No more Suckramento

There was a short period during the 1990s when our great city deserved the moniker “Suckramento”—the only town where White Zombie could fill Arco Arena, and you could still find tickets available to Paul McCartney on the day of the show. But, over the last couple of months, unless you were busy playing with your TiVo, recording Fear Factor reruns, you may have noticed that more than a handful of national acts have graced our stages.

Yes, Sacramento has been on many tour schedules as of late, rather than being a mere pit stop on the way to a larger Mecca, such as San Francisco or Reno. Once considered a “tertiary” market by major labels, known mostly for its ties to Tower Records’ corporate headquarters and for being home to our beloved governor’s office, the capital city has slowly made a name for itself.

On that note, 2005 has been an interesting time for local promoter Brian McKenna. Although it seemed like his independent company, Abstract Presents (at, had been downshifting and moving away from the spotlight, his current lineup has proven just the opposite. Like any sport or extracurricular activity, music is seasonal—and then some—and it’s just starting to get good.

While attendance varies from artist to artist, one thing is clear: People are coming out to live music again. Filling a venue like the 900-capacity Empire is a much more daunting task than one would presuppose, but the various capacities of venues like the Blue Lamp Lounge, UC Davis’ Freeborn Hall, the Crest Theatre and Old Ironsides offer a little something for touring troupes of any size.

From Queens of the Stone Age to Social Distortion, from the Aquabats to Benevento/Russo Duo, we’ve been (and will be) getting treated to a bevy of varied music without having to endure the long, arduous trip to San Francisco.

Perhaps if you’ve seen promoters like McKenna pacing a venue before a show, you might be able to realize the added pressure of promoting as opposed to merely attending. Twenty-five bucks for a Digable Planets show or even 10 bucks for the Ditty Bops is a small price to pay when you consider that the promoter usually is paying upward of 50 times that amount to secure the act.

Artists get paid a fee for services rendered, which is, for the most part, negotiated through a second party—usually a talent agency with multiple artists—by local promoters like Abstract. Nearly all touring acts require some kind of compensation; usually half of their guarantee is due up front, between 30 and 60 days before the scheduled performance.

For some ungodly reason, cover charges and ticket prices scare the common folks. Considering that the average person rationalizes spending almost double the amount of a given cover charge on various libations, this fact still is most perplexing.

Perhaps the changes in season are to blame for Sacramento’s obvious change in status. Perhaps it’s a shift in the economy. Whatever the reason, we’re finally coming into our own, and attendance is up.