The now by the name M3F festival has been running since 2004. The three in the name originally coming from McDowell Mountain Music when it started in Scottsdale in view of the McDowell Mountain range. Since then, it has only grown and grown, moving into bigger digs in downtown Phoenix at Margaret T Hance Park. It only made sense for them to remove the direct name of McDowell Mountain and rename to the acronym of M3F. My first attending of the festival was in 2016 where I watched Beck for my first time. Attending this festival in 2022 has shown just in six years’ time further growth and expansion, drawing locals and national acts across three stages. All of this while remaining a nonprofit festival that donates all proceeds from the annual event to local charities.
This year I went in blind to most artists on that bill, with a few I knew in more passing. I did give a listen to the prepared Spotify M3F 2022 playlist before going out there. However, from our first band, Yoke Lore, to the end of Day 2 it was clear that it didn’t prepare me for the real impression these artists give. Once I was out there, it was just like getting hit with so much personality and fun energy from the performances. Speaking of energy, this is a place where the attending audience has this happy go lucky and relaxed vibe. It just settles you in to a comfortableness to enjoy the music how you want to. My only complaint of the weekend would be the food lines. On Day One they weren’t horrible by 5 PM, but on Day Two by that same time the shortest wait was for the funnel cake I had for dinner. Regardless, while it may have put a damper on hunger pains, it didn’t seem to put a damper on happy times out there.
As for my adventure, let us start at a cloudy Day One and Yoke Lore hitting the biggest stage, the Pompelli stage. This is a two-member band and the project of Adrian Galvin, once of Walk the Moon. Immediately the sounds from them on stage were inviting and fun. Adrian playing on banjo gave this band a folk sound with the indie rock band songs they performed. Right away M3F had me off on a good impression with Yoke Lore at the start.
Due to the structure of the schedule the Pompelli and Gris Gris stage run simultaneously, so I cut out a little early to see JTM3 on the other before they finished. These guys normally a three piece, that their first name initials make up the band name, expanded to five for the festival adding an additional depth to their music. Jay Allen performed with an acoustic guitar on lead lending it a cool folk-rock sound. They are a local Phoenix band so you can go check them out around the valley too. JTM3 put on an enjoyable set that should get you going to do just that.
From there it was time to catch the first band over on the Lundi stage, Thom.Ko. These guys were one of my early favorites of the entire two days too. Not just because of that fantastic sweater adorning the singer the entire set either. They just exuded personality up there. All the while, their music pulls influences from a little electronic, hip hop and soul that just worked well together. Thom.Ko was an exciting watch.
Then I was back to the main stage with Ford. DJing the next set on the big stage. This is where my tastes come in a little and, for the most part, they don’t mesh as much with that. So, I went back over to the Gris Gris stage once again for another high energy band of the day, Modern Eyes. Even a few songs in, they had already thrown the crowd a dozen or so beach balls that were eyes. The L.A. band had people moving and dancing. Modern Eyes were one of the most enjoyable bands of the weekend, leaving an impression that stood out on both days.
Next was one of my biggest favorites of the festival, Goth Babe. I apparently was unprepared for just how great they were going to be. That’s in addition to just how polite their singer, Griff Washburn, was. Twice through the set politely asking people holding up signs if he could have them. One including a song request of “Car Camping” and another of his dog. Of course, also an indie rock sound to the songs that is completely in my wheelhouse of music genre favorites. I enjoyed Goth Babe so much that I spent the rest of the day telling others of this set and now to you in this text.
After that it was Two Feet that kept me glued to one location at the Pompelli stage. This blues and funk inspired rock band had me just enamored with the sound. They were one of the calmer stage presences to accompany that sound. Because of that, I found myself relaxing sitting in the grass of the park and grooving to that sound. Two Feet certainly a band to go check out if you get a chance.
Sitting down didn’t last too long, as I was back to my feet to catch the band A R I Z O N A. Despite the name, the band is from New Jersey. Their sound a more poppy and electronic mix of rock. They remind me a little of the earlier referenced Walk the Moon. Wonderful vocals from Zachary Hannah only further elevated their songs. A R I Z O N A was another great surprise that came with going in blind and seeing another fantastic artist I did not expect.
The night took over from here, hiding the remaining rain clouds and finding myself over at the Gris Gris stage again for Bea Miller. She is an artist I only discovered recently from the Save Our Stages stream done in 2020. It was cool to be able to catch her performance live for the first time. She was very social and relatable with the crowd throughout. It added a personal feeling to the excellent performance Bea put on. It was a very fun and heartfelt time watching.
From there M3F got a little more of that new wave sound in from the U.K. with Jungle. This band filled the Lundi stage with their seven members. Up front on stage were our dual lead vocalists Josh Lloyd-Watson and Tom McFarland, both with their own keyboards too. It was invigorated performance up there with multiple talented musicians playing various instruments throughout the set. Their sound reminds me a bit of Fitz and the Tantrums if you are looking for a parallel. Jungle was awesome to catch and see the dancing their tunes inspired of the crowd.
Then I was onto what I would have thought my last performance of the night, Zhu. It was a cool hybrid of DJing by Zhu and then added jazz instrumentals from the band underneath him in the stage setup. To make a little more sense of that, the stage was tiered with Zhu who would step up and down a staircase above a middle screen alternating singing and playing the electronic music. Then below that was another platform above a smaller screen where his band joined him after about a song in and added a jazz sound in what was occasionally just darkness of the stage. It was a stylish setup to see a band use. It made for a good time watching Zhu perform.
However, I would end up wandering over to the Gris Gris stage after about twenty minutes in and find the biggest high note to finish the night, Bryce Vine. I had no idea who Bryce was, but immediately found my ear pulled to the sounds from that stage as I got closer. It was a little bit punk rock, but additionally hip hop and R&B. His stage presence was wonderful, singing to and interacting with fans throughout every song. It was one of the most unique sounds of the festival watching Bryce. Bryce Vine would end up my favorite discovery of the two days with that end of Day One performance.