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First City Festival continues to raise bar in second year

First City FestivalPhotos by Pedro Paredes // Written by Molly Kish //

First City Festival //
Monterey County Fairgrounds – Monterey, CA
August 23rd-24th, 2014 //

First City Festival celebrated its second year this past weekend in Monterey with gorgeous weather, enthusiastic crowds and a lineup filled with incredible talent. In a setting that felt as though it was constructed to host the effortlessly engaging festival, the Monterey County Fairgrounds perfectly displayed what many of the artists and attendees quickly deemed “the most peaceful and beautiful festival we’ve ever been to”.

Even while boasting two days and three stages full of some of the biggest names currently touring in rock and indie music, FCF managed to curate an intimate experience across the board for both the bands and their adoring fans. In fact, creating an atmosphere that bridges the gap between the performers and audience members is rarely seen in a festival context and with artists of such caliber.

First City Festival

PERFECTLY PICTURESQUE SETTING

The proximity of the fairgrounds contributed heavily to the tone of this past weekend’s event, allowing casual traversing throughout the festival grounds and for crowds to escape the bustle and stress that most anticipate when trying to navigate amidst conflicting set times and stage distances. Notably, the stage positions in relation to their audience gave fans ample room to really take in and enjoy each performance, providing crowds comfortable accommodations scattered throughout the festival’s scenic surroundings. Sprawling lawns and benches under the shade of languid cypress trees, along with aesthetic touches of hanging chandeliers and multicolored spotlights, added to the natural beauty of the fairgrounds. Even in the rodeo area of the Redwood Stage, crowds could get as close as they wanted to the main attractions to elevate their experience in the seated boxes and perimeter rows, or they simply could enjoy the show underneath the glowing strings of bulbs hanging above that illuminated each evening’s final performance.

First City Festival - The National


The National’s Matt Berninger

INTERPERSONAL ARTIST EXPERIENCES

The festival’s artists even took note and spoke directly to their audiences while performing on stage, as well as took in their peers’ performances amongst the crowd. All throughout the weekend, you could saunter around the fairgrounds and catch many of the artists taking pictures, talking with fans, catching another band’s set or jumping on a carnival ride. Many artists took advantage of how intimate the venue was and set out to have personal discourses with their audience by ways of:

• commenting on attendees’ outfits (“I see you blue shorts” – Tanlines)
• encouraging audience participation (“those bubbles are really doing it for me” – Future Islands)
• holding an impromptu singalong (“Happy Birthday” – The Naked and Famous)
• incorporating the audience into their performance altogether (The National’s Matt Berninger stage diving and leading a procession, sharing the microphone and singing with crowd members throughout the entire duration of a song)

First City Festival

VIP TREATMENT FOR ALL

Most festivals go out of their way to truly separate their VIP ticket holders from the general admission crowds, segregating the very important people who choose to drop extra cash from the masses while still providing a memorable festival experience. Whereas FCF did offer perks to the VIP bracelet elite, the other ticket holders weren’t completely left out of the festival’s atypical accommodations. After all, the benefits of simply attending FCF regardless of admission status far surmounted the expectations of many audience members and truly set the bar for competing festivals nationwide.

• Cocktails, micro brews and artisan food options were available to purchase throughout the festival regardless of someone’s wristband ranking
• Access to indoor bathrooms, charging stations and seated areas at all stages we’re open to the general public
• The Monterey County Carnival was also free to everyone who attended (although VIP ticket holders could jump ahead of the line)
• Lines were near obsolete throughout the entire fairgrounds, with the worst being the 15-minute wait while security checked your belongings upon entering

First City Festival - Future Islands


Future Islands’ Sam Herring

BEST OF THE FEST

Beyond the overall successes of the festival, there were also plenty of musical moments and entertainment highlights over the course of the two days at the fairgrounds. Here are some of our favorites from the weekend.

Most Underrated Festival Fare: Gerard’s Paella (vegan)
Best Commitment to Character: Puddles Pity Party (crowd roaming and panhandling between sets)
Best Set to Kick Start Your Morning: Lake St. Dive
Most Crowd Inspiring Performance: Future Islands
Set Most Likely to Break the Soundboard: How to Dress Well
Snarkiest Band Banter: Tanlines
Biggest Distraction (tie): Low-flying planes preparing to land over the Cypress Stage; Phantogram lead singer Sarah Barthel’s hypnotizing hot pants and accentuated legs
Best Time Travel Moment: “Funky” Beck’s disco-fueled, throwback interlude

Best Carnival Ride: Wave swinger from Neverland Ranch (watch here)
Most Enthusiastic Marketplace Crew: Festival poster booth (igniting post-fest dance parties)
Greatest Between Set Activity: Vinyl perusing at the Beat Swap Meet
Most Unnecessary Festival Accessory: Beacon, flag or group location device
Most Memorable Moment: The National’s unlit romp through the rodeo crowd
Best Reason to Come Back Next Year: To experience the festival’s accessibility before it blows up

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Comments

  1. One of the only festivals I’ve been to where you didn’t need to save a spot for any band to get a good view of them.

    Except maybe for Beck. He drew a pretty big crowd.

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