Product placement

If you were one of the several thousand people who attended the KSFM 102.5 Cinco De Mayo 2005 concert on Sunday, May 1, chances are you might have felt cheated by the lack of actual live music. One look at the day’s posted schedule—which featured acts like Frankie J, Baby Bash and Angelina—revealed set lengths that would rival an extended Porta-Potty visit. Sure, we understand that radio-sponsored festivals often feature abbreviated set times, but 15 minutes borders on criminal.

Like other radio-station festivals that have preceded it, KSFM’s was set in Discovery Park and featured an oversized beer garden; Blimpie concessions; a shaved-ice vendor; pizza; barbecue fare; and, of course, a large area for kids, with inflatable houses, slides and even dueling games. Although the event was billed as a Cinco de Mayo bash to celebrate the holiday and the talent, a seemingly nonstop onslaught of emcee banter and shameless self-promotion made it hard to focus on the performers.

Likewise, there was no lack of vendor advertising to further distract attendees from the main stage. Sponsors like Ralphs supermarkets, Phillips 66-Conoco-76, Miller Brewing Co. and even the California Correctional Peace Officers’ Association (which at least gave away nice key chains) filled up literally every space imaginable with a bevy of contests, giveaways and promotional tchotchkes. And if that weren’t enough, you couldn’t walk 10 feet without being solicited by some local artist’s street team handing out yet another glossy, throwaway postcard. While the station did its best to emphasize the cultural significance of Cinco de Mayo by infusing spurts of traditional Latin music, it was during these times that folks would find solace by visiting the Jarritos booth for a soda sample and a chance to win free swag.

One of the most perplexing problems was the presence of Navy, Air Force and Army recruiters, whose appearance resembled that of vultures circling their prey. All their tables had near-perfect positioning to catch the occasional strollers who just wanted to cruise the vendor tables. Open-ended questions like “What have you done for your country?” came from the military-recruiting tents as people passed. Well, who doesn’t need a little forced American spirit to break up their day? At least the booths’ free tote bags could carry all the promotional crap attendees picked up at the 76 gas-station table.

Once considered a medium used to expose up-and-coming talent and even “break” new artists, it seems that radio-station events like this one have effectively shifted the attention to advertising. Had KSFM taken cues from KZZO’s A Day in the Zone festivals and devoted its attention to songs instead of advertisements, this might have been the perfect forum to introduce these new artists and even other local talent to Sacramento audiences. Instead, I have a new Ralphs Frisbee. You can’t say I didn’t get something for my money.