2013 First City Festival Recap!

Well, it’s official – I have a new favorite music festival. The inaugural First City Festival in Monterey last weekend was just that good. Let’s get to highlights of what I recommend making a mini vacay out of next year.


All photos in this post by Jenn Farmer


Festival lineups often draw the ire of critics for no reason. Let’s face it – it’s tough work to book acts. You want star power, but you also want to get the up and comers and provide a few surprises. Even so, you’re at the mercy of other people’s schedules and only have so much cash to go around.

Well, Golden Voice had it all figured out and I’m not sure I heard anyone complaining about this lineup. There were a lot of great acts and audiophiles were plenty impressed with how good everything sounded. Aside from a few hiccups at Modest Mouse, most everything else was on point.

Day One personal faves of mine were Delta Spirit’s energy, the moves of Father John Misty and THAT voice on Quadron’s Coco O. Jeffertitti’s Nile (who looked like they may have crawled out of a basement in the 70s) were a nice surprise for those who hadn’t seen them before.


On Day Two Generationals had me feeling like I hadn’t a worry in the world. Purity Ring’s light show was worth the trip alone and Toro Y Moi had me boogying down because let’s face it, I’m never going to get sick of Chaz Bundick. And are you kidding me? An airplane flew right over the stage as he sang High Living (and I may or may not have inhaled)! Modest Mouse provided a stellar close to the festival because no one’s heard much of them aside from a few new songs in the last couple years.




If you haven’t been, the Monterey Fairgrounds is quite an excellent choice for a venue. Besides its history with the Monterey Pop Festival, it’s just a choice place to be. The weather couldn’t have been better and there was ample space to chill out or kick it on a grass lawn. There were also a decent number of food options, vaudeville entertainers, separate area for carnival rides/games and while drinks were expensive (at least $7 for the cheap stuff), complaining about that seemed trivial.


Other Memories

A lot of times, my favorite memories at festivals are thanks to a little extra press or VIP treatment. You know, the perks that not everyone has, like going backstage. While that stuff happened (I got to meet The Dodos and ride a carousel with them) what I won’t forget anytime soon is losing my keys and having a stranger put them aside and hunt me down because they thought the keys might have been mine. This lovely human being refused my offer to buy her a drink and just told me to pay it forward (which I did by giving a complete stranger a ride home to SF). That’s the sort of thing that happens in small festivals like First City. It’s a small town mentality. You see the same people throughout the weekend and take care of each other like family.

I feel like you don’t need me to say this, but if you’re within a few hours drive of this festival and the lineup’s even half as good as it was this year, go. Grab some friends or a lover, book a hotel and make it a weekend on California’s Central Coast.

Want more? Check out our full First City Festival photo gallery and previous coverage.