[REVIEW] M3F Festival Was a Fun and Philanthropic Festival in Phoenix

M3F Festival in Arizona once again offered music enthusiasts an opportunity to do what they love most while raising money for charity in 2023.

What initially started as a quaint jam band get together in Arizona has developed into one of the scene’s most popular early season music festivals. Originally starting in 2004, McDowell Mountain Music Festival has since been renamed M3F Festival and is one of the only non-profit music festivals in the world. Held in Downtown Phoenix’s spacious Margaret T. Hance Park, attendees could not have asked for better weather…especially for those like me escaping a Rocky Mountain winter.

As someone who has been attending festivals for over a decade, I often find myself unimpressed with early-ending city festivals. However, I was very impressed with the vibes of M3F Festival. The lineup was split almost evenly between indie & EDM, with Friday’s headliner Maggie Rogers & Saturday’s Jamie XX attracting a diverse crowd ranging from highschoolers to young families to full blown desert wooks.

Friday started out with idyllic 65-degree sunny weather, and the day began with up-and-coming indie acts Veronica Everheart & LA Goons. Around 5 PM when NYC’s The Knocks took the stage, the crowd began to swell for the rest of the evening. Much to my delight, Darius kicked off what we dubbed “The French Invasion”, with solid Francophile house music making a large presence.

Hayden James took the energy up even higher with his deep catalog of catchy downtempo house before Polo & Pan gave us a sonic bath of tropical sounds. Becky Hill & Maggie Rogers both gave stellar performances, with palpable emotion coming through their sets. Quinn XCII was unable to perform, but ambient house producer Shallou filled in to close out the Cosmic stage with an awe-inspiring DJ set.

Saturday at M3F Fest turned out to be my favorite day. With the influx of weekend warriors and electronic enthusiasts, the crowds’ energy was immaculate.

PawPaw Rod started out the day with groovy R&B. Smoke filled the air, the sun was shining, and smiles were in abundance. EVAN GIIA took the Daydream stage next, and much to everyone’s surprise, began her set by singing an opera number! I’ll be honest, I only knew of her from “Don’t Let Me Let Go” with Dillion Francis & Illenium, but much to my delight she threw down a wide breadth of melodic electronic beats accompanied by her gorgeous voice.

From there, a couple I was hanging out with convinced me to check out Bon Entendeur, and I could not be more grateful. The French boys brought the dance party to full swing, and it didn’t die down for the rest of the night. French house arguably peaked for the weekend at Purple Disco Machine closing out the Daydream stage.

Toro y Moi put on an incredible performance, and for long-term fans such as myself, it was incredible to see how far Chaz Bear has come in crafting catchy but intricate psychedelic leaning indie. Jamie xx closed out the festival with an unforgettable performance, a clear king of sound showing the audience what gets him moving – and ending with a earthshaking frequency lasting nearly a minute.

All in all, I was very pleasantly surprised with how well the festival was curated. Art installations abound helped the park feel like a dedicated festival ground. What made M3F so unique though is that every time a drink was purchased, friends shared a pizza, or attendees bought merch, all proceeds went to charity. It makes you feel a little bit better about shelling out $12 for a White Claw.

Prior to this year’s festival, over four million dollars had been raised by M3F Festival.

They took things a step further this year with the introduction of the M3F Fund. After 20 years of holding the festival, this fund was created so that the charitable work can continue year-round and further immerse with local causes. Last year raised a record $1.2 million, and speaking to volunteers, it seems we are on pace to match if not exceed that amount with the 2023 edition.

Ultimately, M3F Fest is an incredibly fun city fest in the desert.

It attracts not only incredible talent on the lineup, but also an extraordinary group of music enthusiasts and artists. And if you’re not already in a warmer climate, it’s a fantastic escape from the brutality of winter, just like Gem & Jam was a few weeks before.  We can’t wait to do it again next year!

Author: Philip Spatz

Photo Credit: @willfenwickness, @neilschwartz, @itsmissgirlface

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