McDowell Mountain Music Festival has something for everybody

Every once in a while, the urban oven of Phoenix is graced with an event that allows us to come together to experience collective happiness in the midst of daily responsibilities and ever-rising temperatures. 

The 13th annual McDowell Mountain Music Festival will bring just that to Margaret T. Hance Park from March 11 to 13 — the perfect way to end spring break with a bang. 

MMMF coordinator Nate Largay said this year's entirely non-profit festival will continue riding the momentum that has been in place since its inception in 2004.

"It got a lot bigger than what we thought," Largay said. "The vibrancy in downtown Phoenix really fit into this cultural niche of art, community and culture, especially with the charity aspect (of the festival)."

This year, all proceeds from the festival will benefit Phoenix Children's Hospital and UMOM New Day Center, a large homeless shelter in Phoenix. MMMF has been charity-based since the beginning, though attendees may not always pay attention to where their money is going.

"First and foremost, we’re a music festival," Largay said. "Charity has been sort of an elusive subject. ... Yeah, you wanna see Beck because you really like Beck. But at same time, we’d like to put the thought in your head that you’re doing more than giving money to a promoter."

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Posted by McDowell Mountain Music Festival on Wednesday, February 17, 2016

MMMF's non-profit status has never affected its ability to get huge national names to grace its stages. This year's headliners include Beck, The Avett Brothers and Kid Cudi along with other diverse, yet complementary, acts. 

If the good vibes hit you so hard you don't want the night to end, MMMF also hosts after-hours shows at nearby hotels, which go beyond rad DJ sets and give bands the opportunity to mingle with fans, like the guys from Portugal. The Man and Passion Pit did last year. 

Aside from the late-night rendezvous with bands and diverse musical stylings MMMF offers, Largay said the audience itself is what makes the festival stand out from others. 

"Anyone can show up to McDowell Mountain and anyone can have a blast," he said. "It's all-inclusive. Last year during Thievery Corporation's set, I saw a grandfather dancing around with his toddler grandchild. That really speaks to the inclusivity."

This year's batch of grandfathers and toddlers can find more reasons to dance with the 16 local acts that will play on smaller stages between main acts.

Phoenix native Luna Aura may not be playing on the big stage this time, but her presence and set will be anything but small. 

Aura, 21, will embody the collective energy and vibrancy of the festival as she plays a full set on the afternoon of March 12. She said she loves MMMF because it makes her feel like she's around family and breeds an atmosphere of acceptance and self-love, two concepts she is passionate about promoting through her own music. 

"I always tell people that empowerment is my thing," she wrote in an email. "I'm all about being a freak, being a weirdo, being different, and being proud as hell of it. I think people get so sucked into what they think they should be doing or who they think they should be (including me) that they forget who they are all together. I promote self-awareness, self-love, and honestly just what it takes to be happy in your own skin."

Aura's music is emotional, catchy and ambient — a perfect complement to headliners like Porter Robinson.

"Even though I don't necessarily take myself too seriously, I definitely take my shows seriously!" she wrote. "I want my performances to be entertaining and about the audience, and that's exactly what you're going to get. You'll see a full band, dancers, the works. But you'll also experience a lot of crowd involvement, which is something I always try to do no matter how big or small the venue."

Involvement and energy are two undeniable features of MMMF, and acts like Aura will help attendees of all ages and tastes feel that collective happiness.

"There are no expectations or ways to be (at MMMF)," Aura wrote. "You show up as you, everyone else shows up as them, and you just have the time of your life together. I honestly can't wait!"

Tickets are available online and can be purchased for $70 per day or $170 for a three-day pass. 

Reach the reporter at or follow @lina_lauren on Twitter. 

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