Grassroots Festival Boosts Local Success

Gaining recognition and a palpable following as a local musician is difficult, especially in a large city like Phoenix, Arizona. However, there’s no question that Phoenix’s local music scene has seen a fair share of acts springboard to national platforms in recent years, and signs are pointing to the rise of local-exclusive festivals, like our very own McDowell Mountain Music Festival as the reason for this success. Since its inception in 2004, M3F continues to emphasize booking regional talent in hopes that it will bring national exposure to local emerging bands.

Take the success of decker. and KONGOS as an example; both are previous M3F performers who have embarked on national tours and have seen successful local campaigns in the past three years. decker. in particular reaped the rewards of a hard-run local effort turned national. Without a constant pedal-to-the-metal mentality, both physically and mentally, Brandon Decker (decker. front man) wouldn’t have seen his featured songs on 2015’s Patsy, HBO’s VICE or Yahoo’s Music Premier Showcase. All of which occurred after topping off two successful supporting national tours. Brandon plans to take his hard-fought momentum into September 2016’s release, Snake River Blues, before embarking on another to-be-announced national tour.

“A local presence is one you gravitate toward, and not because you have to because you live there, but moreover as a moving force,” Brandon commented. “Whether it’s a local venue, bar, festival, or any combination of the mentioned, your local presence and support is the lever that makes the wheel spin.”

KONGOS is another band that has found success on local, national, and even an international scale. So much so that Epic Records signed KONGOS in 2014, standing as one of the many monumental successes the group has seen thus far. The worldwide platinum hit “Come With Me Now” spent five weeks at the top seat on Billboard’s Alternative Songs chart. It also hit No. 31 on Billboard’s Hot 100 after being used by a long list of recognizable brand names, including ESPN’s Super Bowl broadcast, NBC’s “Today” show, Samsung Galaxy, Dodge Ram, “American Idol,” MTV Movie Awards, HBO, FX, CNN, NBC Sports, WWE, and PlayStation 4 among countless others.

One of the few local bands to hit platinum after solidifying regional presence, KONGOS caught lightning in a bottle and rode the wave as far as it would carry them. With 2014’s Lunatic follow up in Egomaniac hitting the streets June, 2016, Kongos (comprised of four, Arizona-native brothers ) are treading uncharted waters in hopes of catching lightning once again.

“At this point,” bassist Dylan Kongos says to AZ Central, “we’ll take a two-hit wonder.” “No-hit wonder,” adds guitarist Danny Kongos, with a laugh, “was the first obstacle.”

Launching local bands to national platforms is grounded on determination and drive, and playing regional festivals like M3F only provides more momentum to help bands reach that success. We can’t wait to see what other M3F alumni move onto that next level, but until then we’ll sit back and enjoy the music.