10 Things We Learned at McDowell Mountain Music Festival 2014

Benjamin Leatherman
See No. 4

This year's McDowell Mountain Festival went off like a weekend in the park, and we mean that both figuratively and literally. Perched upon the green grass of Margaret T. Hance Park, the three-day concert fest seemingly took place without a hitch and happened to feature gorgeous weather and a lot of memorable gigs on both of its stages.

Although MMMF has gotten some competition from other local festivals in recent years, like from True Music and Apache Lake music festivals, it manages to carve out its own identity and stand on its own.

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Disco Biscuits, Slightly Stoopid, Allen Stone, Dispatch, Black Bottom Lighters, and More - McDowell Mountain Music Festival - 3/29/14

Melissa Fossum
Jon Gutwillig of Disco Biscuits performs at McDowell Mountain Music Festival on Saturday. See more photos via our slideshow.

Disco Biscuits, Slightly Stoopid, Allen Stone, Dispatch, Black Bottom Lighters, and More
McDowell Mountain Music Festival 2014

Saturday proved to be the day for jam bands galore at McDowell Mountain Music Festival, offering up what was arguably the most cohesive and sensible lineup of any of its three-day run.

Despite some early birds, the grounds were exceptionally quiet when we arrived at 11:15 a.m. to get a jump on our third-degree sunburns. Students from the Conservatory of Recording Arts and Sciences were on hand early, prepping live video feeds and acting as stagehands -- a smart move on behalf of the organizers, cutting costs and giving students hands-on experience in a festival format that's not quite as demanding as some can be.

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STS9, Gramatik, Lettuce - McDowell Mountain Music Festival - 3/28/14

The MMMF main stage during STS9's performance. See more photos via our slideshow.

STS9, Gramatik, Lettuce
McDowell Mountain Music Festival 2014

It was a great spring night to spend outdoors at Hance Park for day one of the McDowell Mountain Music Festival before the brutal summer swoops in for the next six months or so.

There was an excitement in the air as Sound Tribe Sector Nine (STS9) was set to make their return to the stage after canceling their winter tour. Bassist and founding member David Murphy left the band in January and Alana Rocklin was preparing to take over for him. Rumors had surfaced that Murphy's departure was a signal that STS9 was ready to take their music in a new direction.

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Allen Stone on the Magic of Live Music, Recording In Sweden and Staying Humble

Courtesy of the artist's Facebook page
Atypicality goes one of the two ways in the music industry: Either you're left of center enough to fail or left of center enough to resonate with listeners. In the case of Allen Stone, the latter rang true. For the 26-year-old Northwest soul-leaning sensation, picking an alternative path was the only way he was ever going to make it, and finding national success while still unsigned allowed him to develop a modus operandi that kept the creative control in his corner regardless of his label situation. Now that he's landed on Capitol Records, however, he's happy to have the backing but still executes the executive decisions about his music.

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Slightly Stoopid's Miles Doughty on Beach Life, Tour Life, and Taking Control of Their Destiny

Courtesy of the band's Facebook page
Few bands remain as succinctly Californian and categorically challenging as San Diego's Slightly Stoopid. Signed to the late Bradley Nowell's Skunk Records in 1995, they're an act that's been a signed Golden State institution for almost 20 years, carving out their niche by pulling together a variety of genres into a melding that's all their own. Having been road dogs for the entirety of their career, even after two decades, they still wouldn't have it any other way, tribulations and personalities aside.

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Charlie Musselwhite on Ben Harper: "Every Time We Play Is Like Playing for the First Time"

Michael Weintrob
Charlie Musselwhite is scheduled to perform with Ben Harper during McDowell Mountain Music Festival 2014 on Sunday, March 30, at Margaret T. Hance Park.
Charlie Musselwhite is no stranger to the blues. In fact, that's where the harmonica master spent most of his career, from Mississippi to Memphis to Chicago to Northern California, where he makes his home -- Musselwhite's career in the blues has spanned 50 years. Along the way, however, he's also performed with a who's who of musicians, including Tom Waits and Pearl Jam's Eddie Vedder.

More recently, Musselwhite joined forces with guitarist Ben Harper. The two had collaborated on and off for more than a decade, and after years spent trying to find enough time in busy schedules to record together, the inspired duo churned out Get Up! in just a couple days.

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Glendale's Black Bottom Lighters Are Cleared for Takeoff

Ben Garcia
Black Bottom Lighters
Even without an LP on which to hang their hat, Glendale-based reggae band Black Bottom Lighters have opened for Flogging Molly on St. Patrick's Day, toured the West Coast, played the local stage at True Music Festival, and headlined a pre-Thanksgiving show at The Marquee.

Suffice it to say few bands experience such success without even releasing an album. But the six-piece has found a way to break through locally behind an EP and impressive live shows.

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G. Love & Special Sauce's Garrett Dutton: "You Gotta Put the Work In to Get Out There"

Emmett Malloy
There are few acts like G. Love & Special Sauce, the genre-bridging Philadelphia alt-hip-hop trio that's been at it for two decades now, and there are even fewer frontmen quite like Garrett Dutton. Best known for his rapping approach within G. Love & Special Sauce, Dutson isn't afraid to display his long-established blues proclivities as well.

Even at his set at the Fender MLB Stratocaster event last week at the W Hotel in Scottsdale, Dutton pulled out a Bukka White cover in addition to his own blues tunes. He's not shy about his love for the Delta blues, however -- his chops, from playing to knowledge about the genre's legends, stem back to his childhood and run up through his work today.

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McDowell Mountain Music Festival: Seven Local Bands Worth Checking Out

decker. is scheduled to perform on Friday, March 28, during McDowell Mountain Music Festival 2014 at Margaret T. Hance Park.

Judging by the amount of success that local performers at last year's McDowell Mountain Music Festival have seen since their March 2013 engagement at Margaret T. Hance Park, I think it is safe to say that the festival's organizers know how to pick 'em. Just about every local band that played last year moved on to bigger and better things.

KONGOS headlined the local stage on Friday night last year, and has since blasted off into the stratosphere (nudge-nudge Spafford, better use that spot wisely). While the band that opened the main stage last year, Dry River Yacht Club, recently played their first official showcase at SXSW. (Here's looking at you decker.)

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STS9 on Giving Back to the Community and Why "Time Is Art"

Flickr user kern.rick

Like many jam bands, Sound Tribe Sector 9 (STS9) leave no sound unturned, no rhythm unexplored, and no genre unappreciated. Everything from jazz fusion to hip hop beats to funkadelic licks to psychedelic twists gets represented on the Atlanta-based group's 11 album catalog (with another on the way) birthed from their own label, 1320 Records.

STS9 is headlining the first night of McDowell Mountain Music Fest this Friday, March 28. We called up drummer Zach Velmer and asked him details on the band's newest releases, the importance of community and social media and how the band likes to give back.

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