City Beat

Is the Sacramento River wide enough to handle competing music festivals?

Video: Dueling concerts across the Sacramento River - will wailing guitar sounds compete?

Concerts at nearby venues in Sacramento and West Sacramento scheduled on the same day - Saturday, May 23 - prompted The Bee's Ryan Lillis to see whether music can be heard across the Sacramento River. Check out Lillis' City Beat column on Monday.
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Concerts at nearby venues in Sacramento and West Sacramento scheduled on the same day - Saturday, May 23 - prompted The Bee's Ryan Lillis to see whether music can be heard across the Sacramento River. Check out Lillis' City Beat column on Monday.

Everclear has been a big influence on Jayson Angove’s songwriting. Now Angove will get to play with the famed alt rock band. Sort of.

Angove and his Roseville-based band, Humble Wolf, are headlining First Festival, a new all-day music event that will feature 18 local bands playing Saturday in West Sacramento’s River Walk Park.

And at the precise moment Humble Wolf blasts from a stage overlooking the Sacramento River, Everclear will perform just a few hundred feet away across the river in Old Sacramento. Everclear is headlining the Sacramento Music Festival, formerly known as the Sacramento Jazz Festival and Jubilee.

The situation has led to some questions about whether these festivals can coexist. The venues are close enough that someone yelling into a megaphone in River Walk Park can be heard clearly in Old Sacramento. Even a single electric guitar being played into a battery-powered amplifier is loud enough to hear from across the river.

And then there’s the question of whether enough music fans are around this holiday weekend to support both festivals.

The Sacramento Music Festival is a long-standing Memorial Day tradition and, after some major rebranding, is experiencing a healthy increase in ticket sales this year, organizers said. The festival has had its share of difficulties; the event was nearly called off this year after years of dwindling attendance and mounting debt.

Meanwhile, the First Festival lineup includes several bands with decent followings around the region, but it also has a few groups trying to gain their footing in the local scene. The festival has relied largely on a social media campaign and fliers hung on telephone poles to spread the word. It was going to be free, but organizers later discovered they needed to charge $15 for presale tickets and $20 at the gate because sponsors were hesitant to get on board with a first-time event.

Do the locals stand a chance against Everclear, Eve 6, Tower of Power, Shawn Mullins and the well-known jazz acts appearing at the Sacramento Music Festival? The events’ organizers and other concert promoters said the target audiences are likely different enough that both festivals can succeed.

“It seems like (First Festival) could have a better chance on a weekend that isn’t up against an established festival,” said local concert promoter Brian McKenna, who is not involved in either event. “But I don’t think there’s going to be much crossover (in the target audiences). Sacramento Music Festival is heavy on the ’90s rock and is going to have older folks coming out for the traditional jazz element. The one across the river, I’m guessing, will be mostly fans of local music – and they tend to be younger.”

Dion Cook, president of local special events company Sacramento Production & Lighting, said there shouldn’t be too much sound interference between the festivals, either, as long as the stages on either side of the river aren’t facing one another. Lots of festivals place stages close to one another with acts playing at the same time, he said.

“Will you hear music from the other side of the river? Sure. Is it going to be obnoxious? You could make a boom box obnoxious from across the river,” Cook said. “I think you might hear just a little bit of the other bands, unless someone gets heavy-handed and pushes (the volume) to 11.”

Festival organizers aren’t sure how much sound bleed-over to expect.

“(Everclear is) going to bring the sound system they use for their national tours,” said Mike Testa, with the Sacramento Convention and Visitors Bureau, which organized the Sacramento Music Festival. “And I have no doubt it’s going to be loud. What impact that has across the river, I don’t know.”

Humble Wolf seems up for a challenge.

“We’ll have to bring the biggest amps we can find and ripple the water and blow their hair back from across the river,” Angove said.

First Festival is the work of Danielle Vincent and Ashley Rastad. Vincent owns Firefly and Rastad runs Moonrise, boutiques that operate out of a collective space on P Street in midtown Sacramento.

Organizers of First Festival didn’t seem to intentionally organize their event to run simultaneously with the Sacramento Music Festival on Memorial Day weekend, but they didn’t mind, either. Instead, Vincent and Rastad decided to hold the event in May to serve as an unofficial kickoff to the regional festival season. The pair had talked about starting an event where local vendors could sell clothing and accessories for the season’s events. That idea morphed into a music festival, combined with 30 local vendors selling handmade goods.

“The festival world is so tightly knit with the fashion scene,” Vincent said.

Vincent and Rastad only began planning the festival in January. But they’ve pulled together a diverse lineup that features Dylan Phillip, Slaves of Manhattan, Drop Dead Red and Whiskey & Stitches. They’re banking on attracting a young crowd of at least 2,000 that follows local bands and doesn’t want to spend more than $50 for a one-day pass in Old Sacramento.

“I’ve always felt we had a completely different draw,” Rastad said.

Testa doesn’t think the timing of the festivals will hurt either event. He said the highest demand for tickets to the Sacramento Music Festival has been for Saturday’s lineup and that overall ticket sales are up about 20 percent over last year, when the event drew about 25,000. The Sacramento Music Festival has been around – in one form or another – for 42 years and this year’s roster of musical acts is its most diverse, with blues, country, jazz and rock bands all on the card.

“We’ve got a loyal audience and folks who put this on their calendar every year,” he said. “And this region is big enough that two major events can be going on at the same time, even if they’re only separated by a river.”

If you go

First Festival

  • When: Saturday, noon to 10 p.m.
  • Where: River Walk Park, 651 Second St., West Sacramento
  • Details: A lineup of 18 local bands playing on three stages. The first-year festival will also feature 30 vendors selling handmade crafts and clothing, interactive art displays and food trucks.
  • Tickets: $15 presale at and $20 at the gate.

Sacramento Music Festival

  • When: Friday to Monday
  • Where: Various stages throughout Old Sacramento
  • Details: Everclear, Tower of Power, Gloriana and a long list of jazz and blues bands perform in the festival’s 42nd year.
  • Tickets: Range from $25 for a single-day pass for Monday’s shows to $125 for a four-day pass.