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March Madness Music Fest 2024: A Weekend of Smiles & Exciting Live Music in Phoenix

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As the 2024 NCAA March Madness Final Four tournament descended onto the greater Phoenix metropolitan area, there were a variety of events and activities that took place throughout the weekend for fans of all kinds. For those of us who aren’t particularly big basketball junkies or sports fanatics, the tournament also brought a stacked lineup to Margaret T. Hance Park for the March Madness Music Festival, featuring a range of both rising and established acts including Remi Wolf, Reneé Rapp, Zedd, The Black Keys, Mumford & Sons, and many more.

The excitement of the weekend all built up to the final Championship game on April 8th where college basketball teams from UConn and Purdue faced off for the national title. Not that I know what the significance is, but it was exciting to have it in my city nonetheless! In the words of Remi Wolf during her performance: “We’re here for the March Madness tournament weekend, and if you actually know what that means… God bless ya’ baby!”

March Madness Music Fest 2024: a weekend of smiles & exciting live music in Phoenix featuring Remi Wolf, Reneé Rapp, Zedd, and more!

The festival officially kicked off on the afternoon of Friday, April 5th with an indie-pop and EDM centric lineup rooted in the zany stylings of Remi Wolf, embellished by the profound vocal talent of Reneé Rapp, and ultimately concluded by the cathartic arrangements produced by Zedd. For dozens of eager fans, however, the day began at the crack of dawn as they began forming the entry line as early as 6:30am to secure standing spots along the barricade for the day’s performances. Notably, many of the early birds were devout fans of Rapp, who wasn’t scheduled to go onstage until 7:15pm that evening. It was a testament to the influence that the young singer and her music have over the youthful audience and fanbase she’s grown over the last few years as both an actress and musician.

March Madness Music Fest 2024: a weekend of smiles & exciting live music in Phoenix featuring Remi Wolf, Reneé Rapp, Zedd, and more!
March Madness Music Fest 2024: a weekend of smiles & exciting live music in Phoenix featuring Remi Wolf, Reneé Rapp, Zedd, and more!
March Madness Music Fest 2024: a weekend of smiles & exciting live music in Phoenix featuring Remi Wolf, Reneé Rapp, Zedd, and more!

As the hours quickly passed, the clock finally struck 5:30pm, marking the time that indie-pop sensation Remi Wolf would take the stage with her campy lyrics and earworm melodies. Having been blessed with the opportunity to see Remi perform in Phoenix once before in 2022, time has only allowed her to further hone her stage presence and develop her eccentricity into an even more charismatic manner of interacting with fans. Skipping to the center of the stage in a bright pink leotard, Remi greeted her crowd before jumping right into her first song of the evening, “Cinderella”, a recent release from March. A comforting rollercoaster of thoughts and inner dialogue, the track assured the crowd that they’re exactly where they need to be with lines like ‘Baby girl, won’t you dry your eyes? / Don’t stress because you’re doing it right… / Don’t need a thing because you’re in control’. The set also featured popular tracks from Remi’s discography like “Sexy Villain“, “Disco Man”, and 2020’s viral hit “Photo ID”.

March Madness Music Fest 2024: a weekend of smiles & exciting live music in Phoenix featuring Remi Wolf, Reneé Rapp, Zedd, and more!
March Madness Music Fest 2024: a weekend of smiles & exciting live music in Phoenix featuring Remi Wolf, Reneé Rapp, Zedd, and more!

In our own lives, many of us are lucky enough to have that one friend that encourages and pushes us to be the fullest version of ourselves, often leading by example as they fearlessly live their life in the most authentic way possible, regardless of what others think. If you aren’t so lucky, don’t worry. Attending a Remi Wolf show will give you that experience in the span of about an hour or so. From start to finish, her set gradually coaxed the crowd out of their shells until they were moving and grooving with nearly the same enthusiasm she had herself onstage. It was a fantastic start to the day.

In between sets, there was no shortage of sights and sounds to fill the gap for the masses of people that were continuously streaming into the festival grounds. A tall Capital One-sponsored ferris wheel maintained a packed line consistently throughout the day, allowing riders to get a beautiful view of both the downtown Phoenix skyline and the stage itself. Near a large electronic screen farther away from the stage, a small crowd formed as fans watched recaps and clips of the previous March Madness games, all in preparation for Monday’s final result. After an hour or so of waiting, the lights on stage began to dim and the immense background screen lit up as Reneé Rapp walked up to the microphone.

Dressed in a neon green long sleeve and dark gray pants, the 24 year old Mean Girls star was hard to miss, even from afar. Starting off the night with a spirited performance of “Pretty Girls”, Rapp called out to the crowd “Raise your hand if you’re a pretty girl”, prompting a wave of cheers and hands shooting up into the air across the crowd. Rolling through hits like “Colorado”, “Tummy Hurts” “Talk Too Much” and “Too Well”, Rapp covered enough of her discography over the hour-long set to leave every fan satisfied, and even to draw in a few new fans as well. Beyond just her vocal talent, humor finds its way into Rapp’s set more often than not. Taking a moment to catch her breath in between songs that often saw her belt out notes for minutes on end, the singer took a moment to address a special demographic of the crowd before bringing her set to a close soon after.

“To the bisexual girlfriends out there, I just want to recognize your token straight boyfriends. Thank you for being here. We don’t talk about you enough but we should. Jared, Stan, David, all you guys out there!”

Ending the night on a high note was German DJ Zedd, whose EDM-oriented tracks and vibrant, hallucinogenic visuals were popular with the crowd of mostly Gen-Z and millennial festival goers.

After a booming second day that featured Bebe Rexha and the Jonas Brothers, festival attendance only skyrocketed as the third and final day of the festival arrived on Sunday, April 7th. From as early as 4pm, the Sunday crowd was already three to four times larger than Friday’s at its peak. Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats swept through the copious levels of anticipation from the crowd with ease, carrying themselves with a nonchalant demeanor that only seasoned musicians come to develop. While following up after a set from Leon Bridges is no easy feat, they did so nearly effortlessly with the support of a devoted, cheering crowd.

The classic rock sound of The Black Keys arrived soon after, much to the pleasure of the many packs of parents who had sat through the previous two days for their children’s favorite artists, as one fan along the barricade described to me.

The weekend wrapped up with a heartfelt, moving performance from Mumford & Sons, who played some of their biggest hits like “Little Lion Man”, I Will Wait”, and “Believe”. Frontman Marcus Mumford floated from one side of the stage to another throughout each song, ensuring every part of the crowd received his direct attention. This was received well by fans who had their arms waving in the air as early as the second song, already feeling each note and word in their bones. Even down in the photo pit, I found myself freezing in awe, camera in hand, to watch the ensemble perform just a few feet away from me. I wasn’t alone in this, as the profound appreciation for the opportunity to see the band was visible on the faces of nearly every attendee along the barricade.

With such a diverse array of acts gathered to recognize the occasion, I can’t wait to see what the future brings when the next March Madness Final Four tournament inevitably returns to Phoenix.

Show Date: 04.05.24 – 04.07.24 // Phoenix, AZ @ Margaret T. Hance Park // March Madness Music Fest 2024: A Weekend of Smiles & Exciting Live Music in Phoenix
Photos & words by Brian Mecinas

Brian Mecinas
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Based in Phoenix, Arizona! Environmentalist by day and concert photographer by night <3
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