A (Late) Review of Monterey’s First City Festival

Isaac Brock of Modest Mouse on Sunday, Aug 26 at First City Festival in Monterey. Photo by Mike Hendrickson / Xpress

Isaac Brock of Modest Mouse on Sunday, Aug 26 at First City Festival in Monterey. Photo by Mike Hendrickson / Xpress

Only in its first year, First City Festival in Monterey gets an A for effort. Well, maybe a B+. It was a rather well put-together event with some pretty killer acts, but it needs some work.

Maybe I’m just bitter because I bruised my vertebrae and shoulder blade and wound up with a compressed spinal disc, but I think the festival could use a bit more experience before being absolutely great. I’m not saying it was horrible – I’d even recommend going next year – it just needs to evolve a bit while still in the early stages. With a little work, it could be on par with (and as large as) a festival like Outside Lands.

I’d say the biggest letdown was the carnival. It was a great idea, but so far away from all the stages that it was almost an inconvenience. It disrupted the flow of the festival as a whole and I was hoping for the two aspects to be integrated more fluidly – and at $25 for a last minute all-day ride pass, it was even more of an upset. I’d rather spend my money on crab garlic fries and a beer.

You read right – CRAB garlic fries. With all the crab and crab aioli and garlic you could imagine. The food was great – from pizza to corn dogs (with a veg option) to ice cream tacos, there was something to everyone. And it was all delicious. Overpriced, of course, but oh-so worth it.

On the subject of great, the music: how can you go wrong with a lineup including Modest Mouse, Dr. Dog and Deerhunter? There was little to be improved upon, except for a few scheduling conflicts and a 30+ minute delay on the main stage. The festival had plenty of space (and even shaded seating) for attendees to watch every act perform on beautifully decorated and lit stages. However happy I was with the day overall, the laws of gravity had other plans for me.

Now, try not to laugh too hard. I was sitting in the shaded bleachers of the main stage, enjoying Devendra Banhart, when I saw my friends in the dirt lot below. As I made my way down the cement steps to meet them, I slipped on something wet…a spilled beer from one of the many rogue teenagers perhaps? Whatever it was, I was sent flying to my back and next thing I knew I was staring at the ceiling with five or six people asking if I was okay or if they could hold my (now empty) drink.

I will say this – among the hundreds of drunk underage girls, high-as-balls middle-aged men and cooler-than-thou hipsters, there were a lot of nice and considerate festival-goers. I was floored (pun intended) that so many people offered to help.

After slowly getting up, with the aid of many lovely patrons, I waddled my way around the festival until I gave up partway through Modest Mouse’s set and headed home.

Modest Mouse returned from a rocky few years (with messy and sporadic shows, a canceled tour and lack of updates) with a high-energy set. Although frontman Isaac Brock seemed a little…funny, for lack of a better description – he and the rest of the band put on a visually and audibly-stunning show to close out the inaugural festival.

A big plus: there was a free shuttle to and from the parking lot at Monterey Peninsula College, which was more than welcomed by my accident-prone and broken self.

Overall, the festival was one of the better ones and can only get better as it ages and gains more experience. So I’d say invest in tickets and make the trek down there next year! Just watch where you step…


For more pictures of the festival, check out Mike Hendrickson’s gallery here.

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