Photos: Andre Elliott

Review: Sol Blume Festival

Sacramento is poised to become the capital city it was always meant to be. With new restaurants popping up, tech companies settling in, and housing development on the rise, Sacramento is gaining hustle and bustle. So where are our music festivals? Founders Justin Nordan and Fornati Kumeh brought multiple modern R&B artists right to our backyard and named it Sol Blume. Hosted at César Chavez Plaza, the venue was intimate and special, allowing the crowd to get close to artists they love.

CS: How did Sol Blume come together?

JN: Fornati and I had kicked around the idea of collaborating on a festival for the past few years. It just had to be the right time. With the explosion of this soul R&B genre, it just seemed right.

CS: Is Sol coming back next year? If so, bigger? same? Cesar Chavez Plaza?

JN: For sure. Same park. Not looking to grow it just yet.  We like the intimate vibe.  

CS: What did you guys learn from TBD to prevent another failed festival?

JN: I’m not gonna speak to TBD, or any other past failed festivals. Each situation is unique, and I’d rather not speculate. We have created a lineup, for a fair price, and an experience that we hope people enjoy.  

CS: Are music festival hard to produce in Sacramento? (how does Aftershock, do so well, while other music festivals haven’t worked in Sacramento)

JN: All festivals are hard to produce. I have helped produce festivals all over the US, and each one of them presents us with different puzzles we all try to solve. Sacramento is no different. There are a lack of parks to support festivals. Each park also poses interesting hurdles. Like I mentioned, I’m not gonna speculate on Aftershock’s success, but I do know 2 facts about festival success. These two facts might be contributing factors as to why Aftershock and Sol Blume are successful ventures. The Sacramento region only, cannot be your sole focus. One thing that both Aftershock and Sol Blume have in common, is that over 50% of our attendees are coming from outside the Greater Sacramento Area. Sol Blume specifically, has attendees from 6 countries and 33 different states. Our net is wide, because we speaking to a very niche audience. So is Aftershock.

The intimacy of the venue made it easy to watch the performers; you weren’t squished in between thousands of people. One of the things we might fail to acknowledge is the strength of a small festival. Sometimes bigger is worse, and the vibe is ruined by overcrowding. Justin told us that he

“wanted fans to be able to see these artists in a festival setting, without standing in a sea of 20,000+ people, or having to pick and choose to see. That’s a horrible feeling, as a festival-goer.”

He couldn’t be more on the mark. Having attended several music festivals myself, one of the worst feelings is having to sacrifice one band you love for another. The way that Sol Blume was set up, you didn’t have to worry about making that choice. Each set was staggered, allowing time in between to snag a taco and some beer.

Sol Blume’s first year was, in my eyes, an absolute success. Even while waiting in line for food, people were dancing and singing along to the music. Waiting for tacos, I chatted with two women who had come all the way from New Jersey to attend. It seemed such a great distance to me, but they laughed and said the opportunity to see all these artists in one spot was too great to pass up. As Justin shared, part of the success of Sol Blume’s first year is due to “over 50% of attendees are coming from outside the Greater Sacramento Area. Sol Blume has attendees from 6 countries and 33 different states.” Appealing to a niche audience was key, and it kept the festival small, diverse, and happy.

Featuring both up-and-comers (like Arin Ray and Rexx Life Raj) and the well-known (The Internet, Goldlink), the number of talented artists represented was amazing. Admittedly, I haven’t listened to much R&B. I was obsessed with The Internet’s “Ego Death” album a few years ago, but I’ve been neglecting the genre too much. My personal favorites at Sol Blume were Berhana, Nao, and Sabrina Claudio (I think it goes without saying that The Internet killed it). But believe me when I say each artist was incredible. It’s rare to go to a festival and enjoy everyone, but that’s exactly what I did.

Recent successes like Aftershock have left many wondering if music festivals can work in Sacramento. With the obvious success of Sol Blume, I’d say there’s a new model for producing a festival: appeal to a niche audience nationwide, and the people will come to you.