Festival Review: M3F Makes Donating to Charity Even More Fun

Written by Andrea Hnatievych

Photos by Sage Thomas

At a Glance 

Imagine wide skies, a big city skyline, and mountains surrounding you. This is McDowell Mountain Music Festival (M3F) in a nutshell, with the addition of great music, delicious food, and a common goal- donation to charity.  Community, culture, and charity are the 3 ideals that dictate the experience, proceeds from the event in benefit of two local charities-Phoenix Children’s Hospital Foundation and UMOM New Day Center. The 14th installment of the 100% non-profit festival thrived in Downtown Phoenix this past weekend, March 3rd-5th, 2017.


Camping: No

Music genres: Indie Rock, Jam, Electronic, Funk, Futuristic

Crowd type: A beautiful mix of families, hippies, college students, and festival veterans

VIP available? Yes

Food: About a dozen food trucks were available and fairly priced

Water stations: Yes


For The First Timers– M3F took over Margaret T. Hance Park for the weekend and made it an escape into a land of diverse music and love- indie, funk, and jam on the itinerary for this year. Lyft provided 25% off cards for the event, good for use of 2 rides to and from the festival. Parking in big cities usually stresses many out because of the high fees and lack of space, but this event surprisingly had an abundance of street parking available (free) and if you were feeling something more official, there was paid parking close to the venue entrance. In term of places to stay, the Hilton Garden Inn was located within a few minutes driving from the venue, just 5 miles away from PHX airport and a 2-minute walk to the Valley Metro Light Rail station.

PRO TIP: Bring cash, many vendors do not take card

Why go VIP?– VIP perks included express entry, access to the exclusive main stage side viewing area, and discounts on merchandise. Other amenities included meals/snacks, five beers or mixed drinks per day, complimentary chair massages, private bathrooms, and valet parking. The food itself was worth the VIP price, snacks being served from 3-6pm and dinner from 6-9pm daily.

Things to do–

  • Shop around the fabulous marketplace for your all your festie- necessities

The smiley tie-dye vendors

  • Drink some beer (100% to charity AND $1 refills)
  • Check out the food trucks, where local Phoenix favorites were abundant. Super Head Tacos from Colorado is always a good choice as well, for all your specialty taco needs.
  • Get tribal at the drum circle
  • Watch the live painters near the main stage
  • Jam out with your friends, hula hoop, or relax in a hammock

Musical Highlights–

  • Chromeo was an electro-funk dream and Saturday brought in a unique crowd compared to the rest of the weekend, the lineup more inclined to electronic music fans. During their well-known song “Over Your Shoulder”, they kindly encouraged all of the ladies to get on the shoulders of the men in the crowd, which was a pretty cool sight to see. It made the show seem all the bigger and the energy was incredibly high, many attendees singing along to their whole set from beginning to finish. The set was unique in its incorporation of live instruments and singing, as well as electronic-funk beats.


  • Sunday was deemed “Jam Church” and a high point in the night included Lettuce gracing the crowds with their unique melodic sounds, a magical funky adventure where you never knew what was coming next. The grace of the music combined with the jaw-dropping, Arizona sunset made for an unforgettable time that felt like it should never end. Jam bands call for an experience full of surprises, and this set made you want to come back for more.

    Lettuce at sunset

Story corner-  The crowds were lit at all times of day with a combination of LED flow artists, happy, smiling attendees, as well as incredible stage lighting. The main stage seemed to be curated ever so perfectly for each artist that performed, catering to their style with skilled timing of lights, stage views, and sound quality. I was very impressed with the festival overall, especially for it being 100% nonprofit. Can’t wait for the 15th installment of McDowell Mountain in 2018! 

Check out our full M3F ’17 album here.

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