Music News & Reviews

TBD Fest signals a new and evolving Sacramento

One of the most innovative music festivals in Sacramento’s recent history comes on the heels of one of the biggest music festivals in Sacramento’s recent history.

September’s Aftershock Festival in Discovery Park, a slam-fest of hard rock and metal, drew around 19,000 fans each day of its two-day run, serving up ’90s nostalgia from big-name headliners such as the Offspring, Rob Zombie and Limp Bizkit.

Similarly, the headliners of the TBD Fest (Oct. 3-5) in West Sacramento are massive – at least in certain circles. Techno titans Moby and Justice and new-wave pioneer Blondie lead the pack. But TBD (formerly known as Launch) is also brimming with breakout and on-the-horizon acts from electronic dance music, indie pop, retro rock, soul and hip-hop.

For many, TBD signals something new and evolving about Sacramento. Much of that is due to the partnership of festival organizers Michael Hargis and Clay Nutting (see article on page 6) and their vision for a musical event that employs architecture and design in cutting-edge ways (see article on page 7). Some festival highlights:


Dillon Francis


A skyrocket in the world of EDM, Dillon Francis loves “(ticking) off your mom and dad (especially if they’re hippies),” or so goes the official bio of the irreverent young techno guru from L.A., known for making prank calls, absurdist Vine videos and giving away ham at his shows. He’s serving up hip-hop flavored house music that fist-pumping hands can’t ignore. Francis, who’s releasing his debut album “Money Sucks, Friends Rule” Oct. 28, is one of the top draws on Oct. 3 – with Moby headlining, probably the most “techno heavy” day of three-day show.

Com Truise

Electronic/ chillwave

You remember him from classics like “Gop Tun” and “Bisky Rusiness,” right? DJ and producer Com Truise (nee Seth Haley) creates music defined as “chillwave,” with drop-tempo synth-and-drum grooves that sound like funky odes an ’80s neon era.

James Cavern & the Council


Give TBD credit for supporting local talent, although booking soul-drenched crooner James Cavern, who recently appeared on NBC’s “The Voice,” is sort of a no-brainer.


Empire of the Sun


Yes, they were named for the 1987 Steven Spielberg flick of the same name. Hailing from Australia, Empire of the Sun follow the trails blazed by the likes of Phoenix, MGMT and Daft Punk, melding a lavish colors and costumes with a melodic, other-worldly soundscape. Their catchy disco-esque sound strikes balance between electronic and organic, and their live performances stand toe-to-toe with some of rock’s most grandiose acts.

Explosions in the Sky

Instrumental rock

Peter Frampton famously blew minds in the ’70s with his “talking guitar” effect. The triple-guitar deluge of Austin-based Explosions in the Sky is equally verbose, but relies on no such gimmickry. With almost purely instrumental music, EITS creates tracks that are think pieces, conveying story and intense emotion while expanding the definition of what rock ’n’ roll can be. You may already be familiar with their work – the band was featured on the soundtrack for the “Friday Night Lights” film and TV series.

The War on Drugs


This one is for you, Springsteen fans! Rolling in a vintage Chevy straight down Thunder Road with Bob Dylan riding shotgun and Neil Young passed out in the backseat is the War on Drugs, a richly textured pop rock act with a flare for their forefathers and plenty of nods to their contemporaries (think Dr. Dog).

Nick Waterhouse


This 20-something crooning axeman from Southern California is resuscitating a brand of blues-rock left for dead decades ago, but brought back by the likes of Mayer Hawthorne and James Hunter. Horn-laced ditties provide the backdrop to days spent cruising the boardwalk and nights guzzling three-olive martinis on the Sunset Strip.


Kurt Vile & the Violators

Alternative rock

It’s a family reunion of sorts – songwriting wizard Kurt Vile is a former member of the aforementioned War on Drugs. But with the sheer amount of tunes he’s recently authored (five albums in almost as many years), it seems like a solo career would have been his only destination. The common influences of Dylan, Petty and Young are noticeable, albeit dizzy and disoriented within a haze of multi-layered lo-fi pop rock, that also brings to mind Lou Reed or Pavement.

Deltron 3030


There’s no doubt that Oakland’s Del the Funky Homosapien is a quirky dude. There’s also no doubt that that very quirk makes him such a master wordsmith. The depths of his talent and imagination are revealed with Deltron 3030, a “supergroup” collaboration with Dan the Automator and DJ Kid Koala. Their debut EP (released 14 years ago) is buried treasure in the annals of alternative hip-hop, and 2013’s “Event II” album picks up right where the first left off, with a sound that’s not retro but boundary pushing. With Blackalicious also playing, Sunday at TBD has marquee hip-hop on deck.

Beach Fossils

Indie rock

Formed in 2009 and made distinctive in part by Dustin Payseur’s vocals, this Brooklyn-based band also shows deference to the ’80s, with a shimmery post-punk sound reminiscent of certain songs from New Order or The Jesus and Mary Chain.

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