Photos by Marc Fong // Written by Molly Kish
The inaugural First City Festival was a big success over the weekend (August 24 & 25) — something most new festivals do not pull off.
There were five particular reasons this first-year fest worked so well — and these five game changers are why FCF will return for year two. Be sure to keep scrolling down to view all the magnificent eye-candy captured by Marc Fong — there are over 150 artist and scene photos to take in.
1. The Comprehensively Diverse Music Line Up
Exhibiting a wide spectrum of genre and talent, First City Festival nailed the booking of the festival’s inaugural year. Filling both days with incredible sets performed by bands both at the height of their musical game or on the verge of a mainstream breakthrough, Goldenvoice SF made sure the bill was stacked.
The fairgrounds housed three separate stages within a five-minute walk of each other, sparse conflicts and ample set spacing optimized maximum viewing pleasure. The line-up encouraged audience members to branch out of their comfort zones between sets, encouraging the discovery of new music.
2. Concession Placement and Prices
Given the spare time allotted between sets, sampling a variety of food and beverage choices located throughout the fairgrounds was a breeze. The general food court was set up at the midsection of the festival — food trucks, cocktails and beers could be found everywhere.
Drink prices ranged from $7-12, offering everything from the standard domestic to artisan crafted cocktails (the option to spritz your beverage with absinthe and chartreuse was available). Food prices also followed suit and presented modern spins on the traditional carnival fare.
3. VIP Perks in General Admission Area
Most festivals go out of their way to generally sanction off the VIP ticket holders from the GA masses. Although FCF reserved a special entrance, carnival perks, seating accommodations and swanky lounges for those who sprung for the VIP pass, the festival worked hard to deliver an enjoyable experience for all that attended. Ample indoor bathrooms were available for all, along with large charging stations, hard alcohol options and outdoor shaded chill areas that were well furnished. In its inaugural year, FCF ran crowd cohabitation smoothly and kept everyone in attendance happily content.
4. The Monterey County Carnival
Taking notes from modern day music festivals, FCF jumped on the idea that concert go-er’s enjoy alternative entertainment to suffice their down time between sets. Beyond providing eclectic acts throughout both days on the vaudeville stage, the festival utilized their fairground landscape to its full capacity.
In prep for Monterey’s upcoming county fair, the festival decided to take initiative and set up the rides and games early, allowing FCF crowds to have a complete carnival at their disposal all weekend. Boasting games, mazes and rides ushered in from Neverland Ranch, the concert attendees were able to split their time between a festival of live music and a dub step sound-tracked carnival. A smart move in crowd control, and an ingenious way to boost revenue and all around surreal experience, the carnival uniquely set FCF apart from other festivals.
5. Location, Location, Location
Although the Monterey County Fairgrounds have an impressive calendar of events and a historical legacy within the Bay Area music scene, there hasn’t been much recently to compete with the crowds and caliber of this past weekend.
Nestled in the small suburban coastal community of Monterey, a town that usually catches cover bands, rodeos and craft fairs at the fairgrounds, the promoters couldn’t have picked a better place to kick off what undoubtedly will become a premiere West Coast music festival.
Even elements such as the constant overhead traffic of the adjacent small aircraft port were met with ease. Instead of being considered a distraction to the sets, musicians embraced the magical nature of each plane taking off or landing throughout their performance, usually incorporating banter and impeccable comedic timing
The weather, layout and charm of the surrounding neighborhood played a key part into how successful the FCF weekend played out. From the ample roadside accommodations and street parking within blocks of the fairgrounds, to the killer family owned restaurants and extremely congenial locals, FCF was a hospitable music festival for the books.
Toro Y Moi
Father John Misty
The Hold Steady
The Black Angels