Not so festive: So there was a music festival at Southside Park last weekend. Judging from the crowds, you probably weren’t there.
Yeah, I get it. You celebrated Father’s Day elsewhere. Well, it’s a damn shame. There was too much Sacramento talent performing for too few people. Among the onlookers were musicians in other bands, their parents, press people and distant vendors who likely wished the two-day, 42-band marathon was free.
There were a few hundred patrons scattered between three stages and many booths, with depressingly fewer people and booths on Sunday. The rest, or those who did not pay the $35-per-day entry fee, listened curiously from outside the fenced-off park as they walked by.
Forgive the pun, because I mean it: I really hope the second First Festival isn’t the last. Talk about a great exhibit to Sacramento’s eclectic, worthwhile music scene. A small taste of the genres on display included reggae, metal, rap-rock, indie, country and medieval fable-folk.
Some day one standouts: Sun Valley Gun Club delivered a set of untamed, thrashy indie rock tethered by fine melodies and melancholic lyrics. Blue Oaks, a duo that performed on the modest craft beer lounge stage reserved for quieter acts, brought brooding blues to a small crowd gathered on stools and lawn chairs.
But Saturday headliner Epsilona made the night. Heck, both nights. Tame Impala, John Mayer and ’80s synth-pop sort of captures what they do. No courtesy applause was needed.
Day two was prime for solo performers sporting a shyer sound back at the craft beer lounge. Sean Fleming was among the most graceful, as well as Justin Farren, whose sound can best be described as acoustic story-time. Unfortunately, their soft tunes clashed with the loud muffle of the main-stage bands, but both the crowd and performers got used to the distraction.
Those few who paid for both days probably had a fun weekend out, even if most of these artists play at local dives for a small cover. But, to the woman walking up and down the sidewalk during a set, and most people apparently, $60-plus might be too much to ask to support local music.
Rap without borders: Despite winning a Sammie this year for best hip-hop/rap group, Sam Franchi considers the Good Samaritans to be a relatively unknown crew in Sacramento.
“We don’t have the connections everyone else has,” Franchi says. “Living up [in Placerville], it’s a lot harder. I have to come down here once or twice a week on my own time just to network for shows.”
It didn’t feel that way at last week’s Concerts in the Park, though. Staying true to their conscious hip-hop roots, the CIP first-timers also weaved in dashes of country, folk and Americana into their set, which largely consisted of tracks from their forthcoming EP Backwoods or Bust. Franchi and his brother Eric led the way on vocals, while Josh Harris and brothers Aaron and Eric Opdyke bridged the musical gap with bass, guitar and drums, respectively. And, of course, Zephyr Ahern was there, too, spinning his turntables and keeping the beat steady.
Despite sounding so traditionally hip-hop in their lyrics, the Good Samaritans pull off a down-home, folksy vibe musically. The result wasn’t necessarily a hoedown, per se. Let’s call it a mini-jamboree. Folks near the stage grooved and stomped, while those on the periphery couldn’t help but tap their feet either. When the group covered the Beastie Boys’ “Sabotage,” even more bodies hit the floor to thrash around.
With the addition of live musicians, Sam says the band is attracting listeners outside of hip-hop, which feels gratifying but also stings at the same time.
“We’re pretty much finding other people saying, ’Oh I don’t like rap, but I love you guys,’” he says. “Which is a weird statement, because I feel almost bad about it.”
Regardless, Sam says he’s happy to see their music appeal a wider base. The Good Samaritans host a release show for Backwoods or Bust in Placerville on July 23 and plan to hold one in Sacramento in August.