This past weekend, First City Festival made its debut at Monterey County Fairgrounds (if it sounds familiar, the annual Jazz Festival is also held there) and the stellar turnout ensured that this won’t be the last time we witness the two-day event that was named after Monterey’s claim to be the “first capital” of California.
With a line up containing Neko Case, Toro Y Moi, Akron/Family, and the Antlers, on day two alone, it was definitely worth making a two-hour road trip from the Bay Area. The weather was beautiful, the crowd was mellow, and lines for food and beverages were reasonable. Of course, I’d be remiss if I didn’t make a top five list. Before you look at the photos, humor me in reading my thoughts on the highlights and lowlights of the day’s events.
Most fun: Dakin might be mad at me for saying this, but Bleached need to project a little bit more energy on stage. Much of their performance felt a bit forced in the enthusiasm department. However, true to their alt-punk roots, the all-female outfit made a sarcastic joke towards the golfers playing the course on the other side of the chain link fence next to the stage (“thanks to the golfers who came out to see us perform”), channeled Glenn Danzig quite nicely with a decent cover of “Bound to None” by the Misfits (which, unfortunately, is not unique amongst contemporary live bands these days), and threw in a Ramones cover for good measure.
Most professional: Everything that could have possibly gone wrong during Akron/Family’s performance did as the tech scrambled on stage several times to fix the bass drum, bass, and other parts of the drum setup. How to compensate for a lack of rhythm section? Get the audience to clap along with you in a beautifully executed A cappella chorus. To top off the sweetness of the entire performance, a jet engine flew over the crowd towards the very end while they were unwinding into a state of downtempo bliss. It was pretty epic, and I don’t usually use that term. They should be headlining these festivals.
Most down to earth: Lucero is a lively country-punk band that plays for the adults who’ve suffered through broken hearts, divorce, drinking problems, and anything else that someone young and impressionable might not fully relate to just yet. The Tennessee band performed like an everyman outfit without the mediocrity that comes with the association.
Most awkwardly out of place: Where do I start with Electric Guest? First off, the lead singer donned a beanie and was busting moves straight out of Justin Bieber’s playbook. That might be cool if we were at MTV’s VMAs but since this was far from the case, watching this performance was just a cringeworthy experience that forced me to avoid the photo pit. Towards the end of the set, said lead singer abruptly paused to ask if anyone in the crowd “had any weed for his cousin?” Sure, dude. But you don’t have Bieber’s money or security which means any undercover cop that overheard your “special announcement” could’ve thrown in the clink. Just sayin’.
Most obnoxious fan base: Modest Mouse fans pushed and shoved their way toward the stage while the much more talented Neko Case performed, smoked cigarettes in the midst of the crowd, yelled over the music, and took pictures of themselves and others with the flash on. There’s a special place in purgatory for these people and I’m glad we didn’t stick around to suffer through their set.
You can view a set of full-sized photos here. I messed around with filters on Neko Case because she was bathed in horrid shades of blue and purple lighting during the beginning of her set.