Appetite for the outdoor festival?
Sol Blume brings buzzing R&B artists to Cesar Chavez Plaza
Sacramento’s new boutique R&B, soul and hip-hop festival announced its sophomore year lineup on January 29, and it begs the question: Can Sacto become a major music festival city?
Last year’s Sol Blume festival at Cesar Chavez Plaza downtown boasted a lineup of R&B newcomers and top stars such as Jhené Aiko, The Internet and Goldlink, reportedly drawing 6,000 fans.
This year’s lineup seems to talk a bigger game. Grammy nominee Miguel, Jesse Reyez, Queen Najia and Maségo headline a 16-artist bill. Co-founders and executive producers Fornati Kumeh and Justin Nordan picked the lineup like a favorite playlist, says Nordan.
“We want to curate a really cool, small vibe,” Nordan says. “We want it to feel like the people who are there are lucky to be there, because they’re going to experience something most people don’t get to experience, which is a large artist … performing in a very intimate setting that’s outdoors.”
Tickets ($89-$199) went on sale January 30. The festival returns to the plaza Saturday, April 27.
Sacramento, traditionally a smaller music market, has noticeably drawn more and bigger out-of-town acts in recent months. Last October’s Monster Energy Aftershock, Sac’s annual hard rock and heavy metal festival, drew 60,000 to Discovery Park for a weekend that included performances by System of a Down, Deftones, Alice in Chains and Slash.
In December, Golden 1 Center broke its attendance record for a single concert when Metallica brought over 17,000 fans to the downtown arena, where Elton John and A$AP Rocky made recent tour stops and where Nicki Minaj, KISS and Iron Maiden are slated to perform later this year. The free summer Concerts in the Park series at Cesar Chavez Plaza, frequently sold-out shows at Ace of Spades and Alt 94.7’s successful City of Trees Festival prove that Sacramento is no longer a fly-over city for touring bands.
Where does Sol Blume 2019 fit in?
Last year, Nordan says, half of attendees came from outside Sacramento, many from Los Angeles and the Bay Area but also from 34 other states and 11 countries.
Still, he says the festival will grow cautiously. While most fan feedback last year appeared positive, some complained that food, drink and restroom lines were too long. This year, Nordan says, there will be more staff and food and drink options.
“Basically, we’re just trying to do right by the people who gave us feedback, by also improving some of the things we did well to make an even more genuine experience,” Nordan says.
He hopes the same will happen for Sacramento music. For example, there are currently only a few ideal spots to host an outdoor music festival in downtown, including Cesar Chavez Plaza. No Coachellas yet, please.
“To come in and feel like … people in San Francisco are 110 percent willing to drive up here just for music could be a little bit jumping the gun,” he says.
Instead, Nordan says people in major arts cities such as Austin have told him that “Sacramento reminds them of what Austin or Seattle or Portland was 10 years ago.”
Sol Blume-style growth, perhaps.
“This city craves new things that are fun and exciting, and I think that we’re able to bring that,” Nordan says. “Having a lot of the attendees come from out of town, a lot of them aren’t familiar with Sacramento. They don’t know where to eat or hang out, and if we can bring a little taste of that, show them what our city’s all about, we’re doing good by our city.”