The music is waiting

From a veteran Sac music writer: The city’s scene is at an all time high. Help keep it that way.

Lady Gaga

Lady Gaga

Chris Macias is a former Sacramento Bee reporter who’s covered the region’s music scene for two decades.

On a recent Saturday night, among an industrial stretch of South Sacramento, the chunka-chunka sounds of metal careened from a tucked away warehouse. The thrash favorites Municipal Waste had booked this Sacramento gig on just a week’s notice, the kind of hasty timeline that usually causes anxious palpitations for promoters.

Once inside, stage divers sailed over the nearly sold-out room, sometimes crashing on the cement below, while mosh pits swirled around the room. This Sacramento crowd had stepped up in a big way on short notice, with a thirst for live music that ended with some bloody noses and bruised limbs.

The wild ebb and flow of the night was like a mirror of Sacramento’s own music scene. Sometimes there’s so much energy it can barely be contained. Other times, especially as venues shut down or the same ol’ bands get played out, the whole thing goes splat on the floor.

But right now, these are the good times for Sacramento music, especially in terms of talent.

Our homeboy Hobo Johnson is a viral hit with more than 7.6 million views of “Peach Scone,” his lovingly low-budget video submission to NPR’s 2018 Tiny Desk Contest. Meanwhile, the precocious punkers Destroy Boys were namechecked in Rolling Stone magazine and reached headlining status at Berkeley’s legendary 924 Gilman Street.

And of course, there’s Mozzy, who rose from the mean streets of Oak Park to the blockbuster Black Panther soundtrack and the Grammy Awards podium via a shout-out from Kendrick Lamar.

Some grumpy Gen-Xers still moan about the downfall of the Cattle Club and reminisce about the 1990s as if that’s the only time that mattered in Sacramento music. Here’s an idea: Get off the couch and go to a gig. It’s certainly not hard to find one in 2018.

All-ages crowds—the lifeblood of any music scene—have options that rival even the flannel flying days of the 1990s. The recently opened Holy Diver has hosted a string of packed shows with artists ranging from glam-rock stalwarts L.A. Guns to hip-hop icon KRS-ONE. The under-21 crowd can also depend on Café Colonial and The Colony on Stockton Boulevard for regular shows on the indie, punk and metal tip. The Boardwalk in Orangevale remains a dependable spot for the too-young-to-drink crowd in the ’burbs, while back downtown, Ace of Spades is going into its seventh year as an epicenter for all-ages shows.

Music is resonating all across the local spectrum, from Sacramento’s nooks and crannies to its largest civic projects. The Sacramento area still knows how to keep it indier-than-thou, whether it’s house shows in Davis at The Morgue and Turtle House, or bands bands like Drug Apts and Modern Man melting faces at Midtown’s true-to-janky Red Museum.

At the same time, the parade of A-list talent coming through Sacramento has never been this concentrated. In just a four month span of 2017, downtown’s Golden 1 Center hosted almost twice as many shows compared to its busiest summer from the Arco Arena/Sleep Train/Power Balance Pavilion days. Now, it’s just about a given that megastars like Jay-Z, Metallica and Lady Gaga will put Sacramento on its tour routing instead of treating the city like a cowtown afterthought.

But, we need to be careful through all this rah-rah. It’s no secret that Café Colonial and The Colony have faced hard financial times and risked shutting down. Sacramento’s jazz scene also tends to sputter with crowd and venue support, even with a community of excellent musicians.

So, let’s not take this moment in Sacramento music for granted. Musicians and venues can’t survive by good intentions alone. They need your support—and without it, the scene risks another flailing slam to the floor. Whether it’s molten thrash metal in a steely South Sac warehouse, or a crowd cozied-up to improv jazz at Luna’s Cafe, the music is waiting for you.