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  • Jay Blakesberg

    Jackie Greene, here in a 2012 photo, will perform May 25 during the Santa Cruz Blues Festival.

  • Wade Payne / The Associated Press

    Tom Petty, here in 2013, will play at the Outside Lands festival in August.

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  • Late summer/fall concerts

    Many of these lineups have yet to be announced or finalized, but keep your calendars marked:

    American River Music Festival – Sept. 12-14, Coloma-Lotus Valley, Coloma

    Aftershock – Sept. 13-14, Discovery Park, Sacramento

    Zuhgfest – Sept. 26-28, Yuba River, Downieville

    Hardly Strictly Bluegrass – Oct. 3-5, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco

    Launch Festival – Oct. 3-5, Sacramento area

    Hangtown Halloween Ball – Oct. 23-26, El Dorado Fairgrounds, Placerville

Bottle Rock, Launch noteworthy in the 2014 summer-festival season

Published: Thursday, May. 15, 2014 - 12:00 am

Some will require loading the car with camping gear. Others will have you home before the end of “Saturday Night Live.” For certain ones, you’ll need glow sticks. For others, tie dye remains de rigueur.

But whatever you do, don’t forget the sunscreen.

Festival season is quickly approaching, and Northern California is loaded with an enviable array of musical gatherings. For the greater Sacramento area, two events seem especially noteworthy this year: May’s back-from-the-brink BottleRock and October’s ever-expanding Launch Festival.

“This was too big of an opportunity for the community to lose,” said David Graham, an organizer for the sophomore installment of BottleRock, which descends on Napa Valley May 30-June 1.

BottleRock’s first-year drama has been well documented: The inaugural festival came off the blocks with an ambitious five-day, 60-band lineup that included Kings of Leon, the Black Keys and the Shins. Next thing you know, vendors aren’t being paid and the company behind the festival is filing for bankruptcy, citing $8 million in losses.

Enter Graham and Latitude 38 Entertainment, which bought the festival rights in January and embarked upon the herculean task of making it happen in less than six months.

“One of the benefits of inheriting a festival after its first year is you can take what worked and exclude what didn’t – we’re definitely using that blueprint,” said Graham, who promises an enhanced VIP area and better foot and auto access to the festival.

Despite the tight time frame, BottleRock 2.0 has secured notable (if nostalgic) headliners, with the Cure, Outkast and Weezer set to perform at the now three-day festival. Graham and his team have also added a new “Emerging Artists” platform featuring Northern California talent, which includes Sacramento artists Autumn Sky as well as the Bell Boys.

Sacramento’s Launch Festival, with its music, art, fashion and design programming, is also innovating, going from two to three days. It’s slated for Oct. 3-5.

Its musical lineup and location details are not yet available, but organizer Michael Hargis described the potential list as “ridiculous” (and he means that in a good way). Last year’s event featured big-name acts such as Imagine Dragons, Minus the Bear and Rocket from the Crypt. Hargis indicated that changes could be on the horizon, with an official announcement planned for June.

While you’re waiting to hear what’s on tap with Launch, here’s a breakdown of some summer festivals in Northern California.


•  Sacramento Music Festival – May 23-26, Old Sacramento and downtown

Formerly the Dixieland Jazz Jubilee, this local staple has taken on a new identity by bringing other genres into the mix while staying true to its trademark jazz and blues. Headliners include Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue, Lee Rocker (of Stray Cats fame) and Mat Kearney.

Don’t miss: Collective Soul. It’s their 20th-anniversary tour – yes, it really has been that long since “Shine” came out.

•  Santa Cruz Blues Festival – May 24-25, Aptos Village Park, Aptos

This Memorial Day weekend tradition always boasts a small but sturdy two-day lineup, with the legendary Gregg Allman at the top of the bill. He’s joined by Central Valley heroes Jackie Greene and Chris Isaak as well as Tab Benoit.

Don’t miss: Vintage Trouble, a notoriously rowdy act with the blues soul of Buddy Guy and the rock ’n’ roll stage swagger of Mick Jagger.

• BottleRock – May 30-June 1, Napa Valley Expo, Napa

Much has been made about the decidedly ’90s-flavored lineup, with the inclusion of Third Eye Blind, the Spin Doctors, LL Cool J, Blues Traveler, Barenaked Ladies, Cracker, Camper Van Beethoven and others. But then again, Eric Church, one of the biggest names in country, is also on the docket.

Don’t miss: No Age. Skate punk meets noise band with this soundscape-pushing duo.


• Huichica Music Festival – June 13-14, Gundlach Bundschu Winery, Sonoma

Concerts at wineries tend to be synonymous with the “been there, done thats” of the circuit (we’re talking to you, Doobie Brothers). Put on by Eric D. Johnson of the Fruit Bats, Huichica (pronounced “we chica”) has made a name for itself by booking up-and-coming indie rock acts with almost cultish followings. This year includes David Longstreth of the Dirty Projectors, Bay Area indie royalty Vetiver, the Blank Tapes and more.

Don’t miss: Houndstooth, a jangly rock act from Portland, Ore., with the gritty swagger of Gillian Welch and wisps of Mazzy Star.

•  Father’s Day Bluegrass Festival – June 12-15, Nevada County Fairgrounds, Grass Valley

Put on by the California Bluegrass Association and anchored by the seminal Peter Rowan Bluegrass Band, this foothills hootenanny has quietly racked up nearly 40 years of history.

Don’t miss: The Deadly Gentlemen. Young bucks by bluegrass standards, they romp through tangy and traditional bluegrass ditties with veteran poise and reckless abandon.

•  Reggae in the Hills – June 13-15, Calaveras County Fairgrounds, Angels Camp

The always-festive Calaveras Fairgrounds hosts headliners Junior Reid and the One Blood Family, Tribal Seeds and Collie Buddz, along with some homegrown Sacramento talent in Massive Delicious and Arden Park Roots.

Don’t miss: Natty Vibes. Technically that name is “Natural Vibrations,” but their Hawaiian reggae swagger has a certain “natty” quality to it.

•  Davis Music Festival – June 21, downtown Davis

Kicking off in 2011, this festival looked poised for growth, but DMF has kept itself in check. It boasts a jam-packed lineup but avoids getting too top-heavy with big-name headliners, letting local talent take center stage. Tahoe-based country rockers Dead Winter Carpenters, John Vanderslice, French Cassettes and popular Sacto outfit Element Brass Band lead the pack.

Don’t miss: Two Sheds. Before uprooting to L.A., this band was a darling of Sac’s Americana/alt-country renaissance, led by Caitlin Gutenberger and hubby Jon (of Far and Jackpot).

•  Kate Wolf Festival – June 27-29, Black Oak Ranch, Laytonville

What started as a tiny gathering in tribute to late folk hero Kate Wolf has blossomed into a three-day affair in the North Bay, with camping, late-night sets and another legendary folk songstress in Joan Baez headlining. She’s joined by Rodney Crowell, the Indigo Girls, Los Lobos and the Internet sensation Playing for Change Band.

Don’t miss: Paper Bird. Magnanimous folk, junky blues and soaring soul earmark this endearing Colorado collective.


•  High Sierra Music Festival – July 3-6, Plumas County Fairgrounds, Quincy

Known for its famous sunrise kickball game and epic late-night shows, this gem of a festival caps admission at 10,000 attendees. Most get their tickets weeks before the announcement of the lineup, which this year features Widespread Panic, STS9, Punch Brothers, the Chris Robinson Brotherhood and others.

Don’t miss: Lord Huron. This frenetic folk rock act picks up where Fleet Foxes left off and takes the sound for a sunny trail ride.


• Guitarfish Music Festival – Aug. 1-3, Cisco Grove Campground, Cisco Grove

Another upstart finding strong footing in the region, funk-and-jam-heavy Guitarfish festival boasts the Pimps of Joytime, the Everyone Orchestra, California Honeydrops, locals Joy & Madness and more.

Don’t miss: Guitarmageddon. A festival-hopping super group of area ax-men will focus their considerable chops on “funk guitar.”

•  Petaluma Music Festival – Aug. 2, Sonoma-Marin Fairgrounds, Petaluma

A tidy one-day affair, this event has yet to be widely discovered. New Orleans funk jazz rock masters Galactic, NorCal staples Mother Hips and Sister Sparrow & the Dirty Birds top it.

Don’t miss: Brokedown in Bakersfield. Americana songstress Nicki Bluhm fronts this collective, romping through covers of vintage country classics (Merle, Patsy, Buck, etc.).

•  Outside Lands – Aug. 8-10, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco

Northern California’s most popular summer-music happening is sold out, so you’d better hit the online brokers if you want to catch Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Kanye West and the Killers.

Don’t miss: Tycho. Check out the celestial electronica of Scott Hansen, a Sacramento native known for his visually dynamic live shows.

•  First City Festival – Aug. 23-24, Monterey County Fairgrounds, Monterey

This one snuck up on us, and she’s a beaut in only her second year, giving Outside Lands a run for the money with Beck, the National, Phantogram, the Naked & Famous, Best Coast, Lake Street Dive, Dawes, Unknown Mortal Orchestra.

Don’t miss: Midlake. This wispy Texas act drops the tempo on blues-tinged indie rock with an ethereal edge.

Read more articles by Aaron Davis

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