TBD Fest day three recap, plus final thoughts and pics

Justice closes out TBD Fest on Sunday.

Dust to dust, TBD Fest is over.

Now, Sacramento’s favorite past-time: Monday morning concert promoter!

Actually, the majority appears to be championing TBD’s greatness, and in a big way. As in “OMG so amazeballs can’t wait ‘til next year camping out on river now for tickets see you in 2015!!”

I’m not hating. In fact, I checked the “it was magical” box on my feedback form. 

All right, so there was no feedback form. And, yeah, there are those blowharding over what could have been better, offering (unsolicited) advice on what they would do differently (as if they actually had the nerve to put on a six-figure, three-day festival). I may even join that contingent briefly later in this post.

There was also the requisite NIMBY dysentery. Like the guy trolling TBD’s Facebook page. West Sac Mayor Christopher Cabaldon invited those complaining about the festival’s enthusiasm for triple-digit decibels to city council this week. We’ll see if anyone shows.

Either way, you have to love Sacto’s heart-on-sleeve civic pride. It’s driven by deep-seethed insecurity, yes. And—watch out!—it often devolves into “world class” thread-shitting. But I like how Sacto has changed in recent years and now readily embraces new people and events. Sure, we instantly lay into them for baby transgressions like not passing the green beans. But back in the day Sacramento was so isolationist. We’re changing!

What’s this all mean?

It means the inaugural TBD Fest was a success!

One of the festival’s co-founders told the Business Journal this morning that 21,000 attendees passed through the gates from Friday to Sunday in West Sacramento on the riverfront. I don’t know about that number, but if tickets were about $65 a day, and three-day passes went for $150, then even if that attendance number is half-true, there was some meaningful coin in play.

Two Uber drivers told me it was their busiest weekend ever by far.

Festival-goers told me that TBD worked because it had a little bit of everything. First, as I wrote before the event, it wasn’t just stages, fences and beer gardens. They created a small city. The artworks—such as the giant, 10-foot-tall glass glowing cube near the entrance—wowed. A pavilion was erected on top of shipping containers at the center of the festival. The food and boutique areas had a Burning Man milieu—but without actually having to endure a week of Burners!

The food, as Chris Macias of the Bee noted this morning, transcended corn dogs. Chef Brian Mizner’s octopus tacos and chef Michael Fagnoni’s ribs at The Pit, the festival’s “friendly fire” food competition, were too good to be free. The breakfast-cereal soft-serve ice cream at Mother’s tent? Never forget. That Napolatena pizza was tasty, generously portioned and terribly affordable ($10).

The entire vibe had an ingratiating Sacramento jankiness, but with L.A.-worthy talent on the stage.

Such as French duo Justice, who closed the festival last night with an 85 minute deejay set. The guys—Gaspard Augé looking like Kirk Hammett’s hipster nephew and Xavier de Rosnay still wearing a leather jacket five sizes too small—walked out on a stage crawling with smoke and drenched in white beams. The set began just seconds after 11 p.m. and included flashes of the group’s hits, aggressive and acid-washed techno beats, and dance-friendly hits for the ages (Michael Jackson’s “P.Y.T.”, the Pointer Sister’s “I’m So Excited!”, Aphex Twin’s “Windowlicker,” and even ending with a Martin Scorsese favorite, “Be My Baby” by the Ronettes). 

Reality set in just after 12:15 a.m. when, as the stage was soaked in red lights, the powers that be slowly cut the sound and called it a night. (At this point, I swear I heard 16 NIMBY sphincter’s relaxing in unison—I keed, I keed.) Augé and de Rosnay at first appeared confused, looking to stage right with awkward stares and agitation, but eventually the stumbled off, into a white econo-van (with two young ladies) and out of West Sac. Probably for good.

But oh man, was Justice easily the weekend’s standout. And that’s saying a lot, becasue Gramatik’s funky, soul-inspired deejay selections; Keys N Krates rapid-fire set; Viceroy’s unabashed Girltalk appropriation; and Com Truise’s chillwave production also were rad. The festival was laid out so that crossing the entire grounds took less than five minutes. It was very reasonable to zig-zag from stage to stage and discover undercard artists. The perfect fit.

TBD was a first-time festival, produced locally and without the help of a major concert mastermind like Goldenvoice or Another Planet. It reminded me of one of my first visits to another acronym’d fete, FYF Fest in Los Angeles. That fest, then tucked away in a park and dirt field at the base of Koreatown, featured a mix of punk, indie and dance acts and fell victim to a lot of the first-time-festival pitfalls TBD suffered this weekend: It was dusty. The VIP wasn’t that VIP. No water refills. Confusing layout with signage printed on a home computer. Long lines for things like bike valet. And loud noise upsetting the nearby cranks, err denizens. And so on.

But TBD and those nascent FYF fests had a singular charm: They’re made possible because the people who make the cities’ urban art scenes happen—the musicians and chefs and artists that bring it to life—took a big crazy leap and actually started their very own festival, gatherings worthy of mention in the same sentence as Treasure Island and Outside Lands and so on. They told the doubters to screw the hell off and stuck their necks out so far that giraffes were jealous. 

And it worked.

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