City Beat

Free concerts boost audience for Sacramento bands

Island of Black & White is one of four acts that will take the stage Friday for the opening night of Concerts in the Park at Cesar Chavez Plaza in downtown Sacramento.
Island of Black & White is one of four acts that will take the stage Friday for the opening night of Concerts in the Park at Cesar Chavez Plaza in downtown Sacramento. Island of Black & White

If you’re a local band like Island of Black & White or Drop Dead Red, the stage at Cesar Chavez Plaza is the place that could get you to “the other side.”

The annual Concerts in the Park series launches again this Friday in the plaza, and Island of Black & White and Drop Dead Red are among the acts that will kick off the 12-week string of free shows.

Like a lot of local bands in cities this size, both groups make the rounds at music festivals, local bars and small venues. They have big and loyal followings, but the summer concert series gives them something different.

“There aren’t a lot of opportunities where you’re going to play in front of 7,000 people,” said Andy Hawk.

Hawk is one of the people who book the acts for Concerts in the Park. He is a local DJ and knows the local music scene well. He said the first night of the concert series has drawn at least 7,000 each of the past two years.

Sacramento doesn’t have the roster of midsized music venues you see in a lot of other cities. So Concerts in the Park – and other outdoor events like TBD Fest – is the platform for up-and-coming bands to be seen and heard by large crowds. Instead of playing for 500 devoted followers, they’ll play in front of people who might only get to a show once or twice a year. Music fans, but also people with kids who can’t make a show that starts at 11 p.m. on a Tuesday.

“These bands are reaching people who would otherwise never see them,” Hawk said. “We have a term for it: reaching the other side.”

Drop Dead Red is led by Carly DuHain, who Hawk considers “one of the most powerful female singers locally.” The band has done well, packing Harlow’s and other spots. It recently filled Old Ironsides to the point that the downtown bar ran out of some beer labels.

Friday, up on the stage in Cesar Chavez Plaza, will be even bigger.

“It’s pretty much the highest honor you can get in Sacramento,” DuHain said. “This is huge exposure. It can open a lot of doors.”

Hawk said the gig is also a huge opportunity for Island of Black & White, known for their soulful mix of reggae, blues and rock. It is one of the hardest-working bands in the region; it has performed nearly 60 times this year, with dozens of shows in the band members’ native foothills and at clubs in Sacramento. They toured the Southwest for more than a month this spring, stopping in Austin, Texas; Santa Fe, N.M.; and New Orleans.

Nawal Alwareeth, the band’s drummer, said getting to play for 7,000 people Friday night will be “inspiring.” The travel, the gigs in the small bars. “It makes it all worth it,” she said.

Said bandmate Chris Haislet, who is known to bounce between his acoustic guitar and a keyboard in the same song: “It’s a beautiful thing to see so many people get together to celebrate and support local Sacramento music.”

Call The Bee’s Ryan Lillis, (916) 321-1085. Read his City Beat blog at sacbee.com/citybeat.

Concerts in the Park

When: Friday through July 24, with no show July 3

Time: 5 to 9 p.m.

Where: Cesar Chavez Plaza, Ninth and I streets, Sacramento

Cost: None

Website: http://sacb.ee/331H

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