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The first day of the McDowell Mountain Music Festival (M3F) on March 3 at the Margaret T, Hance Park in downtown Phoenix started to fill up at 5p.m. for a day of predominantly alternative rock. This is the 14th year for the McDowell Music Festival that operates as a non-profit organization benefiting local, family based charities. There were two stages set up so that as one act finished playing, the other stage started a new set. There was always music playing into the night. It was a fun day of food, spirits, and music. Also, the weather was perfect.

The Shins headlined the day. This was the second time the indie rock icon band has played the festival and Phoenix was excited to have the band return. They are on tour to support their upcoming album release, Heartworms, on March 10. They introduced much of the new music at the festival.

Gems performed during the set were “So Now What” and “Simple Song.” There were nine songs performed from the new album, but there was ample representation of songs from all their albums. There have been many changes of band members recently. Tonight’s band included James Mercer on guitar and lead vocals, Yuuki Matthews on bass and keyboards, Mark Watrous on guitar and keys, Casey Foubert on guitar, Jon Sortland on drums, and Patti King on keyborards. It was a marvelous set with great sound and dazzling light effects. For a complete set list, click here.

Another major highlight of the day was indie rock super band, Grouplove. This versatile fun-loving indie rock group more than warmed up the gathering crowd for the headliners. Hannah Hooper and Christian Zucconi were in tandum garnering the attention of the crowd as they sang their hits “Colours,” “Tongue Tied,” and “Ways To Go.” These may have been the obvious crowd pleasers, but they are presently touring in support of their new album release. Big Mess, that was released last September. The set was a fun, energetic, feather-light groove into the night.

Bob Moses played the main stage earlier during daylight. Unlike what the name seems to indicate, this is a duo accompanied by a drummer.  Daylight does not necessarily translate well for electronica. The hour set seemed to be very low-key. The music is very good, but they did not transform the mood of the crowd. On the smaller stage, many great local acts such as Heaps N Heaps, The Record Company, Huckleberry, Jay Allan & the Uncommon Good entertained the folks. The first day was a winner, but there is much more M3F to come. Check out Gov’t Mule, Lettuce, and Railroad Earth to name a few.