Last weekend, I and four intrepid comrades drove to Monterey to attend the First City Festival. By the end of the first night, we had already decided to make it a yearly event.
As you may have read, this is the festival's first year. First City was produced by Goldenvoice, which in the past has drawn flak for mismanaging new festivals. FYF Fest had plenty of problems when Goldenvoice took over promotion, and Coachella lost $1 million in its first year. With tickets still abundant and falling in price the week before First City, I wasn't sure what to expect.
My expectations were far exceeded. The grounds were clean, well-kept, and well-suited to the vibe of the crowd, which spanned all ages. The lighting was fantastic. Warm old-fashioned diode bulbs were strung above every alley and stage, big gnarled trees lit deep red from below, and the spinning carnival lighting gave us the impression the place was a breathing, dynamic thing. The fairgrounds are near the Monterey airport, and every hour or so a huge plane would sear the air above the Cypress stage, which the crowd loved.
There were problems, sure. Most of the shows ran about 10-20 minutes behind schedule, which culminated in what felt like an extremely brief Passion Pit set on Saturday night. Sound quality was an intermittent problem as well; Modest Mouse frontman and loveable maniac Isaac Brock embarked on a long, rambling mid-set rant about all the reverb shrouding their sound. But our Isaac has a long history of rant and ramble, and what giant music production doesn't come with its share of reverb? Overall, it was a great time.
The storied fairgrounds lent themselves well to the wide array of sounds and scenes contained in the lineup. The fact that the secondary stage was situated on the opposite end of the festival grounds from the main arena ensured that the folk-rock didn't get drowned out by the electronica, and that the mellow soul didn't get thrashed by the punk roar (I recall Coachella and Sasquatch both having this problem). The festival's linear, compact layout made getting from show to show relatively painless, and the organizers did a good job of making sure the big acts didn't overlap too much.
Washed Out, my personal favorite show of the weekend. It was Washed Out's first performance in 8 months, and the first in the tour for their new album, Paracosm. Go out and get that album immediately.
Electric Guest. I don't know whether it was the fact that Isa Taccone is roughly 28 inches tall, or that he brought his nephew onstage and asked the crowd to sell him marijuana, or that his bandmates were a decade older than him and seemed to be merely stomaching him, but the show rubbed me the wrong way. That said, Taccone has a great voice and performs like he's classically trained. I liked the album, but live it all seemed too honeyed.
Yo yo guys, my nephew has been seriously harshing my zone asking me for some of that dankest herb. Come here lil guy. Get out of here. Ah I'm kidding what am I saying get back here but seriously get the hell off the stage. This is my moment. Get off the stage. Get off the stage.
Quadron, a Danish electronic soul band I hadn't heard of. It was at the smallest stage, and during a time when I had no other bands I wanted to see, and I am so glad I decided to stay for the show. From the first note, groovy.
Purity Ring. I'm not a big fan of the glitchy, bass-heavy womp-womp wing of the electronic music family, but I really liked this show. The sync of their music and their light show was innovative and very odd. And they are immensely popular, apparently; I think this was the most animated crowd I saw all weekend.
Lead singer Megan James, who vibes a weird mix of Medusa, Carrie, and Nurse Ratched. Couldn't look away. Kudos, by the way, for naming your band after the Jonas Brothers' abstinence gimmick and then adopting a sound and style that makes everyone uncomfortable.
I imagine it'll be some time before we know if the festival made enough money to be viable as an annual event, but I know that I would come again. See you all there next year, hopefully.