Sacramento’s never really been a town for music festivals. Sure, we have the Jazz Festival in Old Sac every year, but the only real chance for Sacramentans (Sacramentites?) to see name-brand music is to go to Outside Lands, Coachella, or some other distant festival that is a bit too far for a casual day of music.
Either that or wait for the “tour roulette” to work in our favor.
Launch is a music/fashion festival that has been operating annually for about six years, but they’ve never really attracted much of a crowd, mostly because they’ve failed to book enough artists of note. Previously, their only really notable act was Grouplove, famous for their 2011 album Never Trust a Happy Song.
This year, however, Launch managed to snag Imagine Dragons, as well as Cults, Geographer and Washed Out (a.k.a. the guys who made the Portlandia theme song).
Launch began last Thursday with their free block party at the MARRS building (1050 20th St.) which I didn’t attend, though I might as well have since I could hear it from my bedroom until 10 p.m.
They held the fashion portion of the festival on Friday with the “Launch x Fashion” show at the Sheraton Grand (1230 J St.), along with a “Kick-off Party” at the Ace of Spades Club (1417 R St.).
The music portion began Saturday at Cesar Chavez Park downtown between 10th and I Streets. Tickets for the whole weekend were $75, and singles were $55 dollars.
Performers alternated on the Tower and Crest stages, each one doing a 25-45 minute set while the other band set up on whichever stage was not occupied.
I arrived around 12:30 on Sunday. I had missed the first act and the second; a band named Life in 24 Frames, was playing. They were plenty good, but it wasn’t one of the bands on my checklist for the day, so I decided to walk around.
Launch features Sacramento vendors for both food and clothing, with local food trucks making an appearance along with a few of the area’s boutiques.
They even had some local artists hawking their pieces, sometimes quite aggressively. I’ve learned not to make eye contact with an artist unless you’re interested because the moment she sees you she’ll take you to her booth and spend five minutes telling you the story of how her drawing of a pink cocaine-addicted kangaroo stripper came to be.
I did, however, find the selection of music lackluste., I had to hurry to buy the one and only copy of the new Washed Out album. A music seller who shows up to a festival targeted at hipsters with one vinyl album of each band has some serious thinking to do.
The day proceeded thusly: if the band was on the checklist, we tried to get as close as possible to the stage, and if not we tried to get as far as possible from direct sunlight, for the midday heat was almost unbearable.
My favorite band of the day was Washed Out. That’s right, eat your heart out Imagine Dragons fans. Though I have to say, they do know how to put on a show. I would love to be loyal to Washed Out and say that it was just that they played later and had the aid of moving stage lights, but I really can’t. But Washed Out’s set was boring compared to Imagine Dragons’.
Their lead singer Dan Reynolds jumped up and down across the stage beating on drums and dancing all while singing. The only thing that marred their performance was their short set list due to technical difficulties and a hard 10 p.m. curfew.
A close second was Cults. Full disclosure here: the opinion is influenced by my total crush on lead singer Madeline Follin.
Overall it was a great day for music with friends and highly recommendable for anyone who wants to attend next year. I have no idea which artists will be playing, but Imagine Dragons has already professed a desire to come back to Sac.
My only regret about the day is not trying to swing press passes for Max (the man whose pictures you see gracing this page) and me, although we might have gotten stares in the press area for being the only ones armed solely with a point-and-shoot.