TBD brings a taste of Sacramento to Austin’s SXSW

The co-producers of Sacramento’s growing festival take their show on the road — literally.

Back Web Only Mar 11, 2015 By Andy Galloway

Texas will soon get a taste of Sacramento’s party flavor: Organizers of the local art and music event now known as TBD are co-producing a four-day musical showcase to coincide with Austin’s famous South By Southwest festival. TBD co-producers Clay Nutting and Michael Hargis see this “SXSW-adjacent” opportunity as huge for their production company Launch Events as well as for Sacramento’s national cultural impact.

“Partly we’re going down there to expand our brand profile on a global stage — SXSW is like a World’s Fair, and hugely interactive,” Nutting says. “We’re hoping to network with people who see this as a neat opportunity to come to Sacramento and participate in what we see as a really burgeoning urban core — and region, for that matter.”

Nutting and Hargis worked with organizers including the San Francisco-based Beautiful Buzzz music blog to create an exhibition that would complement the established SXSW scene while retaining its focus on up-and-coming performers and DJs.

South By Southwest is one of the largest, most popular and cutting-edge festivals in the world. It has grown grown from a relatively small late-1980s musical event with just 700 bands into a multimedia juggernaut featuring more than 2,300 musical acts, a respected global film festival and SXSW Interactive, a breeding ground for tech startups and innovation. The event draws some 72,000 ticket holders to Austin annually.

Sacramento’s TBD 2014 was much smaller but plucky, bringing more than 50 emerging music and multimedia artists to some 21,000 concert-goers over three days last October. While TBD is not an imitation of SXSW, there are common threads between the events and their hometowns. Austin is well known for it’s music industry and cultural importance, and the parallels to Sacramento as a mid-sized market, state capital and river town align with the intent behind TBD as a local cultural investment.

“I think we have our own identity and we’re starting to own that — maybe it’s ‘to be determined’ in a lot of ways,” says Nutting. “It’s fascinating to see placemaking… we’re passionate about the creative core, as a foundation. You hear plenty of people talk about the significance of cultural infrastructure and assets, especially when it comes to young creatives or a talent pool picking a place to live based on whether or not that place has cultural significance.”

The evolution of Launch into an events production company, and TBD from a one-night music and art party in a hotel to a three-day festival on the banks of West Sacramento, has revolved around highlighting and cultivating local emerging artists. This progress has depended on harnessing not only artistic passion, but also the pride and love Sacramentans feel for homegrown success.  

Repeat attendees and supporters of TBD, like Florin Road Partnership Executive Director Verna Sulpizio, are excited to see how this year’s festival will build on the success of 2014. “Even with the big acts coming from around the country, the event was able to capture all the great things about Sacramento,” she says. “Our local food, artists, performers, even our local designers had a space to show off their creations. TBD Fest is a uniquely Sacramento event I love supporting.”

Nutting is coy about details regarding the next incarnation of TBD, but attendees can expect a line up featuring break-out artists as well as continued emphasis on a uniquely local food experience.

“We’re also exploring an extension of the platform to incorporate what I would call the startup culture: technology, ideas, entrepreneurialism and maybe even some global and regional thought leaders,” he says. “Something to capture the essence of what Sacramento 3.0 is, but using people who are doing it right now and giving them a platform.”

The space that hosted TBD last year in West Sacramento is currently under construction by local developer Fulcrum Property to become a massive, mixed-use addition to the community also called TBD, “The Bridge District”. No word yet on the specific location for Sacramento’s next TBD festival.

“There is still a lot unfolding, but I guess if we were to fast forward five years and ask what is our legacy, I would just want the festival landscape to think of our event as very well curated, and representative of emerging arts and culture” Nutting says. “What is relevant within our cultural community now, and are we showcasing it?”

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