Band wars

A yet-to-be-named bluegrass group sets up for its first public gig in front of The Cotton Club on J Street this Second Saturday night. When asked the group’s name, the quartet stares blankly at each other and says, “Um.” They haven’t gone so far as to name their band yet, but they’ve obviously spent hours practicing. Um (as they will now be called) perform fantastic harmonies and possess a strong ability to attract cougars, one of which has a grand time shaking her booty up on the lead singer midsong.

On any other night, this kind of activity would be reserved for Mix Downtown or Park Ultra Lounge. Somehow, Second Saturday makes a cougar shaking her hips to bluegrass acceptable.

It’s a great night to be a band in Sacramento. In fact, there probably isn’t a single band out of work for the official start of the summertime Second Saturday season. Scratchy white-guy vocals and familiar guitar riffs from overplayed classic rock ’n’ roll songs saturate the air. A mere block away, these sounds evaporate amid intensely pulsating deejay beats and the chatter of 20-somethings ready to get their drink on.

With less than a block of separation between most musicians, the evening plays out like a scratched CD of Now That’s What I Call Every Song Ever Made: classic rock skips to indie crooning, which skips to deejay beats and then to gypsy jazz.

Musical groups serenade typically quiet neighborhoods near McKinley Park. They transform grimy alleys into concert venues. They rock nearly every art gallery, food spot and street corner. So goes Second Saturday, like a spastic car passenger who changes the radio station every 30 seconds.

Within one block on L Street, between Crepeville and Yogurtagogo, there are three musical acts battling it out for supremacy. But the sound just melts into surreal and undecipherable sounds. True, there may be too many bands, but it’s still awesome to see so many musicians, art lovers and free-stuff moochers on the streets celebrating.

Everyone during Second Saturday is dancing—yes, everyone. People shake their hips from art gallery to gallery, and dancers in prom outfits show off head-banging meets punk-rock moves in storefront windows. A huge Brazilian Carnival-inspired gathering dominates the parking lot of McMartin Realty on K Street, between 20th and 21st streets. Guys in stilts dance—or what can be characterized as dancing for people in sparkly leotards balancing on 6-foot-tall sticks—middle-aged women in funny hats dance and a 5-year-old boy busts out sick break-dancing moves. The kid is already a pro, and his mom gives him cleansing wipes for his hands between sets.

This same parking lot also features an awesome arts-and-crafts gathering, with a variety of handmade and recycled crafts, including a booth of belts, bracelets and necklaces fashioned from old bicycle tires, chains and cables.

There are tons of makeshift art galleries—a.k.a. card tables with art leaned against them—along the thoroughfare of J Street. Yet, despite being the officially sanctioned Sacramento day of art, music reigns supreme. The genre-spanning tunes float through every crevice of Midtown and are almost hypnotic. Just ask the cougar shaking her hips to freaking bluegrass.