Music News & Reviews

First Festival celebrates all things local to Sacramento

Danielle Vincent, left, and Ashley Rastad are co-founders of the First Festival, set for Saturday in West Sacramento.
Danielle Vincent, left, and Ashley Rastad are co-founders of the First Festival, set for Saturday in West Sacramento. www.firstfestivalsacramento.com

Sacramentans tend to swoon over all things local, especially when it comes to food and drink. That provincialism, however, doesn’t usually apply to outdoor music festivals. Sure, the Sacramento Music Festival, which runs Friday through Monday, has some homegrown acts peppered into its mix of jazz, rock and beyond. But even the free Friday night Concerts in the Park at Cesar Chavez Plaza includes such out-of-town headliners as Soft White Sixties and Mr. T Experience.

To indulge those ears in all-things local, where even being from the Bay Area won’t get you booked, better head to First Festival. The inaugural celebration of all things local – including music, food and vendors – will be Saturday at River Walk Park in West Sacramento.

First Festival also marks the debut of Danielle Vincent and Ashley Rastad as concert organizers. The two are small-business owners: Vincent runs Firefly boutique in midtown, and Rastad owns Moonrise Boutique. They are curating First Festival with all the earnestness of a cold-pressed organic juice bar, in the spirit of nurturing all the homegrown music flavor that deserves a wider audience.

“I learned the importance of supporting community,” said Vincent. “My business is about as small as it gets. I did it with nothing and built it from the ground up. If I didn’t have that core group of people who didn’t believe in supporting Sacramento-based business, I don’t know if I would’ve lasted these last three years.”

18Bands booked for First Festival

The two have learned quickly that throwing an all-day music festival takes entrepreneurship to a whole other level – and carries an exceptional amount of risk. Music festivals require managing a lot of moving parts: securing permits, booking bands, lining up vendors, marketing, making sure everything runs smoothly on show day, and much more.

They were also expecting more local support and sponsorships to underwrite the event, which Vincent and Rastad started planning in January. First Festival was originally touted as a free concert, but now there’s a charge of $15 in advance or $20 at the door.

“It’s been extremely challenging,” Vincent said about trying to rally local sponsorship support. “I couldn’t get anywhere. They were just absolutely ignoring it. Emails weren’t getting returned, all kinds of things. It really comes down to it being the first year of the festival. If you don’t have the numbers and reputation to back it up, they won’t waste their time, which makes sense to me. My feelings stopped being hurt after the second month.”

Vincent says the festival needs to sell about 1,000 tickets to at least break even. She feels confident enough to predict that the attendance could blossom to more than 3,000 festivalgoers.

“I know it sounds crazy to say,” said Vincent. “But it’s gotten so big and gone so far in the community that I hear people next to me talking about it, and it’s weird.”

The immediate vicinity around the First Festival’s grounds at River Walk Park will certainly be flush with music. Saturday also doubles as Day 2 for the Sacramento Music Festival, formerly known as the Sacramento Jazz Festival and Jubilee, which has branched out in recent years to include rock, country, ’90s nostalgia and other musical acts.

But the First Festival isn’t geared as your mom’s or dad’s kind of music festival. The demographic sweet spot runs from about 18 years old to early 30s, but folks in their early 40s who haven’t given up on modern music and crave local sounds can fit in as well.

“The idea of focusing your energy on local music is a younger generational thing,” said Vincent. “We’d arbitrarily picked this weekend and then realized it was the same weekend as the Sacramento Music Festival. That makes me feel like I’m not in their true demographic, or else I would’ve known. This is about people who are more interested in an underground music scene.”

The 18 bands booked for the festival represent a spectrum of Sacramento-area sounds. Drop Dead Red, led by the powerhouse vocals of Carly Duhain, have all the gritty blues guitars and swaggering rhythms that they could be the resident band in a re-make of the movie “Road House.” A Mile Till Dawn crunches away with thick guitar riffs and thumping bass from Gabriel Cheng, son of the late-great Deftones bassist Chi Cheng. Sydney Jones and Company specialize in mellow and intimate singer-songwriter stylings.

“I’m really excited about D.U.S.T.,” said Vincent. “They’re my favorite local band right now. Their sound is so clean and the lyrics are good. On the softer side, Be Brave Bold Robot has really poetic lyrics, and they can be funny as well. We’ll also have some rock and punk, but it’s not thrash, just upbeat.”

First Festival also showcases 11 local food trucks and 40 vendors. The festival’s name is built on the idea of ushering in the outdoor music season, and stocking up on the gear and goods to keep you rocking fashionably through the summer.

“It’s about getting in the mindset of a festival atmosphere,” said Vincent. “It’s the first festival to go to and get your jewelry, your clothing, your outfits. It’s going to be a casual vibe where people will feel comfortable enough to just sit on the grass and eat lunch. There’s full, plush grass, so people can wear sandals. And everything they see there is going to be Sacramento-based.”

If Saturday is successful enough to support a second edition of First Festival, Vincent intends to always keep the all-day concert locally focused but may stretch the boundaries of bands to Davis and Yuba City. Even farther down the line, Vincent envisions taking the First Festival concept to other cities to showcase their own homegrown bands and vendors.

But for right now, the focus is all on Sacramento.

“This is my biggest venture yet,” said Vincent. “It’s this idea that you really have to put your action where your heart is. You can run around saying ‘support local,’ but if you’re not willing to back up with some hard work, then there’s no point in screaming that.”

FIRST FESTIVAL

An all-day concert featuring 18 Sacramento bands, 40 vendors and 11 food trucks

  • WHEN: Noon to 10 p.m. Saturday
  • WHERE: River Walk Park, 651 Second St., West Sacramento
  • WITH: Drop Dead Red, Humble Wolf, D.U.S.T, A Mile Till Dawn, Be Brave Bold Robot, The Cutbacks, and many more.
  • COST: $15 advance, $20 at gate
  • INFORMATION: www.firstfestivalsacramento.com
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