Launch Festival returned to Sacramento for its fifth consecutive year, featuring fashion, art and a two-day music festival at Cesar E. Chavez Plaza in the heart of old town which proved to be a cozy, but by no means over-crowded, spot for the event.
With an early afternoon start-time and blazing summer heat, the crowds trickled in slowly and tended to aim for the ample shade and the beer lines as they settled in for a long day of music. An impressive corrugated cardboard art installation augmented the landscape near the entry and additional cardboard seats were scattered amongst the park and put to use in various ways by concert goers. Around the perimeter were quality food truck choices … who doesn’t love grilled cheese, Mexican and wood-fired pizza? Two stages allowed for quick change-overs between bands and were close enough to each other so that it was impossible to miss a beat of any of the music.
A certain amount of pity had to be taken on the artists performing on the Tower Stage where the sun was relentless all afternoon. But as the sun went down, the crowds abandoned the safety of the shade and grew in numbers for a set of diverse bands that covered rock, rap, hip hop, dance EDM. Rocket From The Crypt provided the most straight-up rock set of the day and the highest ratio of real drum beats to drummers of any band during the day. One of the guitarists was wearing a cast and had to perform seated the entire time yet still managed to rock out. Day 1 wrapped with a frenzied set of mash-ups by Girl Talk, replete with spastic lighting, an on-stage dance party, balloons, toilet paper streamers and confetti cannons. It was hard to imagine that those that stuck it out through Day 1 would be ready to do it all again.
Sunday started much like Saturday … hot as hades with the early arrivals seeking shade wherever they could find it, yet showing none the worse for wear after last night’s thumping finale.
The clear highlight of the early Sunday afternoon was P.O.S.’s solo set. Energetic, humorous and spot-on, P.O.S. first tried to get the folks huddled under the trees to step out of the shade before eventually hopping off of the stage to do half his set in the middle of the crowd, no-doubt besting his later Doomtree set (the same could probably be said for Dessa’s Saturday solo set).
The day quickly gathered steam with the more indie pop oriented line-up. And despite it being a Sunday, the crowd packed the park, clearly there for headliners Imagine Dragons … a band which has become quite the phenomenon. Monday be-damned was the clear attitude.
Somehow it felt like the temperature in the park increased as Imagine Dragons’ 8:50 pm scheduled set time came and went while the stage crew fiddled with batteries and cables in an unsuccessful rush to get IM on stage. Imagine Dragons eventually took the stage 20 minutes late, rushing to cram as much material in before the 10 pm curfew. Unfortunately, a few songs originally planned for the set (e.g. Cha Ching) didn’t make the cut. The good news is that the musical frenzy on stage didn’t detract from in set … in fact, it may have even lent an urgency that the band hasn’t been accustomed to of late, culminating in a ferocious guitar solo and Dan Reynolds knocking over equipment during the set closer Radioactive.
At 10:01, they wrapped their set and walked off stage, out the back gate and into a waiting van all while the crowd chanted for one more song that would never arrive. Hopefully Imagine Dragons will live up to their promise to return to Sacramento soon!
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