Rio Hondo College Newspaper

El Paisano

Rio Hondo College Newspaper

El Paisano

Rio Hondo College Newspaper

El Paisano

‘FCF’ lights up Monterey

The first ever First City Festival lit up the city of Monterey the last weekend of August, ending the summer festival season with a flurry of aesthetically spectacular musical and artistic performances.

Held on the Monterey Fairgrounds against the backdrop of a cool ocean breeze five minutes away, the First City Festival offered guests a colorful and vibrant environment in which to enjoy the bands they came to see perform. Pleasingly different from most festivals, FCF featured a more intimate setting for both performers and the screaming fans crowding to see them with its three stages, the Manzanita, Cypress, and Redwood.

The Manzanita was the smallest, and provided the most intimacy in terms of how close the audience was to the band. The Cypress stage was medium in size, but still provided a large level of closeness with band members and singers able to get close to the audience. Largest of all three stages and positioned within a small stadium, the Redwood flaunted large red and navy blue curtains, as well as light bulbs that stretched out from the top of the stage and over the heads of the crowd. The level of intimacy given even by the largest stage at FCF was immensely important, giving the crowd a sense that they were right next to the band performing, and seeing the emotion on an artist’s face as they perform has the ability to induce goose bumps.

Between these venues were grass areas and a large number of trees, which seem like insignificant details, but guests appreciated the soft surfaces to sit down on and watch their favorite bands. FCF added to the carnival atmosphere by stringing light-bulbs onto the trees and adding fluorescent lighting, which created a canopy of lights around guests at night. There were also various vendors selling original art pieces, clothing brands offering unique styles and outfits, games, as well as the Monterey Carnival right next-door opened for guests to enjoy.

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There was even a small Vaudeville stage, which guests could sit near on benches, enjoy a deep-fried twinkie or bacon wrapped hot dog and an ice-cold drink, and watch one of the three acts that performed on it. It featured the John Bros. Piano Co., Majinga the Magician, and the outstanding Vau De Vire Society, comprised of women dressed in a burlesque fashion, which acted out a routine of stunning acrobatic feats that wowed audiences.

Without a doubt, it was indie and alternative rock groups that dominated the two-day long festival. The lineup was short but powerful, smaller bands and performers warmed up audiences throughout the day for the explosive closing acts at night.

The atmospheric tones of Beach House and Washed Out, as well as Delta Spirit’s own high-energy rock sound, were the most notable performances of the smaller bands on day one. Beach House, which has already made a name for itself by performing in other festivals earlier this year, didn’t disappoint with its soul-lifting vocals.

Electronic duo MGMT shocked crowds into another state of consciousness with its vibrant set and the trippy animations it had recorded to play behind them. Songs “Electric Feel” and “Time to Pretend” sent electrical currents through the audience, who were almost too entranced to sing along. However, their chosen closing song, “Kids,” contrasted vastly with the high energy of their entire performance, as they decided to perform a mellower version of the crowd favorite. But this didn’t stop them from clapping in sync with the heavy base and drums, as well as singing along to the heart-squeezing nostalgia in the lyrics. Yet, the mellow attitude served as an excellent transition to the explosive energy of Passion Pit, who closed day one.

Day two featured a colorful array of genres ranging from the anthemic-pop sound of duo Capital Cities who performed their hit “Safe and Sound” alongside a cover of the BeeGees “Stayin’ Alive,” to the base heavy synthetics and angelic vocals of Purity Ring. Deerhunter rocked the Cypress stage while the Generationals dominated the Manzanita stage with their alt-rock sound but early-rock vocals. Songs like “When They Fight, They Fight” and “Kemal” from their new album flaunted their ability to step in and out of genres and remain in key with what’s popular.

One-man Toro y Moi ignited a dance party on the dirt floor of the Redwood, skillfully combining his abilities with a keyboard and superb vocals, singlehandedly adding some groove of his own blend and creation to FCF. His performance of “New Beat” off his “Underneath the Pine” album sent the audience into a dancing frenzy.

The rock powerhouse Modest Mouse closed day two, unflinching in its attempts with each song to overload each and every eardrum in the audience. Rock fans screamed and climbed on each other’s shoulders, throwing their hands up almost in worship to the burst of aggressive guitar riffs and drums beats occurring onstage.

However, it was the synthy-pop themes and high-pitched, energizing vocals of indie born Passion Pit, who closed day one, which propelled FCF, as well as each and every audience member, to an astronomical level of musical euphoria.

When performing live, any band or artist that can match not only the sound of its studio and album songs, but also transfer that energy from song to the crowd with its performance, cements itself as a champion entertainer. Lead vocals Michael Angelakos spent the entire hour-and-a-half Passion Pit was onstage running, jumping, yelling at the crowd to sing and asking if they were having a “f***ing good time,” and of course singing himself, and the outcome was the atomic bomb equivalent of musical performances. Monterey was Hiroshima, and the Redwood stage was ground zero.

Listening to Angelakos, it was almost frightening how much better he sounded live than on album, and he sounds really, really good on the two albums Passion Pit has released. Songs “Little Secrets,” “Cry Like A Ghost,” and “Constant Conversations” were executed with a balloon of emotion by the band that just grew and grew as the show went on. When the recognizable tune of “Take A Walk” began to play, Agelakos told the audience he wanted everyone’s hands up and to go crazy when the song hit. The excitement was just so visible amongst the members of Passion Pit, and it was unclear who was enjoying themselves more, the band or crowd.

When the group thanked the audience and left the stage without playing their crowd favorite, “Sleepyhead,” which was the song that brought them from Milwaukee to worldwide recognition, chanting began for an encore. Not long after, the band walked back onstage and Angelakos thanked the crowd and asked if they were having a good time one last time. Then the base and tune of “Sleepyhead” dropped, and Passion Pit blew up in combustion of passion and sound that went unrivaled at FCF.

There is a reason Monterey claims itself as the “first capital” of California, however it should begin also including in that title its new stake to the claim as the music “festival” capitol of the state. Home to a diverse community of artists, the Monterey Fairgrounds themselves was home to the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival, which featured the first major American appearances of Jimi Hendrix, The Who, Ravi Shankar, and even Janis Joplin—it was marked as the beginning of the “Summer of Love” and used as an inspiration for Woodstock two years later.

The First City Festival has continued that tradition and expanded the legacy by opening up the city of Monterey to music and art lovers of all ages and backgrounds to come together to appreciate and promote the talents of artists everywhere.

MGMT warming up fans before the main act of Saturday night.
MGMT warming up fans before the main act of Saturday night.

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