My plan was to wait to write anything beyond notes until I got home, but I couldn’t wait to write about my time in Arizona. This first portion of the recap was actually written just after getting back from the first day at M3F. I felt so moved by the experience that I wanted to write about it while it was still fresh. I just hope that the amazing M3F vibe comes through in this recap.
I was very worried about what it would be like to come to a festival alone, and basically everything that happened on that first day changed my perspective and I am completely in love with the vibe of this festival. It is hard to explain, but everyone was so warm and friendly and open.
I shared a picnic table with a group of friends that had already been sitting there. They included me in their conversation, tasted one of the vegetables from my food and invited me to go to the silent disco with them when they were leaving. I was on a mission to get some more photos at that point, so I declined. But my table was quickly filled by new strangers. Once again, the whole table was quickly in conversation and I mean conversation of the genuine kind. People in lines for the bathrooms, the bars, and for food – were all quick to ask about everything from my camera, to my blog, to my food, to whether I was enjoying Arizona. I had help learning about my camera from a fellow photographer – she was so much more experienced than I am and was so open to teaching me.
This feeling of community and warmth continued all weekend. You could feel it in the air. It seemed like anytime you made eye contact with someone they smiled. Anytime you waited in line people talked to you. I ordered pretzels at one point, and they saw I was “working the festival” and gave them to me. I got sunscreen on my camera lens and someone physically helped me wipe it off. I could go on and on. And we haven’t even gotten to the music yet.
The Festival recommends light rail or other forms of public transportation to reach the park, which is very much in the city. There are rail locations near by, but for various reasons (mostly because I was a little worried about being out alone at night) I chose to drive. Parking was not as easy as it could have been, but I found a spot within a few blocks every day and the second night I parked in a church lot steps from the entrance. However, I did make the rookie mistake of not backing into the spot, so it took me 15 minutes and something close to a meltdown before I finally managed to make a million point turn and get out.
I arrived early each day, so the lines to get in were very short and the process was quick. The lines definitely got longer as the day went on, so arriving early is definitely something I would recommend – especially if you are wanting to be to see a specific act. Once you are in, they check your ID – give you another wristband and then you are off. The park feels cozy, and that isn’t intended as code for crowded or small. I felt like I was in a little bubble, separate from the world.
I saw Kauf, Evan Giia, Mansionair, Allah-Las and The Knocks before my jet lag got the best of me. Frankly, I was also a little concerned about walking out in the dark alone to my car that first night – so wanted to leave on the ‘earlier’ side. What I didn’t realize is that the entire three blocks that I walked in on, had been transformed into a popup market of sorts during the afternoon and evening, so it was completely safe and busy for most of my walk back. There were food vendors, live music, and artists.
Ok ok you are probably thinking, tell us about the music already . . . Evan Giia was amazing!!! She had stage presence and high energy – you should check her out if you haven’t before. Mansionair was probably the show I was most excited to see. They didn’t disappoint and were just as good live as they sound on the radio.
Food wise I of course had to have Island Noodles, my absolute favorite festival food vendor and they showed off their noodles for me when they saw me creeping with my camera. Later on I had a deep fried Hostess Cupcake and a deep fried Twinkie. Both delicious, and I promise I didn’t eat all of it. I also sampled Bulleit Bourbon’s Rye Tai and had a ton of free Zevia Peach Tea. It was as good of a food day as I could have asked for.
While I was waiting to enter the pit to photograph, the security guard below began telling what I can only classify as “dad jokes.” I told him I was going to put him in the blog – but I am not sure he knew what that meant. Either way, here’s one of his jokes: Why are there hardly any lawyers in Ireland? Because they can’t pass a bar…
I was moving a little slow on Saturday morning. Perhaps my decision to go to the gym on Friday before the Festival was not the best plan. I got myself some water and a good breakfast and then headed over to the park. This time, despite being later, I was able to park in a church parking lot just steps from the entrance. That made me feel even better about leaving alone (until I got to the point in the night when I couldn’t get out of the parking lot because I am an idiot).
In any event, the skies were clear and I arrived just in time to catch the end of the drum circle and to get in position for Chicano Batman. About halfway through, I scooted over to one of the other stages to catch the end of Big Something. Both were very good. After that it was a super fun set from Lettuce – followed by Kurt Vile and the Violators, a bit of SunSquabi, Marian Hill (amazing!!!!), and Jungle. I was lucky enough to see EOTS at Firefly a few years ago and they were fantastic. I caught the beginning again here before my tired legs caught up with me. I hit the merch tent (again) and picked up info from awesome vendors that I wanted to be sure to remember for the post. Be on the lookout for another post about some of the awesome shops we saw onsite at M3F.
Food wise, I didn’t have much. I ate soft pretzels and melted provolone from Culinary Dropout and more island noodles. The one thing I really wanted to try but didn’t get around to were the bamboo steamed buns. I am also now addicted to Zevia Peach Tea.
Despite being on my healthiest behavior (no drinking, lots of water, and plenty of sunscreen) I woke up on the morning of day three feeling like a truck squished me. I clearly haven’t gotten my festival season endurance going yet. With news of yet another impending winter storm back home, I thought about skipping out on Day 3 altogether – but the steamed buns and group yoga were calling my name. I got myself together, and headed back in.
Having learned from my parking mistake the previous night before I asked the man guarding the parking lot if I could park closer to the exit to avoid an embarrassing parking fail. He laughed and gave me an easy access spot. I headed into the park with a plan in mind – participate in yoga, eat steamed bun. Neither of those things happened. I did a little bit of wandering as the music and yoga had not started yet. I ended up at Shake Shack asking about their giveaway items (because I really really needed yet another koozie). The manager asked who I was shooting for, heard about my blog and gave me lunch for free. What is with the kindness at M3F? I have been seriously spoiled this weekend.
I watched one last band play, and then did a final bit of exploring and shopping. I also stopped to watch the group yoga and the various stations for giving back or doing crafts. My final moments at M3F involved sitting in a chair, soaking up the sun and watching a man wearing a jacket that was rigged with fake long arms dance.
With an impending snow storm and a few other tasks to complete, I had to cut out mid afternoon, and I felt a genuine sadness to leave. This is definitely a fest I will back to in the future and would strongly encourage you to attend.
The LTFL takeaways are below – but I want to end the substantive portion of this post with a big thank you to M3F. This was the first festival to acknowledge us as media and to let us shoot the festival professionally. That was a huge vote of confidence for our hard work, and something that I am really so grateful for. On top of that, I absolutely fell in love with this Festival. They work so hard to really focus on things that are important – giving back 100% of profits to local charities, sustainability, and backing up their goal of having people use water bottles by providing plenty of refill stations.
So M3F – thank you for the wonderful experience. Thank you for the opportunity to take photographs, the warmth, the welcome, and for giving us a chance to shine. We love you!!!!
This may sound silly, but if you have ever felt it you will know exactly what I mean: M3F gave me that rare feeling when you reach the end of a festival weekend and you don’t want to leave and you feel so sad and so happy all at once…
- This festival is so much fun! It is jammy and unique – I really just hope this captures the love and positivity felt all weekend
- Everyone involved is basically a volunteer. This means they want to be there and they act like it
- Most of the businesses involved were also donating a portion of their proceeds as well
- M3F practices what it preaches: in addition to the normal vendors and food, they had local charities and even a dog rescue on site (Hi Iris!!)
- The site is clean and there was never much of a wait for anything (except the bathroom on the first night)
- Plenty of water and great food options
- Fun shopping and activities on site (art table for kids)
- I know I keep saying this, but I honestly cannot stress enough what a positive, beautiful experience this was. I really hope they will have us back again next year.
Please reach out to us if you want to share your M3F experience or have any questions. LTFL had the opportunity to meet some amazing people this weekend and to take a ton of fun pictures. We look forward to sharing more with you in the coming week. For now, here’s one last one that really captures my takeaway from the weekend.