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First City FestivalWe had the opportunity to attend Monterey’s first First City Festival – a spectacular hit for the region, filled with industry-wide favorites catering toward a younger crowd. Headliners included MGMT, Passion Pit, Neko Case and Modest Mouse. The venue was a change of pace, featuring a contemporary carnival at the entrance that you walked through to get to the vintage carnival-themed event. There were dozens of exciting and interesting vendors with unique items available to purchase, reputable organization present under tents, and three stages hosting music with one additional stage highlighting the performance arts.

First City Festival surely made a great impression with the eclectic selection of festival foods. From barbequed turkey legs, gourmet food truck sandwiches, and traditional funnel cakes, the food definitely adds credibility to the overall festival experience anyone would hope to enjoy. Favorites include Tante’s Jewish delicacies like the Potato Knish and the Chicken Swarma. What separated Tante’s food from the rest were its sauces. You get them three ways: Hot (Chilies and Parsley), Hotter (Serano Chilies and Cilantro), and Hottest (Habanero). All were flavorful, herbaceous, and unique. Gourmet Faire was easily the most popular food vendor at First City. Its fresh and decadent Crab Garlic Fries had festival-goers waiting in line for over 20 minutes! While there were several food trucks abound, The Cosmic American Voodoo Van stood out with its gourmet twist on American classics-let’s not forget about their names: The Skirt Lifter, a juicy sensational skirt steak sandwich, and JuJu Balls, fried mashed potatoes with a Habanero Aioli. Ending the night was the Almond Funnel Cake, a delicious and heavenly carnival and festival classic.

First City Festival presented 36 musical acts as well as 3 performance art shows. Who did we see? Okkervil River, Father John Misty, Beach House, Devandra Banhart, and Electric Guest.  Who were our favorites?

The Dodos at Cypress Stage

When you only have two instrumentalists in the band, each player can show off the best of his abilities. The Dodos, an Indie Rock band from San Francisco, consists of two very talented musicians: Meric Long the lead singer and guitarist and Logan Kroeber on percussions. Kroeber is very focused yet energetic during the performance but you can see how much fun he’s having. In addition, his spot-on harmonies complement the lead singer’s melodies. The Dodos had the crowd dancing at Cypress Stage, even though they performed during the hottest part of the day.
Capital Cities at Cypress Stage

Capital Cities are presently known by “Safe and Sound,” a popular tune on the radio. The group classifies themselves as Indie Pop-Rock however, they have a prominent electro funk sound composed by two fundamental band mates, accompanied by three additional musicians for live acts. Ryan Merchant and Sebu Simonian entertains the crowd and perform all of the main vocals whilst live mixing, but a trumpeter, guitarist and bassist join them onstage in an all-white satin coat ensemble. They enthusiastically engage the audience by prompting them to participate in signature and classic dance routines such as the Capital City Shuffle.

Dr. Dog at Redwood Stage

Toby Leaman’s stage presence was intoxicating. His voice takes you to a blues-rock café, falling in love with his strikingly sad words in “Broken Heart.” Scott McMicken was equally as commanding in his jumpsuit-shades-and-cap getup in a lighter sense. The entire band had a charisma that spoke to the softer, rural side of our hearts. The theme of their music translates to aspects of everyone’s lives in a way that is genuine enough to make even the most high-energy listener fall slowly in love.

MGMT at Redwood Stage

MGMT is everyone’s low-profile indie fave, and that attitude certainly was the highlight of their FCF performance. A notable aspect of their Redwood Stage presence was the funky psychedelic, experimental visuals, not that it outshined their musical performance. However, the on-screen images alongside their primed repertoire was a crowd pleaser and a weekend favorite.

Passion Pit at Redwood Stage

Passion Pit may have been slightly tardy, but don’t think they wouldn’t make up for their lateness or deliver just as exciting of a performance than you’d expect. Michael Angelakos  added a necessary but limited sense of humor to the band’s delivery while the musical concoction kept everyone dancing into the night. The lights above, ahead and the surrounding pop-electro sounds were enough to lull everyone into an ecstatic state of festival satisfaction. A perfect way to end Day 1.

The Vaudeville Stage hosted performances from the John Bros. Piano Company, Majinga the Magician, and the Vau de Vire Society, all of which enhanced the overall vintage-carnival theme. Vau de Vire Society stood out among the rest with its exhilarating performances.

Overall, First City Festival is a great new addition to the festival repertoire. Congratulations Goldenvoice, you have presented a festival that speaks to a large crowd and we hope to see you again next year.