Written by Parisa Eshrati
McDowell Mountain Music Festival is a three day music, arts, and culture event that takes place in downtown Phoenix, AZ. Check out some of our artist highlights, playlists, and find out how to win a pair of Saturday or Sunday tickets!
The 13th annual McDowell Mountain Music Festival held on March 11th - 13th in Phoenix, AZ serves as one of the best ways to kick off the spring season in the valley. The fest hosts both national and local bands playing music ranging from hip hop, funk, and electronica to folk. Between sets, festival go-ers can sample some of Phoenix’s tastiest eats, watch live food demos, and check out unique art, jewelry, and clothing vendors.
What sets McDowell Mountain apart from other festivals is its philanthropic basis. One hundred percent of the proceeds go toward Phoenix Children’s Hospital and UMOM New Day Center. Additionally, this three day music and cultural event is working towards a zero waste goal. Eco-friendly initiatives, such as compostable liquor cups and mobile apps to cut down on paper pamphlets, have been set in place to ensure the festival keeps it carbon footprint to a minimum. Last year alone the fest produced 8.59 tons of recycling and .37 tons of compost!
The highlight for most McDowell Mountain attendees is the diverse lineup. Previous headliners include Widespread Panic, Thievery Corporation, Blues Travelers - and this year will continue to draw music lovers of all kinds with artists like Beck, Animal Collective, Avett Brothers and more taking over the main stage. Though the main acts are likely to draw attention, here are some of my favorite groups on the lineup that shouldn’t be missed:
The Main Squeeze
This Chicago-based trio is equal parts funk, soul, r&b, and rock ‘n roll, and they’re sure to have the most high-energy set of this weekend. Their live performances showcase their intricate jams and improvisational energy, and Corey Frye’s funkadelic and carefree vocals create a sublimely positive atmosphere that’ll get even the most timid person groovin’.
Though I’m still new to this Brooklyn DJ’s music, M!NT’s collaborative single “If the Smoke Clears” with OOAH was one of my favorite singles to come out this past summer. The collaborators created a breaks-flavored house track with a darker, sullen overtone that’s perfect for a moody night drive through the city. From listening to his festival mixes on his SoundCloud, it seems that we could expect him to bring similar liquidy house beats and a variety of hip hop and electronica samples to McDowell.
I first saw Captain Squeegee eight years ago at a house show alongside some of my high school friends’ bands. Since then, most local Phoenix groups I loved dissipated or broke apart, but Captain Squeegee still holds their ground as one of the most entertaining live bands to see out of the local Phoenix music scene. Though Captain Squeegee is ska in nature, their 2015 release To The Bardos shows the experimental evolution of the band with jazz interludes, psychedelic melodies, and self-proclaimed “metaphysical horn-rock” sections.
At just 25 years of age, GRiZ has put out five full-length albums that disprove the notion that electronic music doesn’t have any soul. Along with producing versatile electro-funk bangers, he busts out his saxophone during live performances to up the energy and set himself apart from your typical push-and-play DJs.
You can hear a full playlist of my favorite tracks from this year’s McDowell Mountain Music Fest on Spotify:
Culture & Random Beat