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The inaugural ZONA fest brought a lot of sights and sounds to Margaret T. Hance Park in downtown Phoenix. Photos Courtesy of Donovan Johnson 

Inaugural Zona Music Festival amplifies Phoenix despite rain, mud

Phoenix’s first ever Zona music festival occurred Dec. 3-4  at Margaret T. Hance Park, and despite rain and mud, fans still enjoyed great performances. 


On Dec. 3, Phoenix reported its rainiest day of the year with 0.76 inches of rain, according to the National Weather Service in Phoenix. This gave the outdoor music festival a rocky start.

Some attendees showed up with umbrellas or ponchos prepared to watch in the rain. While others came in shorts and T-shirts. Many attendees, including myself, turned to merchandise tables to purchase sweaters or beanies to cover up. 

The cold and continuous rain throughout the day didn't stop fans from coming to witness performances from their favorite artists. 

One could spot fans of The Garden from their makeup that matched the band’s iconic look. 

McLaren and Carter, two fans of The Garden, were eager to mosh despite the rain and mud. 

“It was my first time in a pit, and for my favorite artist, so I didn’t mind being trampled,” said McLaren.

Carter explained what draws fans to The Garden. 

“They are kind of funny. It’s like the boy band appeal…They have the makeup, they dress up, they do the things. I like that about them.”

The rain not only affected the guests' experience at Zona, but also the artists’. While performing, many artists almost fell or slipped on wet stages. 

At the Nicks stage, one member from The Garden slipped while walking on stage before the beginning of their performance.  

At the Mingus stage, Sub Urban told the crowd during his performance there were multiple times where he almost fell because of a slippery wet stage. 

Attendance was relatively small, but attendees still enjoyed themselves by finding ways to shelter and watch some amazing performances. 

The National Parks performed on a beautifully decorated stage with their microphones and instruments wrapped in vines and flowers. Two bright neon green cactus signs stood on stage to add to the natural aesthetic of the band. 

The National Parks gave a powerful concert filled with high energy. The band’s energy and intense drum battle during their second song made their performance exciting and incredibly entertaining to watch. 

Later in the day, the Phoenix-born band Miniature Tigers performed on the Ronstadt stage. They gave a fun upbeat performance playing songs from their albums “Tell it to the Volcano,” and “Mia Pharaoh,” even playing a cover of “Chop Suey!” by System of a Down. 

Watching them was entertaining, the band made jokes between songs which kept the crowd amused. 


By the second day, the rain stopped. Zona informed guests via Instagram of weather conditions, and more attendees came prepared. 

The rainfall and foot traffic from the day before caused the park to fill with mud. The worst area was by the Nicks Stage, where every step was sticky and slippery. 

Attendees’ shoes were covered in mud, but this didn’t stop them from enjoying the concert and participating in moshing. 

At The Regrettes set, lead singer Lydia Night told the audience to start moshing and encouraged them to not be afraid of getting dirty in the mud. 

“I think it makes it more fun,” she said. 

The Regrettes gave an energetic and engaging performance. At one point, Night got off the stage and onto the barricade to take pictures with fans and sing directly to the crowd. 

At the end of the night, the crowds at the main stage grew in anticipation for the festival’s bigger acts including Japanese Breakfast and Portugal. The Man.. 

Japanese Breakfast opened their performance with “Paprika” off of their album “Jubilee'' released last year. 

“Paprika” was the perfect song to start the show; the song is about lead singer Michelle Zauner finding joy in her career and performing. It is a bright and powerful song about appreciating life and her art.

Zauner struck a gong decorated with flowers during the performance of “Paprika.” It was joyful, energetic and prepared the audience for a delightful performance. 

The band’s performance was emotional and consisted of sweet moments between Michelle Zauner and Peter Bradley, her husband and bandmate. The two embraced on stage in between songs and at the end of the concert. 

Despite experiencing record rainfall and muddy conditions, Zona Festival was a fun and enjoyable experience for attendees. Attendees watched concerts from local and international artists across many different genres, all at one festival. 

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