McDowell Mountain Music Festival 2016 – Day One


Day one of the 2016 McDowell Mountain Music Festival was terrific.

The Festival

First, some initial thoughts about the Festival:

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  • The downtown vibe is great.  It has character.  It enhances the texture of the Festival.  Margaret T. Hance Park, adjacent to the main branch of the Phoenix Public Library and nestled among a Phoenix historic district, is a great location for a music Festival like this and as a location sets the character for the entire event.
  • The Festival is laid out really well.  There was plenty of room to move about, yet nothing was too far away.  Everything was an easy walk from wherever you happened to be within the festival at any given moment.
  • The organizers seemed to really have everything…well, organized.  The music ran smoothly, trash was cleaned up, staff was helpful – everything ran that way that a well-organized festival should run.
  • There was a real sense of community within the Festival.  The vendors were all clearly local, grass-roots vendors.  The food, including the food trucks, was all local (without any of the big, traveling carnival, massive turkey leg vendors).  Kudos to Festival organizers for really getting this right and make this into a music Festival that reflects Phoenix and the local community.

The Music

Unfortunately, I arrived too late to see CooBee Coo, Mr. Mudd &  Mr. Gold and Captain Squeegee so my day one review starts with young Phoenix singer/songwriter Taylor Upsahl.  Upsahl is a 16-year-old Phoenician who is writing well-constructed, interesting music.  She filled the 5:00 slot on the second stage and was very well received.

Next up was MS MR on the main stage.  MS MR clearly has a following because they were there in numbers and singing along, much to Lizzy Plapinger’s obvious appreciation during the set.  Palpinger is a woman who clearly enjoys being on stage and has complete confidence being up there.  She was continuously smiling (and at times almost giggling, it seemed) during the set.  And the audience there for this early-evening set reciprocated.

Next up was Brothers Gow on the second stage.  Brothers Gow, from San Diego, CA, is a good old-fashioned party band. They were just fun, playing old-school mashed-up funk and rock.

Next up on the main stage was Animal Collective. Described by Rolling Stone Magazine as “avant-pop,” Animal Collective is touring insupport of their 10th studio album, Painting With…  The tour takes them from this show at the Festival to Europe for 9 shows through the middle of April. While they return to the States in April, they do not have another Phoenix-area show scheduled on this tour so the Festival was the only place to get to see them on the current tour – and their fans certainly appreciated the opportunity to do so.

Following Animal Collective, Big Wild took the second stage in the final spot of the day before headliner Beck.  Big Wild’s performance at the festival was part of his nation-wide spring 2016 tour.

Which brings us to headline performer Beck.  Beck brought it and delivered a tremendous performance to the Festival crowd.  Beck’s performed a broad enough range of his music to satisfy both the die-hard Beck fan hoping for some deeper tracks and the casual fan who may be primarily familiar with his radio hits.  Beck delivered a performance that was certainly a crowd-pleaser that resonated with the audience.


All photos © Greg Cohen 2016 – may not be used without permission.


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