The McDowell Mountain Music Festival, which will be celebrating its 11th year at the end of this month, is the only total nonprofit music festival in Arizona and donates all of its proceeds to charities. This year it will donate to the Phoenix Children’s Hospital and UMOM New Day Centers, a facility that shelters homeless families in Arizona.
Now, from a community perspective, this is a great thing. Not only do concertgoers get to experience the music that they want to and discover new artists, but their money even goes to causes that, in essence, are bettering the state of Arizona. However, does McDowell Mountain Music Festival’s nonprofit approach eventually affect the kinds of bands that it attracts and its hold on tying certain music groups into the line up?
Last year, headliners such as The Roots, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros and the light-show extravaganza that is Chicago-based Umphrey’s McGee brought performances to downtown Phoenix that one might expect at a national blowout event like South By Southwest or Coachella. But this year’s line up just has you going, “Huh?”
With main stage talents consisting of STS9, Disco Biscuits and Ben Harper and Charlie Musselwhite… I don’t know about you, but I had to YouTube search each one. I guess for any techno, electronic, instrumental lovers STS9 should be up your alley, and Ben Harper and Charlie Musselwhite’s old to new mix of sultry blues is definitely nice on the ears; as for Disco Biscuits, well it’s described as a rock, electronic trance fusion mix — whatever that means.
Now, I’m not saying these bands are terrible or untalented, but with the majority of the festival’s line up being pretty obscure, I’m just wondering what kind of crowd this is attracting. If I, as a relatively well-rounded music listener and critic, don’t recognize more than half of the planned shows, who will?
So, out of all MMMF’s shows, what should you check out, and what should you probably skip out on? Let me help you out.
The top two performances that are well worth a visit to Margaret T. Hance Park from March 28 through March 30 are Gramatik and local band Field Tripp.
Slovenian deejay Gramatik, or Denis Jasarevic, finds a beautiful common ground by somehow balancing a conglomeration of genres from funk, soul and dubstep, and by remixing old songs like 1941′s “Hit That Jive, Jack” by Nat King Cole. Gramatik released his first album on his own label, Lowtemp this January. “The Age of Reason” features an interesting mix of tracks that will most likely be showcased at MMMF. Check out “Torture” featuring Eric Krasno.
Phoenix-based Field Tripp also had a recent release with EP “Les is Mormon” on Valentine’s Day. Described as sounding like Modest Mouse, The Velvet Underground and the Talking Heads, Field Tripp is another band that produces an attractive mix between alternative rock and interesting electronic, synthesized sounds. Check out “John Wayne” here.
Now for what you could probably skip out on.
Nicki Bluhm & The Gramblers, a San Francisco group that’s “rocking California country soul” according to the group’s Facebook page, is the kind of group that people will either like, or might just hate. By walking the line between a slower, country beat, Americana and adding a smidge of rock ‘n’ roll, Nicki and her band are definitely with talent, but their style is one that some might walk away from with ears plugged. Check out the band’s website latest self-titled album here to see if Nicki Bluhm & The Gramblers is up your alley or not.
Local country band Travis James & The Wretched Ones is another group that might turn you off. However, James and his crew, which sprouted out of Phoenix in 2012, don’t put on the twangy, banjo, fiddle jams that you may picture when you hear the mysteriously dreaded word, “country.” Country can be good too folks, if you give it a chance. Click here to hear whether Travis James & The Wretched Ones is something you can handle.
Visit MMMF’s website for more artist, line up, location and event details.
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