Since 2004, The McDowell Mountain Music Festival has served as a vital event for fans of roots/world/jam based bands that typically skip the Phoenix market on their tour routes. With a list of prior headliners ranging from The Flaming Lips, The Black Crowes, Ratdog, Gov’t Mule and The John Butler Trio; The McDowell Mountain Music Festival has staged a local festival that can be best summed up in one word – “chill.” With 100% of the festival’s proceeds benefiting local charities Phoenix Day and Ear Candy, it goes without saying that his year’s event offers a lot to feel good about
This year’s event takes place Friday April 29th through May 1st out The Compound Music Venue in Scottsdale, AZ, with appearances by JJ Grey and Mofro, Martin Sexton, 7 Walkers, Xavier Rudd, SOJA, George Porter Jr, Particle, Otis Taylor, Black Joe Lewis and the Honeybears, Rubblebucket and Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros. We recently caught up with Music Director Kyle Day about this year’s event.
The festival has down-sized a bit in recent years from its staging at West World to its location now at The Compound. What has that provided for the festival to provide for concert attendees that it normally couldn’t offer before?
The move to the Compound gives the festival a different feel to the West World Location. The new location provides a shade structure, a full service restaurant and 2 stages located less than a minute walk apart from each other. Close proximity with shade and an air conditioned venue to relax and get out of the heat.
This is your second year holding the festival outside the Compound in the parking lot. How do you go best about making the festival feel like a festival and not just a concert in a parking lot?
We make sure this element is addressed and it definitely is one of the most important parts of our festival. We received some negative publicity on the change of venues because people felt that the experience would be lost because it is in a parking lot. However, everyone that was in attendance quickly changed their mind once they see the real grass setting. It feels like you are in a park or at a golf clubhouse and would never guess you are actually in a parking lot.
What role does the indoor Compound Grill play in the festival itself?
The Compound Grill offers a place to enjoy some time out of the sun, Creamy Radio stage where the best AZ local bands will be performing throughout the 3 days, a full service bar and restaurant, and the ability to have late night shows to keep the party going until 2am.
The festival is very generous to area charities, with 100% of proceeds benefitting local charities. Can you talk about these charities and who that plays into running a festival successfully and keeping it going without losing too much?
Both charities play a huge role in the Phoenix community and we are trying to connect this community through a 3 day festival.Ear Candy Charity is based in Phoenix, AZ and its mission is to provide children access to music education. Phoenix Day provides a safe, nurturing and diverse environment with age-appropriate curriculum that promotes a lifetime of learning.
How does the festival go about choosing its lineup?
We look for an eclectic mix that would not have a gender or age separation. We like to play all sorts of styles and genres from acts all over the world.
You’ve made an effort to book a decent number of local bands this year too, more so than in years past.
We definitely feel the local music scene is getting stronger. We are trying to showcase these amazing musicians in a place where people who don’t normally go to live club shows can get a chance to see them and hopefully encourage them to go to local shows in the future.
What artists are you most excited about this year and why?
To be honest, there is not one artist that we are most excited about. It’s a 3 day event filled with so many great talents/musicians that the overall lineup is one of our best that we have done. The mix of music is appealing to everyone from 8 years old to 60 and we are playing acts that are continuing to grow in our market and our exposing them to Phoenix.
Looking back at the history of the festival what are your greatest memories of the McDowell Mountain Music Festival?
Flaming Lips performance, Michael Franti, John Butler Trio, Gov’t Mule, the list goes on and on. Probably the greatest achievement is the fact that MMMF has raised over 500k to local charities in our 7 previous years.
The McDowell Mountain Music Festival along with The Compound provides a much needed event in Arizona for fans of roots rock and jam-bands. How do you hope to increase interest in these genres within a state that’s not as well represented in roots bands as say Colorado?
People are out there that listen to music, whether it be top 40 or roots and jam bands. They like music and will start to pay attention to these bands as soon as they are given the chance to experience them. A lot of these bands have bypassed Arizona in the past and we are definitely doing our part to create this culture in AZ. Its all about exposure, given the chance, people will celebrate the culture and become a part of it once they live it.
Where do you see the McDowell Mountain Music Festival evolving to in the upcoming years?
We see MMMF growing and upscaling to a large venue once again in the coming years. We are no where near done in our community and charity effort and hope that the city gets behind this festival so we can bring in the biggest acts in the world and create a nationally recognized Music festival all in the name of charity.
Check out the festival's website for more information about this weekend's events.