Experience Determined: TBD Fest is #WhatsNext in Sacramento

TBD Fest, a new event by creative group Launch, just took place in Sacramento this past weekend at an untouched location on Waterfront St. near Raley Field.

TBD Fest evolved out of an annual event in California’s capital that embraced local architecture, design, art, fashion and food in an all-encompassing and one-of-a-kind public celebration of creativity. In its current form, TBD is shooting for the ranks of other nationally and internationally renowned music festivals like SXSW and Coachella for a permanent blip on the west coast festival radar. If you ask me, the Sacramento area is screaming for something like TBD Fest to carve out a permanent spot in the region and TBD left a lasting impression. The event’s organizers started something that fits the scope of Sacramento’s size and the residents’ culture in a way that leaves no doubt in my mind whether they will find future success.


[Photo Credits: Chris Hong, FestPop]

The newness of TBD Fest was very refreshing. Having gone to UC Davis (but no longer residing there), I was very familiar with the area and therefore had a lax, comfortable disposition over the weekend. In a way, the small scope and accessibility of the festival made me feel like I didn’t have to over-commit. It was the type of occasion where those living in the area (a huge, untapped population including the music-hungry students of two nearby universities) can take any means of transportation a short distance to an exciting event.

With new events such as this, crowds are generally local and the macro vibe only brushes the typical festival standard those of us who have attended dozens of events really understand. In this way, I sensed more genuine enjoyment from the gathered masses – an honest excitement for the music – rather than some sort of forced participation I’ve felt at larger festivals with similar but amplified lineups.

The crowd was small (an estimated 21,000 attendees over the weekend including three-day and single day passes) and very manageable. There was room to move throughout the small venue and every stage was open up to the most eager viewers to make their way to the front with little push. There was room to dance, great views even at the very back of the crowd, and an idea of personal space, which isn’t always necessary but was nice to experience. With that said, the crowd still gave it their all when it came to excitement and camaraderie. I actually kept running into the same strangers I’d briefly befriended and other recognizable faces I’d never met.

The TBD Fest vendors were similarly engaged and very friendly when they weren’t selling their aesthetically and craftily impressive wares at the lowest prices I’ve ever seen festival goods go for (from everything to clothes and accessories, food, and drinks). I’d like to say that Launch’s local emphasis brought in nearby businesses to lower prices but I could also see the small crowd influencing a price drop for the sake of sales.

All vendors were placed within a creatively decorated bazaar, lit with white lights during the warm nights and cohesive white gazebo structures that were semi-connected in an area smack dab in the middle of the linear grounds but with an inviting feeling of separateness. The vendor cluster also helped break up the dust activity, which was one of the larger (although I argue it was minor) complaints of the weekend and served as a nice retail break from the crowds.

TBD Fest 1

[Photo Credits: TBD Fest]

On top of the clothes and accessories shopping I took part in, food was a main objective of mine during TBD Fest. The food was amazing and it didn’t break the bank. If I hadn’t shown up at dinnertime each day I would have definitely eaten more than I had the chance to. Some of my favorites included the Jerk Chicken Bao from Urban Heritage and Bar Taco’s pork and chicken tacos.

TBD Fest also hosted one of the most generous and unique food aspects of any festival I’ve attended which involved various local chefs preparing over 300 mini-meals for attendees to taste at no charge as part of a friendly cook-off challenge. These culinary artisans worked for hours each day serving hundreds of hungry people a range of cuisine and a range of portions as well; I had one sample-sized tidbit one day, curry chicken with slaw on flatbread, and the next I was given a taco that could have replaced an entire meal.

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[Photo Credit: TBD Fest]

Additional additives to the experience included a car show of several Tesla models, fashion showcase inside a castle-like wood scrap tower, morning yoga pre-festival (which I didn’t partake in but an impressive number of others did), live 2D art creation, and other art installations. It’s great to have diverse visual elements at any festival and while I believe the organizers did a good job at showcasing these things, they seemed to go slightly under-appreciated but I’m excited to see how these exhibitions grow and improve with years to come. The installation centerpiece – a roughly 12x12x12 foot florescent cube propped on one of its corner axes – was a huge success.

The major highlight of TBD Fest, as should be at any music festival, was the music. The lineup was inarguably astounding considering the scope of the festival and the price of the average ticket. The only complaint I’d have was the limited sound competition between the Lowbrau Stage and Block Stage which, at times, fell victim to overlapping proximity and set times.

Still, I couldn’t get enough of the music, the performance, the energy. On Friday I saw MNDR, Gramatik, Com Truise, Dillon Francis, and RAC who were all impressive. The acts that really did it for me on that first night, however, were Zak Waters who pulled in a swarm of appreciators from more reputable acts on bigger stages with his sweet and funky sound, and Moby – the legend – who served up a nightcap of genius techno.


[Photo Credits: Chris Hong, FestPop]

Night two called for French Horn Rebellion, The War on Drugs, Smallpools, MS MR, Cherub, Explosions in the Sky, and Empire of the Sun. The killers of the night award went to Cherub whose white-boy funk and provocatively honest ballads put a smile on my face as I danced through the set. Cherub’s dedication to music, and what they know about it, has filled a void nobody knew they needed filled in their lives and their appreciation for the audience really makes for a fun show regardless of where you see them.

On Sunday Deltron 3030 kicked off the evening, giving Sacramento some new and old sounds and some of the best hip hop out there right now. 8th Grader, Keys N Krates, YACHT, Viceroy, Goldroom and Justice played a range of pop-funk, electro, and techno tunes that kept the crowd bouncing. The highlight of the night was Blondie, of course, who showed the audience what true instrumentalism and a decades-long dedication to experimental rock/pop/reggae can bring. Debbie Harry, even at 69 years old, has maintained her vocal prowess and can still seductively work a crowd in her platinum dye job.

TBD Fest 2

[Photo Credit: TBD Fest]

Overall, TBD Fest was a smashing success and I won’t hear anything else about it. Sacramento needs an event like this and the market is huge right now for a massive festival in the area. Although it competed with another local event, Transcendence Festival, and SF’s beloved Hardly Strictly Bluegrass, it pulled the attendance numbers and notoriety it needed. I can’t wait to attend again next year and the years to come and see how it blossoms.

Written by FestPop Senior Music Editor 
Edward Heinrich
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