One of the most noted differences for the 40th anniversary Sacramento Music Festival was a venue change. For dozens of years, Turntable Junction has been erected near the Railroad Museum. The Depot also accompanied this far end of Old Sacramento Music Festival venues and was situated inside the actual train depot where chairs and vendor booths were set up for the event. In 2013 both of these venues were eliminated and the new Turntable Green was created out of the large grass area between the depot and some of the old town brick buildings.
Large tent shades were stretched across part of the lawn which was blocked off by portable wall panels. The stage was erected at one end and hay bales placed some yards from the stage with open lawn in various places including in front of the stage, in back of the sound station, and in the sunny lawn area behind the tent and hay bales.
Fortunately, the 2013 Memorial Day weekend was not a typical California summer hot. If it had been hotter, the discomfort of the many visitors would most likely have increased due to lack of adequate shade. The angle of the sun’s rays made the tent ineffective in many cases and from sunrise to sunset only half of the tent-covered hay bales were actually shaded. Music Festival attendees could be seen changing from hay bale to hay bale throughout the day as the sun traveled. The countrified hay seats in front of the stage were often left empty until the day cooled or the sun dropped entirely.
When the big headliners were due to appear at the Turntable Green, the venue usually filled and was definitely filled to capacity for seating during several occasions like Sunday’s singular appearance of Dan Hicks and the Hot Licks at 7:00 p.m. Other Turntable Green headliners like Ben Taylor, John Lee Hooker, Jr., Los Lobos, and Wanda Jackson also drew the crowds and were first-time appearances for the Sacramento Music Festival.
While the venue offered a larger area for crowds, the seating was not well received, particularly by seniors who don’t fancy seating without backs or with scratchy hay. On the other hand, a plentitude of attendees were happy to litter themselves across the lawn when the sun softened or dropped to welcome the not only cool but chilly night air that summoned the use of long sleeved shirts, sweaters and even jackets. Many blankets were evidenced coloring the green and blocking out little patches of seating areas. This picnic-like approach was fun for some but miserable for those more stiff in limb. It also was not favored by many who have a low tolerance for excessive gab and shouted conversations during musical performances. For some undetermined reason, the nature of the venue gave cause for a let-it-loose approach concert attendance behavior that could easily be deemed disrespectful to fellow patrons.
Attendees who were queried had similar responses about the new venue. The sound system was a big thumbs up. The new headliners were also a thumbs up. The idea of the venue was a thumbs up but its execution was considered a failure. Several annual patrons stated that they actually left the venue due to the noise interfering with music appreciation and the lack of seating. Others said they didn’t like attending in the dark because the low level of lighting caused them to trip and it was a hazard working through the crowds seated on the lawns.
Some noisy patrons dodging through the populated grass to retrieve yet another round of drinks were too self-involved to notice that they were actually a nuisance and cause for numerous frowns. This kind of behavior can be found at almost any outdoor concert venue that offers alcohol, casual seating, and crowds. Should it be encouraged at the Sacramento Music Festival? Most of the returning fans who look forward to another year of great music probably weren’t applauding but then again they may have been among those chatting it up while Dan Hicks and his Lickettes brought their magic to the stage. Well, perhaps not.
Overall, the 2013 Sacramento Music Festival was a great experience for most of those who attended. There were some less favored situations and less favored musicians but the general response was that the festival was actually far better than it has been in the last couple years when it comes to the music. The headliners were designed to be a draw and were clearly appreciated by new attendees as well as faithful patrons. Returning fans expect to see Tom Rigney and Flambeau, Sacramento Blues Revue, James Garner and the Cash Tribute Band, Mick Martin and the Blues Rockers as well as many other favorites. At the same time, they like to hear something new and exciting like Dave Bennett and The Memphis Boys who were a first rate success last year and returned to applauding fans who hope they will continue to be booked for many years to come.