Having spoke with several extremely talented musicians outside of the area, from San Francisco to So Cal, a common theme I’ve heard is how difficult it’s been “breaking into” the Sacramento scene. This shocks and saddens me every time I hear it, as this is not the Sacramento I remember. Apparently, venues have been extremely reluctant to introduce unknowns as either; one, there’s not much of a demand for live music in the area… or two, there is a serious lack of support for the music scene. Maybe, just maybe, the two are linked, but where to start?
Sacramento boasted several major record label successes in a fairly short amount of time in the late 90’s such as the Deftones, Cake, Will Haven and Oleander. As a teenager, I remember the sheer number of music venues (not just bars) that were readily available to the pre-drinking age music lover as compared to now. Each weekend, my friends and I knew what we were doing, because there were always decent amount of all ages shows booked and ready to go. My point being… that for a while, Sacramento has seemed more focused on pub crawls than the arts or music. Perhaps if the majority of the local nightlife industry, as well as potential business owners, can maintain focus on increasing their support of music… an increase in overall traffic (and bar tabs) will follow suit.
But there is hope. There is most definitely a local piquing of interest in music, as can be seen in the sudden success of Launch Music Festival, which at Cesar Chavez Plaza this year will include Imagine Dragons, Girl Talk, Rocket From the Crypt, and Minus the Bear to name a few. Also, Concert in the Park, the summer series of free shows, also at Caesar Chavez, is building off of the success of last year… and on May 10th, local success, Middle Class Rut were one of many talented bands to grace the stage. The combination of this community event, and the continued support of all ages music at venues like Ace of Spades, The Boardwalk, Blue Lamp, and (on occasion) Harlow’s is a step in the right direction. I am certain that Sacramento can once again be the musical powerhouse it was, and our little town can grow into the amazing city it has so much potential to be. Sacramento is brimming with talent and has the potential to be a creative force in the industry as a whole.
inside Ace of Spades
All Sacramento needs is some focus and a catalyst. Sacramento Mayor, Kevin Johnson, was in the thralls of keeping the Kings in town, so much so that there was apparently room for little else. Now, as news broke yesterday, that the Kings are staying hopefully there will be room for some local voices of a different sort to be heard. If, as an industry, music doesn’t have the support of the city, it will just have combine it’s own front and take charge. That is exactly what the Sac Valley State of the Music Industry Forum has done. Put on by Creative Music Services and headed by Eric Chun, the forum is a great avenue for helping build up the local lackluster scene. In it’s second year, it is evident the forum is still growing. Chun himself said if this was LA, there would be thousands in attendance. Although the shortage of overwhelming participation was not ideal, the truth is we are headed in the right direction. Perhaps all of this arena hoopla may be a blessing after all. One potential hurdle for rekindling the Sacramento scene is how spread out it all is. Bringing the arena closer to downtown may open up an opportunity to funnel the basketball crowd into the downtown area, increasing the need for venues. Or conversely perhaps, as the adage goes, if you build it (more venues that is)… they will come.
It is far too often that big names pass up Sacramento on their way through Northern California. Our music scene has become somewhat of a joke. If we are to once again thrive, we need to look at what other cities are doing right and take note. Austin, TX is the live music capital of the country, and for good reason. Our two cities are vastly similar in both riverfront local and fiercely hot summers, but in the number of music venues and music festivals, Sacramento is grossly behind. A few changes implemented along with the construction of new arena could absolutely lead our town in an entirely new direction. One of those changes being the city’s view on music and an acknowledgment of what it can do to help the city.