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Music Cities: Sacramento

My city is Northern California’s best kept secret, so don’t go spreading any of the information I’m about to share with you. As a cultural/musical hub we have a long way to go, but the beauty and easy lifestyle of Sacramento are hard to match.

Sacramento sits on the confluence of two rivers and boasts the 2nd most trees of any city in the world. Add to that a bikeable city-center and close proximity to Yosemite, San Francisco and Wine Country and you’ll see why I call Sacramento home. The only setback for a Sacramento musician is visibility.

Due to city policies put in place several decades ago, permitting for live music is inordinately expensive in Sacramento. Fortunately, the city is seeking to address the woes of local artists. Sacramento’s new mayor, Darrell Steinberg, recently pledged $500,000 in “Creative Economy Grants” to local artists. While it remains to be seen how the money will be allocated, it’s a step in the right direction.

The “underdog” identity of Sacramento is something that has always appealed to me. We might be the state capital, but we’re no San Francisco, LA or even Santa Cruz in terms of national acclaim or notoriety. Bands skip us on tours in favor of taking a day off to drive from SF to Portland, the local festival which was supposed to put us on the map went broke after two years, Kanye even christened our brand new arena with a pitiful 20-minute performance before walking off stage. Why us? Rather than break us, the dismissive way people talk about our city has galvanized the people of Sacramento.

Despite a strong core of local music lovers, I’ve watched our talent leak away time and time again to the country’s true music capitols. It’s a “big fish small pond” situation. The allure of LA and New York are just too great once local bands have tasted the glory of headlining a night at Harlow’s Nightclub. It’s a temptation I’ve contended with myself, though I can’t help but double down on my love for Sacramento in light of some of the awesome local talent that has been bubbling to the surface in recent years:

Hobo Johnson 

Hobo Johnson is Sacramento’s golden boy. His rise has been meteoric and, more than any other artist in town, Hobo Johnson has demonstrated the potential for national talent to emerge from the City of Trees. His massive local following has shown the rest of Sac’s music scene that it’s possible to establish a very real foothold here in Sacramento.

The Philharmonik 

The Philharmonik is another one of my favorite local acts. Christian Gates is a master on the keys with an amazing soulful voice. Check out his song “Energy” and you’ll hear his promise right away.

Drug Apts 

Drug Apts are one of the most exciting acts out of Sacramento right now. Frontwoman Whitney  Kebschull is a whirlwind in human form. Their most recent release was produced by members of Death Grips, further strengthening Sacramento’s musical network. Seeing Drug Apts live will make you a believer.

Combining Drake’s vulnerability, the vocal affectation of The Weeknd, and Jack Antonoff’s musical production prowess, Sacramento based So Much Light created a socially conscious full-length debut titled, ‘Oh, Yuck.’ He utilizes both organic and electronic sounds on the newly released, Oh, Yuck. The album is wrought with textural soundscapes grounded by programmed orchestral compositions, sprightly guitar lines, and thrashing drums–productions that are never overambitious or dense, but purposeful with each synth layer, each woodwind arrangement. Lyrically, Verrett puts traditional R&B tropes in a funhouse mirror and warps the genre’s bravado into a parody of itself.

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Angela Mastrogiacomo

Founder of Infectious Magazine & Muddy Paw Public Relations. Lover of passion, ice cream, and books.

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