Local benefit bombs—hard

By the morning of the festival,

Luxt, bumming in the van. “Dude—I thought you promised this was going to be like Lolla

Luxt, bumming in the van. “Dude—I thought you promised this was going to be like Lolla

it was already clear that trouble was brewing. One might expect that a long day of live music held in Cesar E. Chavez Plaza might start slowly. After all, the festival began at 11 a.m.—a bit early for live-music fans still recovering from Friday night’s shows. One might bet on a hundred people or so at the festival’s opening, a slightly groggy group of music fans gearing up for an afternoon that would include Lowboy, Kentucky Skinner, U-DUB, Slow Lorries, Steady Ups, Shortie, G.L.U.G., LUXT, Freakza Nature and Filibuster.

But, when the gates opened on Saturday morning, there was virtually no audience whatsoever: a few mothers attempting to wrangle their damp children away from the fountain; a dozen roving security guards; a couple of band roadies. As the afternoon wore on, it never got much better.

Saturday’s festival at the park was meant to be a benefit for C.A.R.E.S. (the Center for AIDS Research, Education and Services). It was meant to bring several thousand people into the Park. It was meant to bring community awareness to C.A.R.E.S. and to the event’s organizer, The Underzone.

What the festival accomplished, however, was much short of those lofty goals: a huge loss of money, a significant amount of egg on the face of The Underzone, and little in the way of community awareness for C.A.R.E.S.

The reasons for the lack of attendance were various. The show seemed significantly under-promoted. At $15, ticket prices were perhaps too high, particularly for a show being held in a traditionally free outside venue. The bands in the lineup are capable of drawing audiences in Sacramento, but then again, fans could wait a couple of weeks to see the bands play locally for far less money (LUXT, for example, plays September 20 at the Distillery for $6). Then there’s the ongoing problem of relatively apathetic audiences. Fans are willing to pay $6 to see a band they like, but are less likely to pay more for that band plus bands they might not like.

In the end, though, it seems that The Underzone aimed a bit high in its expectations of Sacramento audiences. Perhaps it should have been in the audience of the poorly attended Unlimited Sunshine Tour a month ago when Cake, Flaming Lips, De La Soul, Modest Mouse and Kinky played to a half-empty Memorial Auditorium. Perhaps that event would have made The Underzone think twice when ticket presales fell far below the mark. The Sacramento music scene is building steam—new bands and new venues are popping up all the time—but we’re clearly not a city willing to pay $15 to hear local bands play on a Saturday afternoon.

Jazz fans will be happy to find the first membership drive of the newly organized Northern California Modern Jazz Association to be held on September 15 at the Radisson Hotel, 500 Leisure Lane in Sacramento. The event will be held from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on two stages, featuring the Vivian Lee Quintet (with special guest Joe Gilman), Steve Gundhi’s New Dimensions, the Mat Marucci Quartet, the Habanera Quartet, Ron Cunha’s All-Star Big Band and Kron, Malone & Defazio. For more information, try www.norcaljazz.org or call the association’s president, Glenn Hair, at (916) 801-8569.