy electro-pop to Sunday’s bluegrass at sunset, the constant bustling of dancing feet barely ceased until late-night after parties played their final number.

Did we mention it all goes to charity? Yes, that’s right, 100% of all proceeds benefit Phoenix local charities UMOM New Day Centers and Phoenix Children’s Hospital. What’s better than grooving out to a stellar Thievery Corporation set on a Saturday night knowing it will benefit local underprivileged youth? Well… I’m not sure if there is anything better. If that’s not enough for you, then below you will find some more reasons.


The Venue:

McDowell Mountain Music Festival 2015
McDowell Mountain Music Festival 2015

MMMF 2015 went down at its usual home in downtown Phoenix, Margaret T. Hance Park. Downtown Phoenix offers plenty of amenities to public transportation and all means of travel when commuting in and urban setting. Right on the light rail, walking distance to late-night after parties and plenty of parking in the area definitely portrays the perks of hosting an urban festival.

Hance Park is an amphitheater-shaped park that is well suited for the main stage to sit at the bottom of the grass basin. The flat surroundings on the outer limits provide space for merchandise tents, vendor marketplaces and a smaller local stage that featured a wide variety of Arizona talent. With an exclusive VIP section seated just to the right of the main stage, attendees could sit or stand anywhere in the park and enjoy a clear view of the stage.

Other than dancing at the two stages, attendees could watch screen-printing in action at the Nordstrom mobile store, enjoy complimentary wine tasting, and partake in drum circles. With all of the attractions, festival-goers circulated around the festival grounds while either breaking from the sun or waiting for their favorite act to take the main stage.

Verdict: An urban setting seems best for a festival in relation to amenities and accessibility. An urban festival that offers camping is even better, and MMMF knocked it out of the park with all. The crowd complimented the venue incredibly well, and Hance Park’s auditorium shape made it truly special.


Food and Drink:

McDowell Mountain Music Festival 2015
McDowell Mountain Music Festival 2015

It’s always been speculative that food trucks are full-fledged gourmet kitchen on wheels, and a festival that features only food trucks really brings the thought to light. Other than the incredible variety of flavors to choose from, almost every food truck offered vegetarian and gluten free options, which broaden the appeal to all festival-goers. Food festivals definitely offer the best insight to the local hotspots in almost any city, but MMMF’s selection of food trucks offered attendees to make their decisions based purely on intuition. There was a BBQ truck, pizza truck with a mobile wood-burning oven, pho and stir-fry, chicken and waffles, vegan selections and even a crepe truck! The possibilities were almost as endless as everyone’s indecisiveness, and a full plate of grub was typically under $10.

As for drinks, bars with mixed drinks were stationed all over the festival grounds. Some of the bars were larger than others, which allowed the lines to stay relatively small considering patrons would go to the larger bars if lines were forming at the smaller bars. Mixed drinks ranged from $4-$7, depending on the type, and beers were $5 with a reusable, commemorative cup.

Beer was poured at a few different locations with all sorts of sizes and styles. The main beer garden was a massive open area that had taps pouring from the sides of two semi-trucks positioned end to end. The second watering hole just beyond the vendor marketplace was a more stylish signature that portrayed Deschutes Breweries niche for quality brews and sheer craftsmanship. The glorified, oversized wooden keg on wheels is truly Deschutes’ mascot in the flesh, or in the wood, depending on formalities, and it became very apparent why the festival organizers were content with Deschutes Brewery for reasons other than their superb brewing capabilities. Deschutes Brewery is definitely a craft brewery in terms of providing a very high class product, but their knowledge of event participation and party-throwing capabilities became extremely clear once Woody came into full view.

Verdict: Thumbs up all around. It could’ve been called a culinary festival in addition to a music festival if there were a few guest appearances by celebrity chefs or something of the sorts, but perhaps that’s an addition organizers will look into for next year.


The Music:

Mcdowell Mountain Music Festival; March 27-29, 2015. Phoenix, Arizona. Photos by
Mcdowell Mountain Music Festival 2015. Photos by

The talent selection was definitely MMMF’s ace in the hole. The variety ranged with Friday’s indie-electro with acts like STRFKR, Rob Delong and headliner Passion Pit, but Friday also featured a flavor of indie jam with Portugal. The Man.

Saturday was a pure representation of a conglomeration, and the organizers executed the mix extremely well. Saturday consisted of electro act Break Science, funk/jazz act Trombone Shorty & Orleans Ave, the indie-electro band Phantogram and the undeniably jaw-dropping Thievery Corporation.

Sunday offered the typical bang festivals love to offer on the last day. Trampled By Turtles chilled down the setting at sundown, Beats Antique brought the freaky ethnotronica and Widespread Panic confirmed the headlining bang they bring show after show.

Verdict: Great mix, great placement of the acts. Electro music is rather strange with daylight, but the music knowledge of the organizers became very clear as the festival went along. AZ also has some amazing local bands, which was a cool rendition most festivals choose not to partake in- got to show the locals some love!



Mcdowell Mountain Music Festival 2015
Mcdowell Mountain Music Festival 2015

There were two main areas for bathrooms. There was the on-site, permanent facilities that were public restrooms for the park and a massive section of porta-j’s. With the two options to choose from, rarely did lines form at either, and festival-goers seemed more inclined to go to the permanent option since no one really enjoys a porta-potty.

There was a water refilling station that featured filtered water by Pur faucets. Most festivals offer spits from a hose, so it was nice to know everyone was safe and sound with somewhat qualified drinking water. There were about six different faucets, so lines never became huge, but it would be nice to see another station on the opposite side of the festival so you don’t have to walk all the way across the field just for water.

Verdict: Well done with a usually tricky subject on bathrooms- most festivals only offer porta-potties, so real facilities were a nice touch. Personally, public water is a sketchy subject in most major cities, and it was very assuring festival organizers thought of their fans by adding filters to their refilling station.


The People:

Mcdowell Mountain Music Festival 2015
Mcdowell Mountain Music Festival 2015

Boy, if the music was MMMF’s ace in the hole, I’m not sure what you would call the people. Of course there were college students, typical festival fans and even those who just love the festival scene in general, but I have never seen such a variety in my entire life. Apparently this is one of the most well-known things about MMMF according to annual attendees, but it became very clear that fans of all shapes and sizes were welcomed and embraced by festival organizers. The families were one of the most jaw-dropping aspects- there were countless babies and toddlers running around while their parents grooved out to bands on both stages. The wide age range really solidified the environment as a festival for everyone to enjoy, and it created a very chill vibe that made everything feel more comfortable and intimate knowing the mood was very inclusive rather than exclusive.

Verdict: It was somewhat mind blowing knowing the fact that the organizers can appeal to families. Typically festivals, especially EDM festivals, are very narrow in their audience, and it was very enjoyable knowing a toddler and a 70 year-old hippy could share a similar experience. It makes for an unforgettable environment, and the audience and organizers hit it just right.


Random Tidbits:

  • The crowd went from Friday’s college hipster crowd to families with dreads, festy troopers and everything in between for Saturday and Sunday.
  • Police and security had a noticeable presence, but they were so laid back it felt like they were just a part of the crowd.
  • Hula hoops, hula hoops, and more hula hoops- festival-goers know how to get down.


Closing Thoughts:

They aren’t kidding when they talk about AZ heat, but the sun felt great and attendees soaked it up as much as they could. Hance Park in downtown Phoenix is meant to have a festival- seriously- and the organizers know how to pick the perfect location. The local bands, culture and the scene the locals of AZ have created is astonishing. These people love music, and MMMF portrays AZ’s potential as the next big music market to hit the scene.

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