Music News & Reviews

Good music, bad traffic at weekend’s Aftershock rock festival

A fan enjoys the music of Issues at the Aftershock music festival at Gibson Ranch on Sunday, Oct. 25, 2015, in Elverta.
A fan enjoys the music of Issues at the Aftershock music festival at Gibson Ranch on Sunday, Oct. 25, 2015, in Elverta. pkitagaki@sacbee.com

Aftershock’s mosh pits are but a memory and its combined crowd of 45,000 has since departed, but questions about Gibson Ranch’s ability to successfully handle thousands of concertgoers – particularly in terms of traffic – remain.

The usual 20-minute drive to Gibson Ranch in Elverta from midtown Sacramento turned into a 2  1/2 -hour trek on Saturday. The surface streets leading into the park were overwhelmed by the sold-out crowd of 25,000 anxious to rock out to such headliners as Slipknot, Marilyn Manson and Breaking Benjamin.

Afterward, many festivalgoers were trapped in the dusty parking lot for close to three hours. Their frustration resulted in a litany of angry comments on Aftershock’s Facebook page, including some people saying they refused to return Sunday despite having bought weekend passes. The day brought back memories of City of Trees, the August music festival for 9,000 at Gibson Ranch that was marked by traffic congestion and other organizational snafus.

Hector Perez of Sacramento said he tried to make the best of Aftershock’s gridlock. His skate-punk-style band, Death Rogen, was set to open the festival Sunday morning, but he headed to Gibson Ranch on Saturday to check out the action. Following his long drive there, he ended up spending several hours staring at brake lights after the night’s closing set.

“It was kind of frustrating, but we just kept joking around,” said Perez, whose band features Jakobe Moreno, son of Deftones singer Chino Moreno. “We didn’t leave until about 2:30 in the morning. Traffic was that bad. But it was amazing seeing all those bands who influenced me.”

Doug Ose, the real estate developer and former congressman who operates Gibson Ranch, expected two-hour delays for those leaving Aftershock’s parking lot at peak times due to the projected attendance. Organizers had contracted with the traffic management team from the Rose Parade to mitigate snarls. Nevertheless, congestion persisted.

Ose blamed Saturday afternoon’s traffic woes on staff not bringing cars into the lot fast enough. Also, they didn’t use all the available queues for collecting the $20 parking fees, he said.

According to Ose, Saturday night’s post-concert gridlock was exacerbated by a car that broke down on a main road out of the festival and some concertgoers who “went four-wheeling” to find alternative ways out of the lot and disrupted traffic flow.

“It was a couple of stupid things that cost everyone an hour,” Ose said.

Concertgoers found relief Sunday with a lighter Aftershock crowd of about 20,000 and a better-executed traffic plan. The mass exodus from the parking lot after the Deftones’ set on Sunday night took a reasonable 45 minutes.

“Saturday night, we showed it was possible to screw it up, and Sunday we showed it was possible to get it done,” Ose said. “The tweaks we made to the Saturday traffic plan paid big dividends.”

Once inside, Gibson Ranch offered plenty of space to accommodate those who traveled from more than 40 states for the weekend’s hard-rock marathon. When not headbanging to the likes of Seether and Eagles of Death Metal, concertgoers had room to relax and recharge on the park’s grassy knolls or to kick back on a blanket with food-truck grub.

Aftershock moved to Gibson Ranch this year following a three-year run at Discovery Park, where attendance maxed out at 19,000 daily. At Gibson Ranch, the overall musical program ran smoothly and featured a variety of heavy guitar sounds and wailing vocals. Devil horn salutes and fist pumps were raised high for the likes of Sevendust, Shinedown and Stone Temple Pilots, led by Linkin Park frontman Chester Bennington.

Despite the traffic issues, Aftershock organizers said they hope to grow the festival into a three-day event with 40,000 daily attendance. “On Saturday, I thought there’s no way we’re going to 40,000,” Ose said. “Sunday, though, went pretty slick.”

Production and sound problems were few, save for the ending of the Jane’s Addiction set on Sunday night. It featured aerial dancers who were suspended above the stage from hooks that had been inserted into piercings in the flesh on their backs. The stage crew was unable to bring one of the dancers down, leaving her stuck midair. The band wrapped it up early following its performance of the acoustic anthem “Jane Says.”

One of the weekend’s most memorable performances came from Sacramento’s own Deftones. The band played for its biggest hometown crowds yet, cranking through its catalog with such early tracks as “Engine No. 9” as well as newer favorites including a pummeling version of “Rocket Skates.”

“The vibe is always cool, man,” Chino Moreno said about Aftershock before the Deftones’ set. “There are so many people that are familiar faces and people I’ve known for a lot of years. Coming back to the city and seeing everyone all at once in one place is pretty rad.”

Chris Macias: 916-321-1253, @chris_macias

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