First City Festival @ Monterey Fairgrounds 8/24/13 – Day 1
Set on the same landscape as the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival, First City Festival grabbed hold of the spirit of a past generation of musicians and created an unforgettable experience in the summer of 2013. With nostalgia blowing in the ocean breeze and the sun shining bright, hundreds of festival goers lined up to get their indie rock party started with festivities galore.
First City Festival utilized the Monterey Fairgrounds’ classic three stage setup with Eli “Paperboy” Reed kicking off Saturday’s gigs in style on the Cypress Stage. Reed is not only a sharp dresser, he also has a style of music that can’t help but make a person get up and dance. Hearing some new songs from his new album and dancing along to every note was the perfect preparation for the first beer of the day.
Even though the sun was shining and the crowd remained fairly chill, Blitzen Trapper kicked out their jams on the main stage, rightfully dubbed the Redwood Stage, like they were headlining on a Saturday night. The fellas from Oregon started their First City set with “Fletcher,” interspersed some new songs from their upcoming album, played a spellbinding version of “Furr,” and sent us off wanting more with an exquisite version of “Big Black Bird.”
After a quick jaunt back to the Cypress Stage to catch the end of The Black Angels’ set, it was back to the Redwood Stage to listen to the brilliance that is The Hold Steady. Lead singer and glorious gesticulator, Craig Finn, belted out “How you doin, Monterey?” to a resounding return of hoots and hollers. Starting their set with “Constructive Summer” seemed fitting on such a sensational summer afternoon, and the energy they brought with them was contagious. Not to disappoint, The Hold Steady pulled some favorites from the vaults while Finn seemed to want to party like it was 2006 all over again.
As with most first-time festivals, there were a few technical glitches along the way. One in particular had fans of Okkervil River wondering why frontman, Will Sheff, was using auto-tune on their opening song, “For Real.” Was he trying to channel Cher? After a couple songs, the band caught on to the crazy voice effects and put the kibosh on ‘em. Okkervil River never disappoints and they seem to thrive in an outdoor setting. Even with the technical difficulties, their fans stood strong and the band played an amazing set for the growing crowd of indie rock fans.
As Father John Misty was still blessing his fans with his dance moves and experimental brand of folk rock on the Cypress Stage, Tennis took to the Manzanita Stage and played a heated match against electricity – Alaina Moore’s keyboard kept blowing fuses throughout their set. The band didn’t let that or having their suitcases stolen the previous night in San Francisco get them down. They came to play and play they did. Their mantra quickly became “we’re gonna roll with it,” and it rang true as the band played beyond their provided time slot to ecstatic fans bouncing along to their catchy melodies and sing-along lyrics.
After a wonderful save by Tennis, First City Festival fans seemed to wonder what else may go wrong on the Redwood Stage before night’s end, but Goldenvoice and crew seemed to get it altogether before MGMT hit the stage. Just after sunset on the Cypress Stage, Washed Out appeared to a crowd of dedicated fans. The crimson and purple lit backdrop created a tranquil ambiance, but Ernest Greene and his traveling band did their best to get the crowd into it, and fans responded with raised arms waving and hands clapping in the evening breeze. Ernest let his fans know this was their first live show in eight months, but with how tight they were throughout their set, no one would have been the wiser.
Although there were a few hiccups along the way, the positives and calm, yet exuberant crowd helped everyone push through and enjoy an amazing day of music in magnificent Monterey.