2014 was my seventh year attending the McDowell Mountain Music Festival, and as each year passes the better the festival becomes. The line-ups, the crowd, the vendors all keep exceeding previous years.
The festival has evolved and taken on many forms: once hosted at West World in Scottsdale, then a parking lot, and now it’s finally found a suitable home at the Margret T. Hance Park in downtown Phoenix. Three days of soaking up the sun while grooving to a wide variety of artists and enjoying Oregon’s best brewed beer, to me, is the best way to spend a weekend.
MMMF has found a beautiful rhythm — and I’m not just talking about the drum circles. They’ve harnessed the power of good will, positivity, and music, to give back to the community in a major way.
The first day the crowd formed around great local acts like Decker and Spafford. The Friday night headliners kicked the weekend off right with the raw power of funk giants, Lettuce, followed by the bass driven sounds of the always amazing Gramatik, and then capped off by the all powerful STS9, turning the world upside down and leaving the audience in a whirlwind of dance.
Saturday brought a huge turn out, there seemed to be twice as many people as the day before, which could mean the good word about the fest had traveled, the headlining acts brought their fans along with them, or maybe no one had to work, but all it really meant was that there was more money being raised, and more people to be a part of something really special in their community.
The music kept comin’ as local acts such as, Jared and the Mill fresh from SXSW took the main stage in the morning, and The Hourglass Cats in the early evening. But the main stage was then taken over by Dispatch, playing everything you’d want to hear. All the hits. It was a show the audience could sing along with, and had been looking forward to all day.
For me, it was an amazing experience, growing up with their music. Night fell as Slightly Stoopid took the stage and vibed hard with reggae vibes and enormous dubby bass. The party kept on going as the crowd tossed on their dancing shoes and grooved to The Disco Biscuits. It seemed as though their whole set was just one continued song, but the highlight was certainly their cover of “Safety Dance,” which brought the crowd into a frenzy.
The third and final day brought acts to the stage that ended the weekend perfectly. I arrived just as the ever-funky, ever-rad-as-hell G.Love and Special Sauce took the stage, and just like Dispatch, the crowd was in a full on sing-a-long/dance frenzy. Country pop-star Dwight Yoakam brought an interesting change of vibe, but also a diverse set, friendly to the older crowd and families alike.
Sunday night brought Ben Harper to the main stage, for a heavy blues inspired set. Alongside him, the incredible blues harmonica legend, Charlie Musselwhite. Together, Ben and Charlie dominated the stage with powerful rhythms that was truly an amazing set to behold. And thus another McDowell Mountain Music Festival had ended, and what a weekend it was.
McDowell Mountain is truly a festival like no other, family oriented, charity driven, and brewery sponsored. To know that every dollar you spent was going directly to the Phoenix Children’s Hospital, among other charities, made every beer, every bite, every t-shirt that much more special.