Sacramento Proud

What Supporting Your City Looks Like: Sacramento’s First Festival

Before I start in about the heart of this article, aka First Festival, I have to give a little backstory.

I reached out to Danielle Vincent, the founder, in early February. We went over some really awesome talking points about the festival, it’s lineup and what we can expect to see with this years festivities. By the time I sat down to write the article out, I was struggling to formulate the words properly. I knew there were so many things that I wanted to touch on, but the hardest part sometimes is figuring out how to start the thing.

I let it sit for a while, and then the world exploded. Well ok, not THE world by MY world. Don’t worry, it wasn’t in a bad way, but as can often be the case when it rains, it pours. I had to step back for a few days recently just to make sure that I could get my wits about me and make sure that I knew what I was going to do going forward in a lot of differently amazing facets of my life. I had finally gotten things back to the right track…

… and then all that bullshit with The Thizzler happened.

Hi haters

Hi haters

LOL We will be talking on that in another article later, TRUST ME. Now that you understand the delay in this article, read on
**
Sacramento is surging right now! I mean it, we are pressing, and pushing, and rushing forward on a variety of levels when it comes to the music, arts and culture scene in my beloved City of Trees. It feels like there has been no stopping us lately when it comes to the potential growth of our city. Even more so that we are now starting to see a variety of grants and micro-grants from the City of Sacramento.

In 2015 a music festival that has supported the city of Sacramento’s artists on all levels emerged. Founded by Danielle Vincent, it has gone through some beautiful growth spurts over the last year, including the City of Sacramento having enough faith in the festival to offer it one of the 25k Creative Economy grants, based on the premise that First Fest’s very existence is bringing value to our city’s landscape.

There is no denying that it’s true.

I sat down with Danielle to talk a little bit about the who, what, when, where but more importantly the why’s of what she does.
——–
Resident Stoner: For those who don’t know you, tell our readers a little bit about yourself, what you do, and why you started First Festival?

Danielle Vincent: I’m the founder and producer of First Festival. I also run an online music and events calendar called Show Up Sacramento, as well as a local RSVP only venue called The Lounge. In 2015 First Festival was founded to encourage the community to celebrate the unique arts and businesses in our region. There is so much going on in our city that we thought it would be cool to build a festival to celebrate it.

RS: This years headliners are amazing! An eclectic mix of names and genres featuring folks like:

Butterscotch
Butterscotch2

A Lot Like Birds
A Lot Like Birds (1)

Blackalicious
blackalicious

What was your process for choosing the headliners this year, and the artists in general?

DV: The headliners come out of a different process than the supporting lineup. Mostly, we just spend a great deal of time watching what’s going on in the scene and seeing who people are talking about. We’re also growing, so each year we get to increase our budget a little and invite bands that have a higher price tag, which is exciting. One of the big goals is to create a headliner lineup that shows the diversity of the supporting lineup. Within our budget and geographical reach, we aim to incorporate not just a musically diverse lineup, but also one that bring people from diverse backgrounds together in the top billed spots.
**
Pause

Okay, Liv in the present day again.

I wanted to jump in and interject on some points, since this article is going up far later than I had intended it to.

– A Lot Like Birds have announced that they are breaking up. In fact as it turns out, First Festival is the last show that the bird will play together for the foreseeable future. This means so much to some of their fans that as of the posting of this article there has been a gofundme established to get a die-hard fan to First Festival to be able to see them live one last time. I think that is such a trip.

The last line that Danielle mentioned in the question above was “We aim to incorporate not just a musically diverse lineup, but one that brings people from diverse backgrounds together in the top billed spots.” Diversity of the line up was actually called into question right as this article first started to formulate. A faction of the community here was feeling less-than-represented on the 2018 lineup, and that was the local hip hop community.

While Blackalicious is clearly hip hop, the issue raised was more that the local hip hop artists felt as though they were being left behind, few and far amidst the indie/rock/pop music that dominated the line up. I have seen many people get ruffled by the pressures of social media, and the opinions of those who write the words behind the posts. Danielle and her team decided to take the negative and turn it into a positive.

First Fest reached out to a few people in the community, and put together the “Cypher Circus” which opened up an entire avenue for a community that felt as though they may not have been included. The Cypher Circus will take place both days, and will also be on the main stage before Blackalicious goes on stage (come on Gab, cypher for the one time).

cyphercircus

We talk more on it below…

Unpause
——–
RS: The lineup was recently announced, and there seemed to be some immediate but fairly isolated backlash in regards to the actual line up itself, and moreover, the genres that were represented vs not as represented, particularly in the more urban music scene. What, if anything, do you think brought that line of thinking about, and what is your response to it?

DV: The urban music scene didn’t know that First Fest was an application process. If you wanted to play, you needed to sign up and you also needed to have an online music presence where we could find professionally recorded music (without that, we can’t make a selection). So, it’s our job to make sure that people across the entire scene understand that process. I spoke with leaders in the hip hop community about the issue to learn more about how we can be better and one of the things said to me was that the hip-hop community didn’t feel like they had a place at the festival that it wasn’t for them. That’s a big deal and explains why we received less than 15 applications in that genre. We immediately partnered directly with the hip hop community to make sure that they knew that they not only have a seat at the table, but that we will do better to make that clear. Instead of waiting until next year, we got to work right away and that’s how the Cypher was born. We’ve also added those same leaders to our selections and outreach panel.
——–
Words. Call to Action. Reaction.

Problem solved.

I learned a lot from the response of First Festival when it came to community inclusion. I learned what it is that makes Sacramento just a little bit more special than some other places that folks might live. I have seen many organizations regardless of what faction they work in, react in such a poor manner to negative criticism that it ends up making things even more awful than they already were. First Festival could have taken the low road, or the “ignore it until it goes away” road, but instead they took the high road.

And we all know I love when things are high.

*drum riff*

Sacramento in general has been teaching me a lot in the last few weeks. About what it means to go all out in order to support your own soil. To go all out to support artists that build their dreams here. Often times I think that there are artists that feel they are less than supported by the people in the very city that should be uplifting them. I have had conversations for years with people that revolve around the idea that you have to go outside of Sacramento, get validated by other people, and THEN Sacramento will gush your praises and wax poetic on all the memories you share together.

First Festival is attempting to be the one that was there BEFORE the outside validation. First Festival is something that has been built as a legit, professional platform for artists to perform to larger-than-usual crowds of people who may have never heard their names before it. It gives the community as a whole the opportunity to be a part of something bigger.

Throwing a successful festival is not easy. Throwing a successful and GROWING festival (as of publishing, they have sold 3x more tickets than they did last year) is nearly impossible. It makes me proud to see the city making it happen, and it makes me even more proud to know Danielle.

Bringing all the Sacramento weirdos together is beautiful, and I cannot wait to be there to celebrate it this year.

Yeah I said it. Fucking weirdos 😉
——–
Tickets have gone up in price, but they are still ridiculously cheap for this kind of line up. You can get a full Weekend Warrior pass for $42 dollars. That’s right, for less than a high grade 1/8th, you can go and support dozens of local artists, including my own personal favorites:

Charlie Muscle
The Philharmonik
PRVLGS
Unified School District

I try not to play favorites guys, but fuck, sometimes you just can’t help it

You can buy your tickets here.

Not only that but our very own Shawntay Gorman, aka one of #TheStonerettes, is going to have a featured painting there as well. We cannot WAIT to see what she has in store for us ❤️

Until then, you know where to find me.

❤️
Olivia
aka
Liv Styler

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Olivia Monahan

March 4th, 2018

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