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Music brings thousands together at the Sacramento Music Festival

Sacramento Music Festival

This year’s Sacramento Music Festival was expected to draw more than 60,000 spectators for the four-day Memorial Day weekend event. The festival has made a concentrated effort to draw more people. It has also widened the spectrum of musical acts that perform annually.

With over 300 scheduled performances on 18 stages, there was something for every music fan. Many musicians provided multiple performances throughout the weekend, giving fans more opportunities to enjoy new and favorite acts.

Although not highly publicized, there were quite a few free events on the streets of Old Sacramento.

Sacramento Music Festival free events
Sacramento Music Festival free events
Sacramento Music Festival free events

Looking at the crowd, it appeared to me that as the festival has aged, so has its audience.

Fans enjoying the 40th Anniversary Sacramento Music Festival
Fans enjoying the 40th Anniversary Sacramento Music Festival
Fans enjoying the 40th Anniversary Sacramento Music Festival
Fans enjoying the 40th Anniversary Sacramento Music Festival

The event, with a couple of name changes, celebrated its 40th anniversary this year. In order to keep up with the changes in music styles and appreciation, the festival, for the past two years, has tried to create an event that appeals to a younger generation and a wider audience.

The Next Generation Band stage gave younger jazz bands a venue of their own. Talented young musicians showcased their talent as they played at different sites. The youth-oriented venue was primarily set up at the Downtown Plaza Piazza.

Next Generation Band musicians also played at Round Table Pizza in Old Sacramento, the Delta Dock and a couple of other spots.

Next Generation Band at the Sacramento Music Festival
Next Generation Band at the Sacramento Music Festival
Next Generation Band at the Sacramento Music Festival

Going a step further, Sacramento Music Festival lowered prices this year for daily and weekend passes. Children under 12 had free admittance.

To draw younger and wider audiences, the music festival also looked for more diverse musical performances.

Ben Taylor at the Sacramento Music Festival
Zydeco Flames at the Sacramento Music Festival
Wanda Jackson at the Sacramento Music Festival
Fat Sams Band at the Sacramento Music Festival

Mindy Giles of Swell Productions was brought in to help book headline acts. Giles did not disappoint and was instrumental in bringing The Blasters, Dan Hicks & The Hot Licks, The James Hunter Six and Los Lobos to this year’s festival.

Dan Hicks and the Hot Licks at the Sacramento Music Festival
The Blasters at the Sacramento Music Festival

Local promoter Jerry Perry was also quite visible primarily on the Turntable on the Green stage.

Other headline performers for this year’s festival included the Kenny Wayne Shepherd Band, Ben Taylor, John Lee Hooker Jr., Wanda Jackson, Jimmy Pailer, Johnny “Guitar” Knox, James Garner’s Cash Tribute, The Rhythm Vandals, Mick Martin and the Blues Rockers, the Kyle Rowland Band, Beer Dawgs and many others.

The festival, to me, was mind-boggling. With so many performances it was hard making a decision as to which performers I wanted to see. After the first day, I just picked a couple of headline acts to view and decided to walk to as many performances as humanly possible. That decision did not work out as planned because I was exhausted.

Parade at the Sacramento Music Festival in Old Sacramento
Parade at the Sacramento Music Festival in Old Sacramento
Parade at the Sacramento Music Festival in Old Sacramento
Parade at the Sacramento Music Festival in Old Sacramento
Parade at the Sacramento Music Festival in Old Sacramento

This was also my first year at the festival and I loved the different performances and venues. I was able to enjoy music at the Delta King Paddlewheel Saloon, Laughs Unlimited, Embassy Suites, the Sheraton Ballroom and the Hyatt Ballroom, where swing dance competitions took place on the main stages.

Music festival ticket holders could also enjoy performances and free entrance to the Railroad Museum, as well as other Old Sacramento venues.

California State Railroad Museum hosted banjo music at the Sacramento Music Festival
The Golden Cadillacs at Laughs Unlimited during the Sacramento Music Festival
TNT entertains at the Sacramento Downtown Plaza Stroll during the Sacramento Music Festival

The annual music festival at times seemed like a giant party with venues all around. In order for guests to move from the Old Sacramento venues to the Sacramento Convention Center, free area bus service was provided. Hotel venues gave guests air-conditioned space to enjoy.

I heard some complaints from guests, but overall there were far more compliments about the festival.

Another thing that I enjoyed was the parade held on Saturday, May 25, and all the performances at the main stage. It was also a highlight to see Kyle Rowland, who I saw a couple of times play, when he was a young teen, with Mick Martin. Rowland personifies how great music can be passed down from one generation to the next, and I hope the music festival sees more performances from younger musical prodigies. Old-school performers still pack the venue though, which was easily seen in the presence of Los Lobos and the timeless Wanda Jackson.

Kyle Rowland performing at the Sacramento Music Festival
Swing Dance Competition at the Hyatt Ballroom during the Sacramento Music Festival
Swing Dance Competition at the Hyatt Ballroom during the Sacramento Music Festival
Swing Dance Competition at the Hyatt Ballroom during the Sacramento Music Festival

Skip Maggiora, founder of Skip’s Music, had a 40th Anniversary Celebration Concert at the Firehouse Lot.

Maggiora continues to sponsor many events in Sacramento to further music appreciation throughout the region. “It was great to see the diversity of our music community and have people like Frank Hannon of Tesla and other musicians representing, Pablo Cruise, Oleander, REO Speedwagon, the Beer Dawgs and others,” said Maggiora, as he expressed genuine gratitude toward these and other local musicians.

Skip Maggiora at the Swing Dance Competition at the Hyatt Ballroom during the Sacramento Music Festival

“It’s great to see the festival moving to diversify and invite performers representing different music genres,” said Maggiora, and continued, “It helps the festival move forward.”

The festival formerly known as the Old Sacramento Dixieland Jazz Jubilee indeed continues to move forward. This year about half the performing acts were jazz bands.

The Sacramento Traditional Jazz Society presented the 40th Anniversary Sacramento Music Festival with support from the Sacramento Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Los Lobos perform at the Sacramento Music Festival’s main stage
Los Lobos perform at the Sacramento Music Festival’s main stage
Los Lobos perform at the Sacramento Music Festival’s main stage
Los Lobos perform at the Sacramento Music Festival’s main stage

Besides being a very entertaining event, its proceeds support the preservation of traditional jazz through STJS Jazz Education Programs. To foster and preserve classic American jazz and develop a new generation of musicians, the Sacramento Music Festival will continue to present young music talent.

The annual festival has been held every Memorial Day weekend since 1974. If you haven’t made any plans for next year’s Memorial Day, begin planning to attend the 2014 event.

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