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TBD duo hope Austin event adds crowds, artists to Sacramento festival

Michael Hargis, left, and Clay Nutting, founders of TBD Fest, also run the LowBrau restaurant and Block Butcher Bar. They put on a New Year’s Eve party with A-Trak.
Michael Hargis, left, and Clay Nutting, founders of TBD Fest, also run the LowBrau restaurant and Block Butcher Bar. They put on a New Year’s Eve party with A-Trak. pkitagaki@sacbee.com

The duo behind Sacramento’s TBD electronic music festival is taking the show on the road.

Michael Hargis recently detailed the plan to host four days of performances in Austin coinciding with the South by Southwest (SXSW) festival, which draws almost 28,000 participants with its music offerings and has evolved into one of the music industry’s leading events.

The hope is that Hargis and business partner Clay Nutting will learn a little from the red-hot music scene that is Austin and for SXSW attendees and performers to learn about Sacramento, Hargis said. TBD Austin – March 18-21 – will feature 90 bands on two stages over four days. Free VIP tickets are already allocated.

“What better place to share with people what we are doing,” than Austin, said Hargis, over lunch at LowBrau Restaurant, which he owns with Nutting.

The association with one of the country’s largest and most respected festivals – however slight – is a good strategy, said Mike Testa of the Sacramento Convention and Visitor’s Bureau. South by Southwest, which runs March 13-21, began as a music festival, but has since expanded into film and technology, adding another 50,000 registrants.

“There is a very good marriage between the two,” events Testa said.

In 2014, the event formerly knows as “Launch” expanded to a three-day festival, took the new name “TBD” and jumped the river to West Sacramento. Held in the shadow of the Tower Bridge, TBD drew an estimated 21,000 people with headliners Blondie, Empire of the Sun, Moby and Justice.

Hargis said TBD’s Austin event is aimed at expanding the brand, not a full-time departure into cross-country event promotion.

“Sacramento is still our emphasis,” Hargis said.

Hargis said he and Nutting are well on their way planning TBD 2015 and while conversations with financial backers are further along than he expected, he said booking talent in the crowded marketplace has been challenging.

In addition, Hargis and Nutting have just finished a successful New Year’s Eve event, are running LowBrau and Block Butcher Bar, preparing to launch The Barn in West Sacramento and exploring downtown Sacramento options. He said the New Year’s Eve party headlined by world-famous DJ and producer A-Trak was successful, but he hoped that in the future the city will allow them to sell more tickets.

Testa said he was impressed with the progression of Launch, now TBD.

“Every year he’s grown it cautiously,” Testa said.

Call The Bee’s Ed Fletcher, (916) 321-1269. Follow him on Twitter @NewsFletch.

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