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March Means Music in Downtown Phoenix

March 3, 2016 by Brandi Porter

Playboy Manbaby performs on the Punk Rock Alley stage at Viva PHX 2015. (Photo: NBMA Photography)

Playboy Manbaby performs on the Punk Rock Alley stage at Viva PHX 2015. (Photo: NBMA Photography)

From street performers to shows and concerts — music has become an innate, year-round part of the Downtown Phoenix soundscape and culture.

But in this month in particular: March means music.

With an abundance of festivals, concerts and performances on the horizon, March is an especially great time to give a nod to the musicians, music promoters and venues that have transformed Phoenix into what the New Times dubbed the “Valley’s musical epicenter.”

Here’s just a sampling of what’s in store.

Blues Blast 2016 — Saturday, March 5 — Hance Park

The Phoenix Blues Society hosts their 25th annual festival Saturday, March 5 in Hance Park, where you can sit back in the grass, beer in-hand, and chill out to the smooth, deep sounds of both local and national bands and musicians. Canned Heat, Laurie Morvan Band and Smokestack Lightning and more will supply the blues, Four Peaks Brewery will supply the brews and, yes, there will be food booths. Sunscreen, lawn chairs, blankets and umbrellas are encouraged.

McDowell Mountain Music Festival brings three full days of music, art, food and culture to Hance Park this year March 11-13. (Photo: McDowell Mountain Music Festival)

McDowell Mountain Music Festival brings three full days of music, art, food and culture to Hance Park this year March 11-13. (Photo: McDowell Mountain Music Festival)

McDowell Mountain Music Festival — Friday-Sunday, March 11-13 — Hance Park

McDowell Mountain Music Festival returns to Hance Park for its eighth year, bringing a plethora of national and local talent including Beck, Animal Collective and Kid Cudi to name a few.

And while music may be the main headliner — the three-day event truly embraces its own motto — community, culture and charity — through food, arts and charitable giving, too. The nonprofit festival donates all proceeds to Phoenix Children’s Hospital Foundation and UMOM New Day Center.

Viva PHX — Saturday, March 12 — Various Stages Around Downtown

Now in its third year, Viva PHX has set the stage — and standard — in Phoenix for what an urban music festival should be. Similar to Austin’s SXSW, multiple bands play on multiple stages simultaneously, so festival-goers must choose wisely who to see and where, which of course is half of the fun.

This is the perfect chance to meet your new favorite band, discover a great music venue and see unusual downtown spaces, from historic churches to alleys, transform into temporary music halls. Festivities also include Lucha Libre, food trucks, and beer gardens at several stages, including CityScape. With 65 bands set to perform across 17 stages — this is one night in Downtown Phoenix you don’t want to miss.

Phoenix Jazz Showcase — The Nash — Friday-Saturday, March 18-19

While some might consider jazz a relic of the past — The Nash continues to prove that the genre is very much alive and well. The nonprofit jazz venue hosts live performances weekly and offers educational programs, both of which are helping cultivate a vibrant jazz community in Phoenix.

On March 18 and 19, you can get a taste of what the local jazz scene has to offer at the the Phoenix Jazz Showcase, with performances by four Nash education ensembles and Phoenix bands. This two-day event features some of the best emerging and established voices in Phoenix, but it’s just a sliver of what The Nash offers. Make sure to check out their calendar for other upcoming events. (Tip: They’ve recently started serving beer and wine.)

(Photo: Phoenix Symphony)

(Photo: Phoenix Symphony)

The Phoenix Symphony

This long-standing arts organization was founded in 1947 as a part-time orchestra and has since grown into the state’s largest performing arts organization. Every season, they present an array of performances from classics to one-of-a-kind …

Here are a couple performances to see this month:

March 11-13: Multi-media concert “Here to Stay” celebrates the genius of George and Ira Gershwin, with hits like “I Got Rhythm,” and “The Man I Love” — all while showcasing rare audio and video footage, family photos and state-of-the-art visuals from the Gershwins.

Friday, March 25: Celebrating Bernstein honors the life, legacy and music of legendary Hollywood composer Elmer Bernstein with a multimedia performance featuring scores and movie clips from favorites like, “The Great Escape,” “To Kill a Mockingbird,” and “Animal House.”


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