Like a conquering army equipped with black T-shirts and vape pens, the heavy metal masses descended on Discovery Park. By noon Saturday, more than half the sold-out crowd for Monster Energy Aftershock had arrived for a full afternoon and evening of headbanging, courtesy of such hard rock heavyweights as Tool, Slayer and Anthrax.
The fifth annual music festival drew 23,000 for the first day of Aftershock, and concludes Sunday with another sold-out crowd. With a combined two-day attendance of 46,000, Aftershock ranks as Sacramento’s largest annual music gathering, which, according to festival organizers, draws more than half its ticket sales from outside California.
Beyond the chunky guitar riffs and mosh pits that swirled on Saturday, all the heavy metal means money in the bank for Sacramento. According to the Sacramento Convention and Visitors Bureau, the festival generates more than $5 million of local economic impact. More than 5,600 hotel rooms were booked by festivalgoers in advance of Aftershock.
“When (Aftershock) compares to a general convention, from a hotel room standpoint, it surpasses most of the major conventions,” said Mike Testa, chief operating officer for the Sacramento Convention and Visitors Bureau. “To be able to have something of this size, especially on a weekend, is particularly valuable.”
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Aftershock moved back to Discovery Park following a 2015 edition of the festival at Gibson Ranch in Elverta. Traffic jams and parking issues at Gibson Ranch prompted the return to Discovery Park, where the festival was initially held from 2012 to 2014. This weekend’s version of Aftershock was slightly smaller than Gibson Ranch, which held a maximum capacity of 25,000 daily.
Aftershock organizers took a new approach for concert parking this year at Discovery Park. The bulk of festival attendees on Saturday parked a few miles north of the festival site at Sleep Train Arena and were shuttled to Aftershock via yellow school buses, which were leased from the Elk Grove Unified School District. About 1,600 premium parking spots were offered near the site.
Even with much of the parking off-site, freeway entrances leading into Discovery Park were fairly clogged Saturday afternoon, but the flow was still a much better experience than the choked traffic at Gibson Ranch. According to Danny Hayes, chief executive officer of Aftershock producer Danny Wimmer Presents, local law enforcement reported few significant traffic issues early Saturday afternoon.
“That’s a good sign because our audience tends to show up early,” Hayes said. “We can have up to 50 percent of the crowd here when the doors open. But will there be a late surge? We’re really trying the best we can.”
As bands like Deafheaven and Meshuggah rumbled in Discovery Park, the Aftershock grounds turned into a heavy metal kind of marketplace with food, band T-shirts and even a spot that offered miniature golf with hard rock tunes playing in the background.
Lines grew long, especially for bathrooms, as Saturday unfolded, but the overall mood remained festive. Dealing with relatively manageable traffic seemed to help the vibe from the start.
“Getting in was pretty easy,” said Joaquin Reyes, who traveled to Aftershock from the San Jose area. “We parked in a residential neighborhood and walked over. So far it’s been good. Anthrax was awesome.”
Aftershock organizers are ultimately hoping to grow the festival to a three-day event that draws 30,000 daily. Aftershock ranks as a midsize festival for Danny Wimmer Presents, which produces large-scale rock festivals around the country. Its largest event is Rock on the Range in Columbus, Ohio, a three-day festival with 40,000 daily attendance.
“Aftershock is turning out to be a major festival,” Hayes said. “We’re getting world-class artists to play here, and this festival could find its place on the map.”