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The Nickel Slots performing at First Festival in 2016. Photo by Jason Knight.
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First Festival Sets to Charm in Third Year

Sacramento’s First Festival is on the verge of its biggest showing yet, as the grassroots music festival galvanizes towards its third year on May 6 and 7. Taking place at the Riverwalk Park in West Sacramento, First Fest is striving to become a community staple, as it features 40 Sacramento-based musical acts from a variety of genres.

The festival itself may be an undiscovered niche to most people, however, the talent is pillared by names synonymous to the Sacramento music scene, including veteran acts, such as DLRN, Arden Park Roots and Oleander. Alongside a handful of local comedians, artists and a craft beer lounge, First Fest will bring light to Sacramento artists who have been performing on a smaller or unknown scale as well, such as Caliscope, Simpl3jack, Xochitl and KaiLord.

In many aspects, First Fest is more than just the first of many summer music festivals, but rather the first taste of what Sacramento’s music scene is producing at the moment. The festival is bringing genres together in a style of its own, with a music lineup veiled full of acts many will hear live for the first time.

Singer-songwriter and First Fest artist, Andrew Castro, moved to Sacramento three years ago in hopes of taking his music career to a greater audience. In playing every open mic a hundred times over, including many throughout the states, he gives credit to the city’s diversity as a draw of inspiration to his music.

“There’s just a lot of genres,” said Castro. “I mean I’ve heard R&B, hip-hop to folk to pop, and me personally, I try to dabble in a little bit of everything. I try to infuse hip-hop into my songs and I try to do a little bit of R&B, a little folk, a little bit of country, pop, and mix it in my own style.”

While Castro continues to craft his own design, he believes Sacramento’s music scene deserves recognition on a national scale for the efforts accomplished by any particular genre or artist.

“A guy like, [First Fest artist], Hobo Johnson, getting blown up off his videos,” said Castro. “All that helps Sacramento, and it needs to be put on the map because I think industry people need to recognize it and come out here and take a look at some of the talent that we have.”

In the last seven years, First Fest artist, Sean LaMarr, of DLRN, has played a strong part in the Sacramento music scene, which has driven its artistry to push limits and bridge a path towards making events such as First Fest possible. Together with Jon Reyes, they have crafted a presence in the community as legends and mentors in their own lane.

“Part of me is like, ‘Yo, when I had the energy and exuberance for this, I wish the city looked like it looks now,’” said LaMarr. “But at the same time, it’s just like the respect and the love that we get and the fact that we can show up and play shows with these guys and play for new ears and people look at us like, ‘where have y’all been? And then I look at them like, ‘where have y’all been?’ It’s cool and I like it.”

LaMarr’s stance on Sacramento’s current state of arts is one reciprocated by many who hope to see it keep growing and motivating the next group of artists and entrepreneurs willing to work with the city, but most importantly, for the city.

Following a disappointing turnout in 2016, First Fest’s founder, Danielle Vincent, seems to understand this ideology as she has demonstrated her devotion to the festival, likely being rewarded for her tenacity by a strong backing from the community in the roll out for this year’s festival. From ticket prices being more affordable to returning to its original venue and a more diverse lineup, it appears this year’s First Fest will certainly top all previous trials.

“With something as big as First Festival, once you put it on like that yourself, I think it’s just trial and error,” said Castro. “You have to go through making mistakes so you can learn and she clearly has and she’s fought for it and believed in it and now she’s got people behind her to believe in it too. It looks like the festival’s going to be really successful, which is great because that means it will propel it forward for years to come.”

For more information on First Festival and all the artists scheduled to perform, visit FirstFestivalSacramento.com.

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About the author

Cesar Alexander

Cesar Alexander

Cesar Alexander is assistant editor for Sacramento Press. A native to California, he enjoys writing and discovering the varieties of art, live music, nature and everyday wonders the Sacramento region has to offer.

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