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Exploring Sacramento and San Francisco Concert History

Cal Expo crowd in 1996

Sacramento has a deep concert history that spawns many memories. But when I decided to Google search local concert history, I was frustrated that I didn’t find the information I was looking for. While it’s easy to check upcoming shows, it’s difficult to look up shows from the past, unless they happened to be uploaded to YouTube. There is a sense that shows come and go then are forgotten, at least from an internet research perspective. I decided to preserve the history of Sacramento concerts, so I created a special section for listing Northern California shows of the past for my websites SacTV.com and PlaylistResearch.com

The reason I am suddenly fascinated with concert history is that there isn’t a lot of documentation of these cultural events. Yet people save up money for these big shows months in advance and there’s not much of a track record of this cultural pastime except for ticket stubs. The same point can be made about San Francisco Bay concert history, although there are plenty more reviews of Bay Area shows archived online. There is actually plenty of Bay Area music history to explore, but it is scattered among several websites.

So I decided to research both San Francisco and Sacramento concert history for SacTV.com. I started with a list based on ticket stubs of concerts I had attended in the 80s and 90s in Northern California. That list alone began with over one hundred shows. I have since visited websites such as YouTube and Setlist.fm, where I learned a lot more about concerts that have come to the area. These lists represent fractions of the enormous number of concerts that have come to the region, while focusing on some of the more historic shows. Since I started compiling these lists in early January, I have expanded the project to include every decade since the 1960s. 

Although Sacramento isn’t widely regarded as a concert capital, it’s a city with a concert history big enough to have too many shows to count. It’s fun to document these shows since concerts sometimes represent huge time markers in people’s lives. It may have been a birthday gift, for example, or the concert may have coincided with personal events that involved certain songs. Sometimes concerts themselves can be historic events, such as when the Beach Boys recorded their Concert album at the Memorial Auditorium on August 1, 1964. Other historic shows in Sacramento include the Roling Stones at Memorial Auditorium Dec. 3, 1965, the Doors at Memorial Auditorium Dec. 15, 1967, Jimi Hendrix at Cal Expo April 26, 1971 and Pink Floyd at Hughes Stadium April 23 and 24, 1988.

The idea of documenting Northern California concerts came from studying local history. When I began interviewing local producers and musicians about their stories with local music, it occured to me that concerts have been a big part of people’s lives and certainly are  important dates to remember. Concerts with national acts have also influenced local musicians. I have found that people enjoy talking about concert history, perhaps more than any other type of history. Festivals like Day on the Green and Lollapalooza are particularly memorable. Like sporting events, concerts become dates in history that many people share. 

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