News Column

First City Festival: 8 must-see acts for the festival

August 20, 2013

YellowBrix

Aug. 20--Hungry for indie-pop?

Then step right up and feast from the smorgasbord of talent being offered at the inaugural First City Festival.

The two-day event, set for Saturday and Sunday at the Monterey County Fairgrounds, features such top-tier artists as Modest Mouse, Passion Pit, MGMT, Neko Case and the Hold Steady. In all, about three dozen acts are scheduled to perform over the weekend.

The setting itself is also a big draw. I go to the fairgrounds every year to see the Monterey Jazz Festival (which takes place Sept. 20-22 this year), and believe me when I say that it's a splendid place to take in live music. Plus, I just love its historical significance -- as the home of the legendary Monterey Pop Festival

in 1967.

The price is also right. Single-day tickets run $85, while two-day passes start at $149.50 (www.firstcityfestival.com).

I assume that fans are familiar with Modest Mouse, Passion Pit and some of the other better-known names on the bill. However, they might be looking for some guidance when it comes to the rest of the bill.

I'm here to help. Here are some of my best bets for the First City Festival:

Saturday

Civil Twilight (4:40 p.m., Cypress Stage): It's easy to understand why this alt-rock outfit from Cape Town, South Africa, has drawn comparisons to the Police, Muse and Radiohead (I also hear plenty of Coldplay influence). The group is equally good at crafting both arena-rock anthems and over-the-top power ballads, which makes me believe that Civil Twilight could be huge.

Download these: "Letters From the Sky," "Fire Escape," "Human"

Delta Rae (2:20 p.m., Cypress): It's a family affair, with three siblings -- Ian, Eric and Brittany Holljes -- featured in this fine folk/roots-rock sextet. Delta Rae hails from Durham, N.C. Yet there's also a strong tie to the Bay Area, given that Brittany graduated from UC Berkeley. (Go Bears!) The group released its full-length debut, "Carry the Fire," last year.

Download these: "Bottom of the River," "Morning Comes," "Country House"

Tennis (6:30 p.m., Manzanita Stage): Guitarist Patrick Riley and vocalist-keyboardist Alaina Moore form a potent mixed-doubles team. The husband-wife team are the heart and soul of this Denver band, which crafts mesmerizing indie-pop tunes. You'll probably agree if you listen to last year's "Young and Old," produced by the Black Keys' Patrick Carney.

Download these: "Origins," "Marathon," "Cape Dory"

Beach House (6:25 p.m., Redwood Stage): The Baltimore dream-pop duo's latest isn't its greatest. That title still belongs to 2010's "Teen Dream," which was rightfully included in the book "1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die." Still, the new record, "Bloom," is a worthy addition to Beach House's overall enjoyable catalog.

Download these: "Lazuli," "Apple Orchard," "Silver Soul"

Sunday

Purity Ring (8:30 p.m., Cypress): I just can't name a better "witch house" act than Purity Ring. Actually, I don't think I can name any other act in that bizarre house-music subgenre, which draws inspiration from goth and industrial styles as well as occult themes. But I do enjoy Purity Ring's songs, which take synth-pop and EDM into very bizarre yet tuneful territory.

Download these: "Fineshrine," "Crawlersout," "Ungirthed"

The Dodos (2:20 p.m., Cypress): Arguably the Bay Area's best indie-rock band, the Dodos are great on record and even better in concert. Meric Long, who grew up in Lafayette, is an engaging vocalist who makes each lyric matter, while Logan Kroeber is a wizard on percussion. The group is now ready to release its fifth full-length, "Carrier," which could be the effort that finally sends these Dodos soaring toward mainstream success.

Download these: "Walking," "Black Night," "Fables"

Electric Guest (4:40 p.m., Cypress): I haven't seen Electric Guest in concert, but it's hard to imagine this L.A. buzz band being anything less than a blast in the live arena. Listen to "This Head I Hold," a ridiculously fun romp through old-school grooves and modern music technology, and see if you don't agree. What kind of music does Electric Guest play? A better question is this: What kind of music doesn't it play? It's futuristic/retro electro-rock with heart, soul and a record store's worth of sonic influences.

Download these: "This Head I Hold," "Awake," "American Daydream"

Capital Cities (3:30 p.m., Cypress): This fine L.A. synth-pop duo, consisting of Ryan Merchant and Sebu Simonian, has created a deafening buzz with its 2013 debut, "In a Tidal Wave of Mystery." Not bad for a band that got its start through Craigslist. The music just screams Friday night, boasting grooves that will propel a partygoer all the way to (and probably well past) last call.

Download these: "Safe and Sound," "Kangaroo Court," "I Sold My Bed, But Not My Stereo"

Follow Jim Harrington at Twitter.com/jimthecritic, Facebook.com/jim.bayareanews and http://blogs.mercurynews.com/aei/category/concerts.

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(c)2013 the Contra Costa Times (Walnut Creek, Calif.)

Visit the Contra Costa Times (Walnut Creek, Calif.) at www.contracostatimes.com

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