By Myki Angeline

Business entrepreneur Danielle Vincent wears many hats in her local music community. As the co-founder of First Festival, she has overcome many obstacles and gained key insight on what it takes to run an outdoor music festival in her present hometown of Sacramento, California. As a business owner (the Lounge) and teaching assistant at UC Davis, Vincent applies her skills as a business entrepreneur and in the music entertainment industry to ensure First Festival’s success. Originally from Southern California, she has made her home in Carmichael, California.

First Festival originally launched in 2015 as a single day event with 18 bands on the roster featuring local favorites such as Drop Dead Red, A Mile Till Dawn (both female-fronted bands), Dream In Red, and D.U.S.T.  The event showcased local business vendors as well, with the intent of bringing together the community to support the local ecomony.  Since its inception, the event has grown into a 2 day festival, and has changed locations from the River Walk Park in West Sacramento, to the Tanzanite Park in Sacramento.

Danielle works year round to improve her marketing strategies and awareness to First Festival. This included the creation of the phone app ‘ShowUpSacramento’ which launched in late 2016 as a way to keep artists and music goers engaged all year long.

Now in it’s fourth season the festival takes place May 5-6, 2018 with an impressive and diverse line up of over 40 artists/bands including Blackalicious, A Lot Like Birds, Butterscotch, Dog Party, Jonah Matranga, Charlie Muscle, Race To The Bottom, Riotmaker, NYTVZN, and The Moans. The festival will feature Comedy, DJ Dance Parties, Burlesque, Spoken Word, and a Hip Hop Cypher on 4 outdoor stages and 1 indoor stage. Vendors will include craft beer from local breweries, custom cocktails, locally brewed coffee, and delicious food of all kinds.

This year they introduce the Trading Post where concert goers can purchase First Festival merchandise – all proceeds go to help fund the yearly event.

Tickets on sale now:

I asked her to share with me what inspired her to create First Festival and what kind of impact has it made on the Sacramento local music scene so far – especially from the standpoint as a woman working in the music industry. Launching and maintaining an all day music festival has its share of ups and downs, to which Danielle talks about in our interview below.

WiMN: How long have you been working within the music community? What inspired you to follow this career path?

DV: I’ve been working in the music community specifically for about 5 years, but I’ve been working in the entertainment industry for about 10 years, both on stage, film, and in production. What inspires me most is the community organization element of it. The music community is rich and dynamic and there’s so much to learn and be a part of. Music has always been a really big part of my life. I’m a writer by trade, so music has always been really empowering. It’s amazing to see others put their writing to a melody and create something really amazing. Being on the event production side of the industry allows me to create a bridge between the artists and the community and there’s something really empowering about fostering that kind of relationship.

WiMN: What inspired you to create First Festival, and how did you come up with the name?

DV: First Festival was a way to bring the community together to support the local economy from its conception. We wanted to create a space where people could come together to experience their city in a way that wasn’t specifically focused on one particular part like shopping or food. We wanted to create a space that celebrated all of that while being submerged in the arts—and then First Fest was born! First Festival comes earlier in the season before other Northern California events like Bottlerock, Outside Lands and most of the other major summer festivals, so we titled it to pay homage to that fact. It’s supposed to signify the first festival of the year where you can kick of festival season and get ready for a season of music and sunshine.

WiMN: Tell us what you love the most about putting together a music festival.

DV: I don’t think most people believe me when I say that I really love the meticulous detail it takes to pull something off like this and even more to do it with very little funding, but that really is a big part of it for me, haha. Other than that, the part that I really love the most is seeing it all happen. It’s really like magic when the weekend comes. The fence goes up, the stages get build, the tents get popped, and then all the artists fill the space with music and art, the vendors fill the space with food and items for sale, and then the people come. There’s something magical about all of these pieces working together. We spend months creating the blue print and then to see literally hundreds of people come together and make those blue prints real is awe inspiriting. And then you add the festival guests enjoying everything we built and it just feels like pure magic.

WiMN: Tell us what has been the biggest struggle/hurdle with putting together a music festival.

DV: It’s such a strange dynamic because there’s a kind of isolation that comes along with doing something very large scale. It’s unfathomable how it happens for most people, so it’s very challenging for people in the community to relate to the work it takes to get something off the ground of this magnitude. Beyond that it’s funding. This year we’re seeing a shift in the tides though and we’re finally experiencing a willingness from  businesses to put their dollars into it. There will always be struggles, but as long as we keep sight of the goal and work with integrity, then those struggles will always pass.

WiMN: How and why did you create the ShowUpSacramento app?  How long has it been in effect, and what benefits/interaction have you seen since it has gone public?

DV: I created the #showupsacramento app to keep the mission of First Festival alive all year long. An important lesson I learned after the second year was that if we wanted to keep people interested in a festival that celebrates local music, that we have to keep people interested in that message all year long.

We also wanted to create a platform for artists and musicians to use the network that First Festival has built to their advantage. We’ve built an audience that is quite literally their audience, so we want them to be able to leverage it to grow just as we leverage it to grow. It was started in 2016, but didn’t really gain momentum until early last year. We developed an app and made a cool interactive website that makes it interesting for community members to visit. Plus the app is just easy. Hence our tagline: We make it easy to show up for local arts. The biggest benefit is that it draws the exact audience that we need. If you download this app or use this calendar, then you’re going to be interested in First Festival. So, it’s a multidimensional platform that gives supports to the arts, but also allows us to reach more people who would be interested in the festival.

WiMN: Have you experienced any struggles/hardships with working as a woman in the music industry? If you have, how have you overcome them?

DV: This is a really important question to ask. The music industry is predominantly male even in Sacramento. There are very few women who produce large scale music events. There’s an implicit bias in the music industry that women don’t do this kind of work and that women don’t understand this kind of work. I’m challenged regularly on whether I’ve thought things through or if I know what I’m getting into. Four years into this and people are still asking me if I know how to book a band or if know what kind of permits I need to put on a public event. I would like to think it’s pretty clear that I do, but it’s more complex than that. These biases run deep and I implore women in the community to get involved and to stand up and show how capable we are. It took me a while to not take these things personally—like, a lot of work went into to that. But as the years have gone one I’ve become less afraid to say what I mean, to say it straight forward, and to say it believing that I know what I’m doing. A track record helps with that, but what helps even more is looking toward other women in the community to lift you up and in turn, lifting them up. That’s the only way we can overcome these kinds of things.

I feel empowered every day by the women in the music community who are making amazing strides and kicking down walls.

WiMN: How beneficial is First Festival to Sacramento and why? I could answer this question from so many different angles.

Economically, it generates a significant amount of money over the weekend between vendors, tickets sales, payouts, hotel stays, restaurant visits, and more. It has a definite measurable economic footprint that grow each year.

In the arts community, especially for musicians, it creates a platform that doesn’t exist for bands at this stage in their career. There are concerts in parks, and smaller events, but there’s something very different about a multi-day, multi-stage music festival.

Every year we watch bands get significant traction in the community after performing at First Festival—it’s really inspiring. It’s also beneficial because it’s run predominantly by women. My best girl friends are the ones who are there every step of the way through the weekend of the actual event. Having women in positions like this in the community is important and helps to pave the way for other women to know that they can do the same thing—or something different, but whatever it is, they can do it.

WiMN: What has been the overall response to First Festival?

DV: Overall, it’s positive. Nothing is perfect and if the community will give you feedback on anything, it’s exactly where you’re not doing good enough! We look at that as an opportunity for growth though—it’s always good to know where you can get better. Aside from that, people love First Festival. The response each year keeps growing and it’s contagious. The music scene really cares about this event and it shows. We feel that love and it’s empowering to keep going. Each year we reach more and more community members and the response is always overall very positive and encouraging.

WiMN: Where do you see the future of the Sacramento Music Scene over the next 3 years?

DV: This is a really tough question. I don’t know if I’m an authority on the music scene per se, but I can see some shifting around happening. There’s something being shaken up in the music scene and I’m interested to see where it all settles. There are some incredibly talent bands and artists that are on the verge of breaking out and really hitting the scene on a national level that it so cool to watch. I always think—remember this little festival when you hit it big, haha. But, I think there’s also a call to action happening. The community is calling for a reorganizing of how music is delivered to them and the artists are questioning some longstanding dynamics that have been harmful throughout the years. I think that kind of thing is always challenging, but I also see some really positive shifts in the scene coming out of it. I’m really looking forward to where the scene will be in 3 years. I think it will be really positive.