Music News & Reviews

Opening acts worth early arrival at Sacramento’s Concerts in the Park

The names in bright lights for Concerts in the Park – or the bold pink-and-aqua lettering on this year’s poster – are bands that most Sacramento music fans know and adore, either for longevity or for an “it” factor.

Arden Park Roots, 7 Seconds, Dance Gavin Dance, the Brodys and James Cavern (fresh off a moment in the sun on NBC’s “The Voice”) return as headliners to the free concert series, which kicks off Friday with ZuhG as the top-billed act.

Andy Allo, who might be Sacramento’s most famous musical face at the moment, and electro-rock standouts !!! (pronounced “Chk Chk Chk”) are also part of that boldface crew.

But what about those names in smaller print? They also represent some of our city’s most-promising talent – even if you’re less familiar with them. They’re the industrious under-cards who make each week’s CIP installment a four-hour extravaganza, putting their all into performances while much of the crowd is still grabbing beers and tater tots.

“I’ve seen bands that have been around less than a year working harder than bands that have been around forever,” said CIP organizer Jake Desrochers. “There’s no shoo-ins or ‘bro’ favoritism (with the booking). We do our best to reward the hardest-working up-and-coming bands with a Concert in the Park gig. We are looking to find and help ... the next Deftones, Cake or Papa Roach, as well as give it up for our local bands that have achieved national and international success.”

One such veteran local, Autumn Sky, will take the CIP stage as a “non-headliner” for the fourth time this year (but for the first time with a full band), opening for the Nibblers on May 9. Other than the summer sun riding a little higher, Sky doesn’t sweat those earlier time slots.

“Set time doesn’t define whether music is good or worth people’s time,” she said. “Good music is good music and the crowd will be there no matter what if they like it. In Sacramento, I sort of know everyone, at least to some extent, so in my case playing Concerts in the Park is more about the honor to be chosen because it has a long history as a loved tradition.”

Another fixture at CIP is the DJ stage, which, now in its fourth year, has been renamed the “electronic music stage,” employing a different artist each week to keep music spinning during set changes on the main stage. Desrochers and the CIP team have upgraded the sound system and the stage itself to “provide a higher profile performance.”

“All we’re trying to do is showcase just how (cool) this big, little City of Trees really is,” Desrochers said.

Here are a few non-headlining acts you don’t want to miss at the 23rd season of Concerts in the Park, running 5-9 p.m. Fridays through July 25 (with the exception of July 4).

• Ideateam (funk/instrumental) – Friday, ZuhG headlining

While ZuhG and the Nibblers are generally the attention grabbers when it comes to funk and jam collectives in Sacramento, don’t be surprised to see Ideateam sneak into that same company as the burgeoning group progresses, mainly because there aren’t many groups in town doing what they’re doing. Their largely instrumental, jazz-charged gallops of groove are cut from the same cloth as juggernauts like Lettuce, Soulive and Galactic – and just a little bit of Booker T.

• Some Fear None (hard rock) – May 16, Burn Halo headlining

“Grunge” is truly a tough term to really nail down in terms of a specific style of rock. But however you define it, there are certain elements from the “big three” of grunge (Pearl Jam, Nirvana, Soundgarden) that can be found in the fast-rising local rock act Some Fear None, as well as a bit of that “other” grunge band, Alice in Chains. Meaty, rhythmic riffs and power-charged vocals are the calling cards of this polished quartet that has the feel of a band ready for the big time.

• Phil and the Blanx (reggae/rock) – May 23, the Snobs headlining

Yes, it’s true: The man on drums for jammers Phil & the Blanx is indeed Floyd “Bud” Gaugh of the legendary Sublime and the Long Beach Dub Allstars. Also featuring Zach “Zippy” Gooden (also of the Snobs) and Marc “The Dirty German” Kallweit (both of longtime local rock outfit Sexrat), the group splices hooks of Gaugh’s familiar forays of dub reggae into an onslaught of power rock hooks and enticing grooves tailor-made for summertime (and the livin’ is easy).

• City of Vain (punk/rock) – June 6, Dance Gavin Dance headlining

In a bid to become what Dropkick Murphys is to the Boston Red Sox, blood-racing local punk rockers City of Vain penned the singalong “Song of the Republic” as an unofficial anthem for the city’s new pro footy team. The song name-drops Poverty Ridge and Roosevelt Park, and belts out “let’s go Sacramento” several times in the chorus. That should get ’er done for CIP’s festive beer-swilling crowd – and the show arrives just before the first match at Cal Expo’s new Bonney Field.

• Keri Carr Band (country) – June 27, Chris Gardner Band headlining

It’s country night at CIP; no way that goes down without the inclusion of adored local songstress Keri Carr, who spent much of the aughts fronting aptly named honky-tonk outfit Rowdy Kate. Carr has that dirt-kicking, classic, outlaw-country edge to her, rambling through dusty ballads in the vein of Emmylou Harris and Gram Parsons. Don’t be surprised if those cowgirl boots come with stiletto heels; that’s the stage attitude she sports.

• Blaquelisted (hip hop/funk) – July 11, Arden Park Roots headlining

Not a ton of hip-hop to be found at this year’s CIP, but there’s a heap of it being spun out by Blaquelisted, who lean as much toward the throaty, hammer-swinging spitfire of Rage Against the Machine as they do straight-forward urban rap, a la Jay-Z. And like all funk/rock/hip-hop/reggae hybrids such as this, it quickly becomes clear they were taking more than a few cues from Fishbone.

• Saint Solitaire (electronic dance rock) – July 18, !!! headlining

Andrew Barnhart has been known to lend his talents to several local acts over the years, but the tingling electro-rock project Saint Solitaire – born out of a a series of solo acoustic shows – is 100 percent his. With Saint Solitaire, Barnhart crafts layers of curiously catchy dance beats and synthetic hooks, weaving them into his stripped-down original tunes. The results are whimsically intriguing, and they make it impossible to keep still.

• Jeremy Briggs (pop rock) – July 25, the Brodys headlining

Oh yeah, about that “other guy” from Sacramento to hit “The Voice” this year; the man whose biography dutifully reads “pipes like Axl, riffs like the Allmans.” The longtime frontman of Southern-fried local rock act Relic 45 also got his few minutes of small-screen spotlight on this season’s installment of the NBC music competition, and it appears to have lit the fuse on his blistering solo work – hefty radio-ready rock ’n’ roll loaded with deceptively dingy hooks.