March 8, 2020, Phoenix-
I drove down here, this afternoon, to take in the last day of a the three-day McDowell Mountain Music Festival (M3F), held in my former home base’s spacious Hance Park. This is a time when I touch base, however briefly, with a hyper-energetic artist friend, Pam Mayer, who dances, with and without hoops, encourages young women to do the same and rivets the attention of many, with her irrepressible mien. Today was more of the same- I may not be Pam’s favourite pest, but do get in enough quips, and pitches for the Drum Circle that is M3F’s spiritual centerpiece, to get at least a few eye rolls out of the Valley’s most mature “teenage girl” (my term, not hers). I don’t go looking for her, mind you, but if I turn around at the right moment, there she is, hoops and all. So it was, this afternoon, at two of the five locations to which I wandered. Good hoop dancing requires elasticity, which God knows I fairly lack and of which Pam has an abundance. She’s a treasure.
The other riveting thing about this festival, besides the music, is the mass of humanity. There was no climate of fear in this gathering- with people of every age, generation and ethnicity-in abundance. I spent a fair amount of time bouncing along to both reggae and country rock bands, as well as taking in a show by a techno-pop DJ. He calls himself Bardz.
At the country rock set, Los Colognes, a band out of Nashville, kept us leaning in and bouncing along. They have not been back to their own homes, to assess any damage from the recent deadly tornado, so the poignant musical tribute to Music City was one of the auditory high points of the day. I wish the guys safe passage home.
In between the reggae set by The Green, not pictured, as I was too busy bouncing up and down, and practicing my shaka (easier with the right hand, than with the left, for some reason), and LC’s performance, I took a brief rest, along the black mesh fence at the park’s northern edge. There, I was captivated by two adorable children, who were tossing a Nerf torpedo back and forth, sometimes getting in the personal spaces of other concert goers. Everyone played along though, and when the toy ended up in The Green’s buffer zone, event security people gleefully came over and gave the torpedo back to one of the kids.
That brings me to the Drum Circle. This time, I sat in on both of the sessions. Hand drumming, besides bouncing along to the music, is one of my favourite sound-centered pastimes. Today was no exception, and as I kept up with the drum master’s rhythms, it was enjoyable to also encourage a variety of people to join in. A couple of families were led by one or two of the children to sit in and a couple of elders joined the festivities.
The festival’s energy and vibrations were perhaps best summed up by a group of five friends, who clasped their right hands together, towards the end of Los Colognes’ set. Even in this challenging month and season, with Coronavirus and the accompanying economic setbacks, we are together in this joyous thing called life.