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Design, space and architecture take center stage at TBD

Change can make people uncomfortable, but Michael Hargis and Clay Nutting find change stimulating.

The two are founders of the TBD Fest (running next Friday through Oct. 5), which might sound new to you because before this year they called it Launch. The continually evolving festival of music, art, architecture, design and fashion was previously held downtown.

This year, not only have they changed the name – they’ve moved the event site across the Sacramento River to West Sacramento’s upstart Bridge District and added a significant food component as well.

Change much? Sure, why not?

“Part of the mind frame was that if you want people to think that they know what they’re going to experience, tell them it’s the same thing,” Nutting said while standing in the approximately 12-acre field where TBD will take place. The location is between the river and the Raley Field parking lot, with the Tower Bridge and Sacramento skyline as backdrops.

While TBD now denotes The Bridge District, it more poetically shorthands “to be determined,” which fits the organizers’ sense of the event.

“What is it that this festival now represents? (It’s) different than what people knew of it before, and it’s all going to be figured out in a couple of weeks,” Nutting said.

Progressive music with nationally and internationally ascending acts has become a signature component of the event, and TBD will build on that with a three-day extravaganza of performances including more than 75 acts on four stages. Spinning a DJ set, Moby headlines Friday night, with Empire of the Sun bringing its theatrical dance rock to the main stage Saturday. Sunday wraps up with a performance by Blondie and a DJ set from Justice.

Launch was born in 2009 at the Greens Hotel on Del Paso Boulevard as an art party. In 2012, Hargis, along with business partner Nutting (they co-own LowBrau, Block Butcher Bar and Tank House) extended the art festival across a week at multiple venues, culminating with a one-day music event in Cesar Chavez Park, which included performances by DJ Shadow, The Joy Formidable, Chromeo, Group Love and Future Islands.

Last year, the music component took place over two days, and featured bands including Imagine Dragons, Minus the Bear and Rocket from the Crypt.

The idea of the festival and what it might become continues to grow in the minds of Hargis and Nutting. They said wanted to expand it into something that attracted audiences from across the country. Accommodating that vision became a challenge.

“We didn’t want to shrink back, we didn’t want to say we should do a lesser version of what Launch was,” Hargis said. “We want to do a festival that is competitive with every major festival in the United States, something that is a catalyst. My thought for the festival was that I wanted other metropolitan cities to look at Sacramento and think, ‘Holy (cow), what are those guys doing there?’ ”

The opportunity to change locations while adding partners gave Hargis and Nutting the opening they needed to re-invent and re-brand the festival. Originally, it was thought that a $2.6 million performance structure called The Barn would be ready for use. It has not materialized. Still, the show must go on, so TBD will build its own structures for the event. What Hargis described sounded like a cross between a carnival midway and the Outside Lands concert in Golden Gate Park.

“We’ve got nurseries bringing in plantings,” Hargis said. “We’ve got olive trees, bistro lights, amusement rides. We’ve got a huge swing, that’s going to be on the river. We’ve got a 65-foot Ferris wheel.”

There will be two main stages and two secondary stages for music, a vending village called Rise and Create, and a food pavilion called The Pit, where chef’s challenges will take place.

The centerpiece will be an architecture pavilion designed by Jason Silva, which will be 60 feet wide, 90 feet long and 20 feet tall.

“Due to the change in venue, it’s an opportunity to do something that is bigger and more structural,” Silva said. “We’re actually building platforms for people to stand on, based on shipping containers. There will stairs up to them and a lift. I’ve always had a fascination with Sacramento’s flat environment. How we are horizon-deficient because we all have these wonderful trees. Well, the wonderful trees block the view.”

The structure is inspired by lookout towers found in rainforests that allow observers to climb above the tree line and see the sky.

“The idea this year was getting people up in the air a little bit to have vistas and views especially of the Sacramento River,” Silva said. “The orientation is when you enter the gates, the architecture pavilion will be straight ahead toward the river. You can go through the bottom of it. There’s a tunnel underneath the main section. And the highest point will be the point closest to the river.”

As this year has seen an evaporation and implosion of Sacramento music festivals, TBD has the ambition to expand and fill the void in a city that many say lacks a signature arts festival.

“The story of this festival is about how the community sees itself through the lens of our event, and how others see our community through the lens of our event,” Nutting said.

“TBD to us is not just about the The Bridge District, but about the limitless possibilities of Sacramento,” Hargis said. “There’s so much to be determined about what happens in the rail yards and in West Sac and (with) the arena.”

Hargis said that the story of this festival – and its affect on the city – has yet to be told. “The community we bring together through this will tell it,” he said.

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