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Sacramento Music Scene

Lauren Wells | May 21, 2014

The History

During the 1960s, garage rock band The Fugitives got their start in Sacramento before going on to open for bands such as The Rolling Stones, The Byrds, The Kinks, The Beau Brummels, and Paul Revere and the Raiders.  The 1970s churned out folk musician Tim Ware and Christian rock band The 77’s.  Sacramento’s 1980s music scene saw the successes of Tesla, a hard rock band that has sold over 14 million albums, along with other bands such as Groovie Ghoulies, Club Nouveau, and Deftones.  During the 1990s, synthpop band Cause & Effect, popular alternative rock band CAKE, and alternative rock band Far emerged alongside acts like contemporary R&B group DRS, alternative hip hop band Blackalicious, and hardcore punk group Hoods.  CAKE members Greg Brown and Victor Damiani later went on to form the band Deathray.  During the mid to late 1990s, dream pop band Claire Voyant, post-grunge band Oleander, and rock band Moon Dog Mane experimented with their sound.  A truly unique group, The Advantage covers music from old video games, as they came out of Sacramento in 1998.  Actress and pop singer-songwriter Brie Larson was also raised in Sacramento before starring in films like 21 Jump Street alongside Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum.  The millenium has seen the talents of bands such as An Angle, Model A, Hella, The Kimberly Trip, and Die Trying.  Metalcore band Embrace the End, hardcore punk band Killing the Dream, doom metal band Giant Squid, and heavy metal band EndeverafteR all emerged from Sacramento during the early 2000s.  A side project of Papa Roach’s lead singer Jacoby Shaddix, Fight the Sky brought their post-hardcore sound to Sacramento natives. The alternative rock band Another Single Day also made a name for themselves as they churned out songs such as “The Sound of Secrets,” “Blind,” and “Far Too Gone.”  Post hardcore band Dance Gavin Dance, alternative rock band middle Class Rut, experimental rock band Consider the Thief, and post-hardcore band A Lot Like Birds all hail from Sacramento, contributing to the city’s eclectic soundtrack.

The Venues

The Sleep Train Amphitheatre in Wheatland is an 18,500-capacity outdoor amphitheater owned by Live Nation, so naturally you know only the best of the best will be taking the stage.  Acts like Jason Aldean, Maroon 5, Keith Urban, Brad Paisley, Train, Luke Bryan, Kid Rock, John Mayer, Miranda Lambert, and Iron Maiden have all performed here, so keep an eye out for the next A list performer coming to town so you can enjoy some great hits under the Sacramento stars.

Founded in 1982, Harlow’s Night Club has been a Sacramento nightlife mainstay.  Featuring local musicians and popular artists alike, Harlow’s offers an art deco dance space to enjoy blues, soul, and rock ‘n’ roll acts.  The venue even has an in-house professional dining staff that serves up class-act dinner shows so you can take in some talent while you eat.  Enjoy the fire pits, full service bar, and comfortable patio area during the moments you need to get away from the crowd.  On any given night, you’ll experience the sounds and talents of acts like Parade of Lights, The Bell Boys, Skid Row, Asleep at the Wheel, The Revivalists, Ancient Astronaut, and Pimps of Joytime.

Ace of Spades hosts harder acts like Chiodos, Emarosa, Hands Like Houses, Our Last Night, Twenty One Pilots, Black Flag, Cinema Cinema, Hor, Les Claypool’s Duo De Twang, Future, Rico Love, and Que, among others.  An all ages live music venue, Ace of Spades is located in Sacramento’s R Street District.  With a full menu, three bars, and a juice bar for all-ages shows, this venue will quench your thirst while you take in the talented sounds coming from the stage.

The 975-capacity Crest Theatre was opened in 1912 as a vaudeville theatre, but after renovations in 1949 and in 1995, it has become a popular Sacramento music venue.  Events throughout the year include the Trash Film Orgy, a six week event that hosts cult cinema film screenings, live bands, local films, carnival games, and a lounge.  The Sacramento French Film Festival, Jewish Film Festival, and the Film and Music Festival are held here throughout the year as well.  Over the years, the Crest Theatre has hosted acts such as Cab Calloway, Merle Haggard, No Doubt, B.B. King, Dave Brubeck, Joan Rivers, Robin Williams, Lisa Lampanelli and Lewis Black.

The Punch Line Comedy Club hosts acts such as Chris Distefano, Chris D’Elia, Bobby Lee, Josh Blue, Russell Peters, Tom Rhodes, and Lance Woods, among other comedians.  Going strong for over 20 years, the Punch Line has seen the rising careers of Shawn Wayans, Chris Rock, Mark Curry, and Bill Bellamy.

Blue Lamp, a cocktail lounge and concert hall, has hosted concerts from underground artists and popular musicians alike (such as CAKE).  You’ll find that there isn’t a bad seat in the house at Blue Lamp!

Featuring local and touring acts, Old Ironsides has been entertaining Sacramento natives since 1934.  The nightclub, restaurant, and bar is a great spot for lunch, dinner, happy hour, or a relaxed concert.  On a given night, you can see bluegrass acts, sing karaoke hit, and enjoy delicious foods from guest chefs.

Shady Lady Saloon’s 1920s decor creates the vibe of an urban speakeasy the minute you enter the place.  Enjoy cocktails at the U-shaped bar or catch a show by the live music stage.  Jazz, blues, country, and reggae artists from the area perform every night, so you’ll never want for entertainment!  If the show leaves you feeling a bit overheated, you’re more than welcome to cool off on the venue’s patio area.

Since 1986, Crawdad’s River Cantina has been entertaining locals at its location along the Sacramento River in the Riverbank Marina.  Serving delicious food and satisfying beverages, Crawdad’s is a great place to catch live music from acts like The Mock Ups, Joe Friday Band, The Hipsies and the Baja Boyz, and Guitarhead.

Marilyn’s on K not only offers great, reasonably priced drinks specials, but it also brings in acts like Ship of the Sun, classic rock tribute bands, Exiles on Main Street, Johnny Throwback, Foxtrot Mary, and Drop Dead Red, among others.  Ladies, don’t forget your fishnets, as the venue participates in K Street’s Fishnet Fridays where women are admitted for free if they wear stockings!

The Festivals

With a lineup that includes Nahko and Medicine for the People, The Revivalists, Future Rock, Kraak & Smaak, Miguel Migs, La Santa Cecilia, Dogon Lights, and Fly Moon Royalty, among others, the Joshua Tree Music Festival is held every May.  The weekend-long festival has been going strong for over 12 years.  With family-friendly activities, face painting, yoga sessions, jewelry making tutorials, and creative arts booths aplenty, the festival has something for everyone!  In Napa Valley, the Bottle Rock Festival hosts acts like The Cure, Outkast, Eric Church, Weezer, TV on the Radio, Matt and Kim, The Fray, LL Cool J, Sublime, Heart, Third Eye Blind, Deerhunter, De La Soul, Barenaked Ladies, Cracker, Blues Traveler, Keep Shelly in Athens, Robert Delong, Miner, Smash Mouth, Delta Rae, and Matisyahu. A selection of wineries and food vendors participate in the festival as well, so you’ll enjoy three days of music, food, and drinks in beautiful Napa. In Quincy, the High Sierra Music Festival hosts four days of concerts by artists such as Widespread Panic, STS9, Ms. Lauryn Hill, Beats Antique, Trampled by Turtles, Lord Huron, the Del McCoury Band, Lettuce, Punch Brothers, and The Chris Robinson Brotherhood, among many others.  The relaxed festival has been going strong for over 24 years, and offers kid-friendly entertainment and camping options.  Every September, Aftershock takes place over two days and hosts hard rock acts like Shinedown, Korn, Avenged Sevenfold, Five Finger Death Punch, Megadeath, A Day to Remember, Papa Roach, and Volbeat.  Held at Discovery Park, the festival offers plenty of food, drinks, and merchandise for concertgoers.  Held at the Crest Theatre, the Sacramento Film and Music Fest is a multi-day, all-genre international film festival.  Formed in 2000, the festival features a live music component with performances by acts like The Dirty Feet and Autumn Sky.  The Sacramento Music Festival and Jubilee books 100 bands including Aftershock, Blue Street Jazz Band, Bob Ringwald, The Tone Monkeys, Stephanie Trick Trio, Royal Society Jazz Orchestra, Purple Haze, Red Skunk, Rhythm Vandals, Mumbo Gumbo, Old West Trio, and La Casse, among others.  Complete with a parade as well as classic jazz and swing music parties, the Sacramento Music Festival has been a popular event since 1974.  Sponsored by the Sacramento Traditional Jazz Society, the event’s main aim is to preserve the traditional jazz art form.  The Sacramento Electronic Music Festival is a must-attend for EDM lovers.  Featuring artists such as Blue Foundation, Pictureplane, Paper Pistols, Tha Fruitbat, Antwon, RAC, Sister Crayon, Young Aundee, Free the Robots, Computer Jay, EPROM, and Mophono, SEMF is held at multiple venues throughout Sacramento.