Photo courtesy Michael Patacsil

By Laura Latzko

Music festivals have become more than just spaces to listen to music. They have turned into full-out events with different genres of music and immersive activities, as well as chances to give back.

Since 2004, Wespac Construction’s M3F music festival has given aficionados the chance to see some of their favorite bands and DJs and discover new groups, while supporting local charities.

The event continues to expand regularly with new entertainment offerings.

This year, M3F will take place from Friday, March 6, to Sunday, March 8, on the east side of Margaret T. Hance Park.

Festival manager Heather Rogers says the music festival has been made possible over the last 17 years because of the work of Wespac employees, who serve as volunteers and team leaders on top of their regular jobs.

Rogers says it’s gratifying to see how much they’re helping when the donation amount grows each year. The proceeds go to local charities. This year, funds raised will benefit the Phoenix Children’s Hospital’s music therapy program, Teach for America, Habitat for Humanity of Northern Arizona and the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.

Since it started, the event has raised more than $2 million, including over $500,000 last year, for local organizations.

In terms of music, Rogers says the festival has offerings for all tastes.

“We want to keep the variety there,” Rogers says. “We want to bring acts to Phoenix who normally don’t come through.”

Festivalgoers often discover new bands or become bigger fans of the M3F bands.

“Once they come and they listen to them, we get responses back of, ‘Oh, well I just picked up four new bands that I really like,’ or, ‘I didn’t know so-and-so played this song,’” Rogers says.

This year, the festival will have over 35 acts on three stages, including folk’s Bon Iver, Australian alternative dance group Rufus Du Sol, dub and reggae act Stick Figure, Dutch electronic artist and DJ San Holo, “beach goth” rock band The Growlers, jam rock’s moe., indie pop band Lany, Americana/bluegrass group Greensky Bluegrass, electronic duo Sofi Tukker, soul musician and DJ Mayer Hawthorne and indie rock group Local Natives.

Along with music, the festival will have a vendor marketplace, local food trucks, drum circles, yoga sessions, live art and a kids’ zone.

This year, the festival will offer an expanded Silent Disco area, a dance area with live DJs where listeners experience the music through headphones.

Tickets for the new VIP cabanas come with added perks such as access to a private entrance, upgraded restrooms and a viewing deck near Stage 1, as well as complimentary beverages.

In the live art area, guests can add their own artistic touches to a community art project created by professional artists.

A kids’ zone from 1 to 5 p.m. Sunday will offer games such as Giant Jenga and cornhole as well as arts and crafts activities. Food trucks will have choices for people with different palates, including vegan and vegetarian dishes, gluten-free food, noodle entrees, burgers, pizza and Mexican cuisine. Alcohol vendors will offer craft beer, wine and specialty and regular cocktails.

Inside the vendor marketplace, attendees can peruse items such as tie-dye apparel, superhero capes, handmade clothing and accessories or jewelry.

Hitting the stage

Although the festival isn’t just about the music, it is the main draw.

This year’s event will spotlight mostly out-of-state bands, with six local groups in the mix.

Scattered Melodies, a local funk/soul group, hits the M3F stage for the second time at 1 p.m. Sunday on stage 2. The band first performed at the festival in 2018.

Scattered Melodies started as a rhythm section featuring drummer Josh Montag and bass player Jake Johnson and has expanded to include vocalists and multi-instrumentalists Killa Maus, Laura Hamlin and Haley Green; guitarist Kazton Boone and saxophone player Phelan Parker. Montag and Johnson started the group in 2012 after working together in a three-piece reggae rock band called Morning After.   

Throughout the years, the two have performed with about 40 different singers from around the Valley.

Montag says having a more established lineup over the last two and a half years has helped to give the band a more cohesive sound.

“There’s just more consistency. We are all vibing together really well. We’ve got the chemistry going, and we’re all writing music together,” Montag says. “We were having fun working with all of these different musicians. I’m definitely thankful for all of that, but I feel like we are heading in a better direction now with our set crew.”

In its music, the group blends different sounds, including funk, soul, reggae and rock.

Montag says the group tries to present high-energy music with positive vibes.

Music festivals such as M3F allow the band to perform for people with a deep appreciation for music.

“It does bring out true music fans, people who are there to have a good time and really enjoy the music,” Montag says. “What we are more interested in is a type of festival like (M3F), where people aren’t afraid to dance. They’re having a good time. The weather is super sunny, and they’re throwing beachballs around. Bubbles are flying through the air.”

M3F, Margaret T. Hance Park, east side, 1200 N. First Street, Phoenix, main entrance at First and Portland streets, m3ffest.com, 1:30 to 11 p.m. Friday, March 6, 1 to 11 p.m. Saturday, March 7, 1 to 9:30 p.m. Sunday, March 8, tickets start at $80.

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