Moby, Blondie and dozens of other musicians will provide an earful of sounds at West Sacramento’s TBD Fest, which runs Friday through Oct. 5. But the festival is also designed to fill the stomach, with an array of local food and drink vendors to help satiate the appetites of the expected 5,000 daily attendees.
You won’t find the likes of reheated personal pizzas and other ordinary concert venue eats at TBD Fest. The foods represent a roster of Sacramento favorites, including Korean fusion from Tako, vegetarian bites from Mother, and sausages via LowBrau. The festival grounds include “The Pit,” where 14 local chefs will demonstrate wood-fired cooking techniques and engage in a “Friendly Fire” competition.
Michael Tuohy is helping to coordinate his fellow chefs and oversee TBD Fest’s culinary elements. He’s the executive chef of LowBrau and Block Butcher Bar, whose owners, Clay Nutting and Michael Hargis, are also the chief organizers of TBD Fest. Along with its musical and culinary elements, TBD Fest includes showcases of local fashion, design and art.
“That’s Sacramento, right?” Tuohy said. “It’s a community event, and music’s a part of it, and food and fashion. We want to put Sacramento’s best forward.”
TBD Fest’s food-and-drink program, which includes a craft cocktail bar and round-up of food trucks, reflects a growing trend of concert festivals that are increasing their culinary offerings.
Outside Lands, which was held in August in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park, featured a “2014 Taste of the Bay Area” with its own “Cheeselands” and “Chocolands.” Its “GastroMagic!” stage included cooking demonstrations, chefs reading their bad reviews, and even a twerking dance contest with beignets as prizes.
Bottle Rock Napa Valley, which included such headliners as OutKast and The Cure in May, boasted wine tastings from such popular vintners as Rombauer and Cakebread Cellars. Its food booths were staffed by the likes of Morimoto Napa, Tarla and other wine country favorites.
“The successful festivals learned years ago that they needed to provide much more than music on a stage,” said Gary Bongiovanni, editor in chief of Pollstar, a publication that tracks the concert industry. “Part of the original concept of Outside Lands was a food-and-wine tasting element to make it much more than a music festival. Everybody’s expanding their food and drink options.”
These kinds of culinary events within all-day concerts work especially well in Northern California, with its nearby wine countries and flush of restaurants featuring seasonal ingredients. The typical concertgoer of BottleRock or Outside Lands also tends to be of a 20s-and-up age group that likes to explore food and drink when not rocking out.
“You’re looking at a demographic that presumably has a little more money to spend,” said Bongiovanni. “And they’d rather spend a little extra on a nice sandwich than a cold hot dog.”
For TBD Fest, which will be held near the Tower Bridge, the ticket price includes “bites” from the “Friendly Fire” competition. The cook-off includes some of Sacramento’s kitchen rock stars going head to head, including Tuohy vs. Oliver Ridgeway of Grange, and Brian Mizner of Hook & Ladder going mano a mano against Hawks’ Mike Fagnoni. Chef Adam Pechal of Pour House and Crawdad’s will serve as the referee and MC.
The chefs will have access to a fire pit, smoker and Santa Maria-styled grill to cook a dish. After tasting what the chefs prepare, concertgoers can vote for their favorite via social media.
“There will be plenty of firepower for these chefs to have a competition,” said Tuohy.
The food pavilion at TBD Fest features a locals-only vibe, with such represented eateries as Blackbird Kitchen + Beer Gallery, Artisan Eats Pizza and the resurrection of Doughbot. Trucks providing mobile food options include Drewski’s Hot Rod Kitchen, Cruzin Crustacean and Wandering Boba. Beer, wine and other beverages will also be for sale.
“We wanted a stage for food as the musicians have a stage,” said Tuohy. “We’re there to have a good time.”