All hail the queen

Royal treatment: Last Thursday’s opera recital at the Mondavi Center was probably unlike any performance that its audience members had seen to date. Instead of the crowd watching from the seats, those fortunate to snag one of the $125 or $250 tickets sat at tables on stage with the artist mere feet away—a “stage cabaret” style of seating inside Jackson Hall.

The artist? Internationally renowned mezzo-soprano Susan Graham. Dressed in a beautiful multicolored dress, the opera singer looked like true royalty the minute she set foot on stage, adorned in elaborate jewelry that worked wonders with her curvy figure.

Graham gave herself a vocal workout singing more than 30 compositions in over eight different languages. From Poulenc to Tchaikovsky, Schumann to Berlioz, the themes explored love and misfortune.

Meanwhile, the audience enjoyed wine, coffee, tea, fruits, hors d’oeuvres, pastries and desserts—all on the custom drapery-accented stage.

A five-star performance, indeed.

Swedish metal: Even with its 11 p.m. curfew, there was no shortage of enthusiasm and unbridled mayhem at last Sunday’s Ace of Spades show. The capacity bill included All That Remains, Wovenwar and In Flames.

Unlike most Ace Of Spades national shows that feature a bevy of opening acts, this was a well-oiled package tour with three touring bands. Gothenburg, Sweden’s In Flames hit the stage right on time without any intro tape or additional fanfare.

Frontman Anders Fridén immediately got the crowd going berserk with the opening number, “Embody the Invisible,” from the band’s 1999 breakthrough record Colony. The group followed up with the title track from its following record Clayman, which had everyone headbanging in unison.

In Flames played straight through to the last number, “My Sweet Shadow,” sans an encore, yet even the most hardcore metal fans left with smiles on their faces.

—Eddie Jorgensen

’Tis the season: Sacramento’s festival culture richens this year with First Festival, a celebration of all things local, crafty and unique.

Three stages, 18 local bands, food trucks, artists, crafters and small businesses will all congregate at River Walk Park in West Sacramento on Saturday, May 23, from noon to 10 p.m. for the first, hopefully annual, start to the festival season. For free.

Organizers Danielle Vincent and Ashley Rastad are boutique owners in town—of Firefly and Moonrise Boutique, respectively—and First Festival was born out of their love of festival fashions. You know, floral headbands, glittery makeup, henna and the like. Why not create a music festival that helps you get ready for other music festivals? And instead of selling tickets, let all that money just go to vendors?

River Walk Park is long, narrow and grassy—great for blankets and picnics, and not to be confused with TBD Fest’s dusty riverfront location. Ten food trucks will come from SactoMoFo’s arsenal, including Krush Burger, Drewski’s Hot Rod Kitchen and Smokers Wild BBQ. Local breweries are expected to pour. The lineup, meanwhile, hits rock, metal, punk, blues, synth-pop and folk—definitely eclectic.

“Each stage will have a theme, so if you don’t like metal, you’ll know not to go to the metal stage,” Vincent says.

Known bands so far include A Mile Till Dawn, Julie and the Jukes, Slaves of Manhattan, the Westwards, Drop Dead Red, Humble Wolf, Whiskey & Stitches, Dream in Red, D.U.S.T., Merdog, Rebel Radio, Stationary, Thick Soup, Be Brave Bold Robot, Surviving the Era and Sydney Jones and Company. Three additional bands are expected to be announced within the next week or two, including the headliner and at least one hip-hop act. There might be fun additional performances too, like fire dancing.

May 23 falls on the calendar during the Memorial Day weekend, so yes, it does interfere with the four-day Sacramento Music Festival in Old Sacramento. Vincent says the overlap wasn’t intentional, but she also isn’t worried. After all, First Festival is a free event and Sacramento Music Festival’s early-bird passes cost $110. Learn more at

Sammies: If you somehow haven’t voted for your favorite artists in the 23rd annual Sacramento Area Music Awards yet, do it already! You have until Wednesday, March 11. Visit

—Janelle Bitker