Music News & Reviews

Best concerts bets from now through October

Rock. Jam. Roots. Punk. Funk. Reggae. Country.

You can take your pick. Or choose them all.

Festival season is in full swing, and Northern California is loaded with an enviable array of musical gatherings, all within driving distance from Sacramento. Here’s a curated list of worthwhile concerts running now through October.

• High Sierra Music Festival – Today through Sunday, 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.

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

It looks like this year’s drought conditions have put the kabosh on the annual river trip that has become a cornerstone of this gem of a festival – but that hardly means it’s a wash. The familial campgrounds and vibrant collection of bluegrass, folk rock and roots music are drought proof, with Bastard Sons of Johnny Cash, Whitewater Ramble, the Bills and Greg Brown leading the pack.

Don’t Miss: The Parson Red Heads – A devotion to the roots of rock ’n’ roll with the umph of a modern sun-splashed indie rock act? No wonder they’re so chummy with the Mother Hips and their “California soul.”

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

Wowza. This year’s installment of this meaty metal-fest finds decades and sub-genres of sinewy hard rock slamming into each other about as hard as those in the mosh pits are sure to do. You’ve got your early-to-mid-’90s radio rockers (Weezer, the Offspring, Fuel) throwing elbows with the later decade rap-rock ruffians (Limp Bizkit) and mainstream metal acts (Rob Zombie, Godsmack), all co-mingling a “who’s who” of aughts hellraisers like Chevelle, Rise Against and Mastodon.

Don’t Miss: Bad Religion – As star-studded and tenured as many of the names on this bill are, most of them are still relative students of hard rock and punk. Bad Religion are the professors.

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

Sacramento-based reggae-roots-rockers Zuhg probably don’t strike you as one of these bands quite at “that level” to host their own multiday music festival. On the national, or event California-wide stage, they’re not. But the only scene that Zuhg really cares about for this concert is their own. That’s why this annual gathering represents a dream team locally-bred, like-minded talent, such as Massive Delicious, the Bennys, Island of Black & White, Ideateam, Saint Solitaire, Miss Maddy’s F Street Stompers and more.

Don’t Miss: Michael Tobias – The roots of his romping and howling blues are clearly from deep down in the sticky South; just don’t ask in what century they were planted, because it’s nearly impossible to tell.

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

No info yet on the always diverse lineup for Golden Gate Park’s “other” big music festival, but two things about Hardly Strictly are certain. One, heading into it’s third year without philanthropic organizer and banjo picker Warren Hellman (who passed away in 2011), it’s clear that the festival is stronger than ever ever even without him at the helm, and two, it is going to be crowded. It’s hard to track a free event that does not require tickets, but 2013 estimates were in the 750,000 range.

Don’t Miss: The festival. The crowds are insane, but if you haven’t been, it needs to be on your concert bucket list.

• TBD Festival – Oct. 3-5, Sacramento area

The festival formerly known as Launch has re-branded as TBD Fest, and is moving from downtown Sacramento’s Cesar Chavez Park to a $5.6 million riverside venue being built in West Sacramento called The Barn. Tickets for TBD went on sale in June, with organizers Michael Hargis and Clay Nutting releasing the names of several of the artists scheduled to perform, including Dillon Francis, Explosions in the Sky, War on Drugs, Goldroom, Yacht and Com Truise. Many headliners have yet to be announced but expectations are high, with the 2013 concert hosting Imagine Dragons.

Don’t Miss: The War on Drugs – Dynamic indie rock brimming with influences of Springsteen and Petty, stitched with shaded of the ’80s most refined popular rock.

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