McDowell Mountain Music Festival, 100% for charity

by Good Sign on March 8, 2016


By Kevin Alan Lamb

Despite our western-egocentric tendency to believe that English is the universal language, only music connects, cures, and creates commonality despite our differences. Without knowledge of the origin or intent of lyrics, rhythms, and harmonies, the expression of emotion through sound has a home in the hearts of all men and women, boys and girls, who allow themselves to quiet their thoughts, and feel the world as an instrument of another’s creation. And with this universal language we may choose hope over despair, unity over division, love over hate, and peace before war.

Celebrating its 13th year, McDowell Mountain Music Festival was created in 2004 to raise money and give back to the Phoenix community.

“The idea came from Wespac Construction: Team building to give to the community… we couldn’t imagine we’d be where we are today. The goal was to raise money and give back. Nothing better than music and charity. There wasn’t much live music in Phoenix, now we’re a household name in Arizona in our 13th year,” says Nate Largay, regional talent buyer and communications director.


McDowell Mountain Music Festival (M3F) is Arizona’s 100% non-profit music festival, designed to promote community involvement, corporate participation and charity. It exists to support, entertain and educate the community, the arts and families throughout the state.

“Talent fees aren’t cheap, and we have to make the entry price appealing. If you’re in Cali, you pay $200 just to be there. We’d rather keep it as a benefit, leverage as charity, and attract bands who want to help.”

Musicians are the earth’s oldest and most traditional healers, using their gifts to manifest a medium which gives people, especially the youth, the medicine to heal their own wounds, the courage to bear the world’s weight, and the direction to live healthier and more purposeful lives. According to Hazrat Inayat Khan, author of Mysticism of Sound:

“A person does not hear sound only through the ears; he hears sound through every pore of his body. It permeates the entire being, and according to its particular influence either slows or quickens the rhythm of the blood circulation; it either wakens or soothes the nervous system. It arouses a person to greater passions or it calms him by bringing him peace.”

In the spirit of healing through harmony, what better benefactor than the Phoenix Children’s Hospital?

“It’s really awesome working with them. Their budget is so massive, and the facility is insane when you consider the volume of patients. It takes $1.4 million to run the place, and we’re happy to help even if it’s just a little.”

Since 1983, Phoenix Children’s Hospital has provided hope, healing, and healthcare, growing to become one of the largest children’s hospitals in the nation. With a medical staff of nearly 1,000 pediatric specialists, Phoenix Children’s provides inpatient, outpatient, trauma and emergency care across more than 70 pediatric subspecialties, the most comprehensive pediatric care available in the state. The hospital’s six centers of excellence have grown in size and expertise to place them on par with some of the most prestigious of their kind in the US.


M3F is a magnificent opportunity to experience the wondrous spirit cultivated when people join together to enjoy themselves and help the community. Having fun and helping others are not mutually exclusive happenings. Consider happiness a relative universal condition dependent on not the sum, but the mean of all humans individual consciousness; and by helping others’ attain happiness, we help all of mankind be happy.

“All local bands play for free. In two years, we’ve had 20 local bands each year. It’s awesome. We take note of bands who do play for charity, like Neil Young, he’s more open, plays benefit shows for free, but don’t necessarily target them.”

Local community artists and muralists showcase live art throughout the Festival grounds. Over the three days, attendees may purchase the artwork produced onsite by local artists donating their time and talents toward great causes.

“Our charity selection is a tough subject: need is greater than our city, community, and country.”


Along with Phoenix Children’s M3F also benefits the UMOM New Day Center. UMOM New Day Center’s mission is to prevent and end homelessness with innovative strategies and housing solutions that meet the unique needs of each family and individual. Founded in 1964, UMOM is located in Phoenix, Arizona and is the largest shelter for homeless families in the state.

Every night UMOM provides safe shelter and supportive services for over 170 homeless families through our continuum of services. They also offer nearly 300 units of affordable housing across the Valley, each community with Program Centers for residents.

“You can see impact closer… $60k goes further when you help the underprivileged youth. There’s so much need it’s tough to say if we’re really helping. But 13 years, $1 million, it’s a dent.”

Achieving a Zero Waste goal is a key milestone toward hosting an environmentally conscious 2016 festival. By collaborating with partners and community stakeholders, compost and recycling will be the focus in eliminating on-site trash entirely. Green Living Magazine and Recycle City are providing support on the Festival grounds to ensure the Zero Waste Goal is achieved.

“It’s tough to give a top five from 2015, but Portugal the Man went on before Passion Pit and surprised everyone. Passion pit has so much energy. Thievery Corporation, and every vocalist (28) they ever recorded with… you don’t see that much, they blew it away. Widespread Panic, and Phantogram.”

T-Shorty 2

This year’s lineup (March 11-13) at Hance Park is highlighted by Beck, Kid Cudi, The Avett Brothers, Porter Robinson Live, Animal Collective, Gary Clark Jr., Griz and The Oh Hellos.

“There are so many advantages to a small fest: no rushing through crowds. Thousands can see a great band with a great view. There’s an intimate feel to it.”

Maybe you’re wondering what a music festival would be like in downtown Phoenix?

“The vibe we created is laid back, easy going, and the cops aren’t in everyone’s business. It’s a good feel getting families coming down every year, seeing couples who met at the fest and are now bringing their kids.”

Building community through shared celebration, music, dance and charity sounds like a goal all festivals should aim for. With music as our universal language, what story do we wish to tell? Is it one of optimism, or despair? Will it be birthed by love or indifference? Will it inspire hope, or paralyze with fear?

With our words and will we shall forge the fate and fortune of all of earth’s creatures…

“Whether we use music as a source of joy and inspiration, a medicine for healing deep wounds, a therapy for physical rehabilitation, or a lifeline for surviving trauma and loss, and whether we are healed at the hand of a musician or an M.D., music is undeniably one of mankind’s greatest healing modalities.” Frank Fitzpatrick

Take me to M3F! #thisisagoodsign







Previous post: