Area Codes: 916 – Sacramento, CA

A prominent narrative going into CMJ this year was the surge in the popularity of hardcore music, and at the forefront of that discussion was Sacramento’s Trash Talk. Though Trash Talk have been together, and been very good, for a number of years, they pretty much stacked paper at CMJ, from a press clip standpoint. Trash Talk came to embody a city that no one really knew much about — outside of that they have a former NBA fan favorite as a mayor — but what they did know wasn’t pleasant. Sacramento is a reputably scuzzy, rundown city, a petri dish for the Trash Talks of the world. In terms of writing a press release, or blurbing a band, that’s some pretty clean, easy-peg stuff when you’re trying to find the right contextual phrasing for a band. But, once you take into account all the distinct, separable types of music, from Raleigh Moncrief’s moving style mishmash to Chelsea Wolfe’s dark, spare rock incantations, it’s not so easy to put Sac-town in a box like that.

Band To Watch nominee Raleigh Moncrief, who makes music that’s a compelling blend of R&B, hip hop and indie rock on his Anticon debut, doesn’t mind this characterization too much. “Where they [Trash Talk] play and what they put off is pretty Sacramento, honestly,” he says during a recent phone conversation. But he rejects the notion of Sacramento having a singular sound, as many of the musicians working in Sacramento prefer to focus on their own thing instead of imitating something trendy. “What I think is cool is that there is no sound. Nothing’s fucking popular here.”

But the enthusiasm in Sacramento is tangible, evidenced by the youth and demand for live shows. “The energy is so raw,” says Terra Lopez, lead singer for local indie rockers Sister Crayon. “When we play here, because it is a smaller city, it’s literally hundreds of people come out, pack the place, and everyone is just vibing! It’s like a hip hop show. The energy is so intense. It’s like nowhere else we’ve ever played.”

“There isn’t that bullshit competitiveness which there is in other cities, which I get,” Lopez says. “In Sacramento, everyone is rooting for one another. We were just featured in NYLON magazine and the overall happiness for the band was felt everywhere. It’s really rare.”

But, Moncrief and Lopez both cite a lack of all-ages venues in Sacramento, something that comes alongside the city’s poor economic fortune of late, and fails to tap into a burgeoning bushel of young people living in Sacramento.

“In terms of progressing the art here, it’s bad,” Moncrief says. “It’s a battle that’s been fought for decades, every all-ages venue that gets started up gets shut down eight months later and it’s one of those types of things. Galleries can’t stay in business, record stores can’t stay in business. Everything is for lease; certain blocks are empty.”

“Right across the tracks from where I live is Tent City,” Moncrief continues. “That’s the name of it. There’s a couple of rivers that run through Sac and the banks of the rivers are basically homeless cities that they’ve built. There is a big division of class here. The suburbs, there’s a lot of money in certain parts of the suburbs, but right next door it’s like post-apocalyptic almost.”

Lopez, like Moncrief, has family in Sacramento, and grew up in the notoriously-dangerous South Sac. “Some parts of town are desolate and gang filled, pretty shady. That whole area is completely different than when you come down to Midtown, there’s people walking around, restaurants and business. There’s something really cool happening here. The city is kind of the underbelly of California. I feel like things are starting to happen here more.”

Sacramento shows its value in how independent musicians can be, and how that independence can translate into focus. Since it’s not very expensive, and it’s slower than a bigger scene, it’s pretty easy to get into a groove and explore one’s own headspace without distraction.

“I think that’s the thinking. The “think local” type of thing. Which applies economically as well,” says Moncrief.” “You can invest a little more, artistically. But economically, it’s cheap as shit here too.”

“You have the opportunity, if you want, to completely shut away everything and everyone and just work on what you’re doing,” Lopez says. “There isn’t a set thing that’s huge here, everyone’s kind of experimenting. My band, we all live in a house together. We’re able to work on our shit all day without having anyone bother us. I think that’s the biggest aspect we attribute to Sacramento.”

Though both Lopez and Moncrief acknowledge Sacramento’s grittiness, they also proudly stand behind Sacramento’s reputation as the “City Of Trees,” and seem resolved to stay put for at least a little while.

“It’s not that bad,” Moncrief asserts. “For a long time I did want to live in New York or a bigger metropolitan kind of area. I do think there’s value in living in a city like that, but I like living here. I like the people that I know that are creative here. I have friends in New York and friends in L.A. and I like them too. It’s cool here.”



  • The Press Club
    “Great dive bar that hosts dope electronic dance nights/DJ events/shows. Cute bartenders don’t hurt either.” – Terra
  • Blackbird Kitchen
    “This place has not actually opened yet but it’s getting some well deserved hype due to the quality food and atmosphere it’s building. It’s going to be a sushi/DJ lounge/bar/conversation room. Sacramento has been needing a place like this for a long, long time so I’m very stoked about it.” – Terra
  • Tres Hermanas
    “Best Mexican food in the entire city — hands down.” – Terra


  • KDVS 90.3 FM
    “Although this station is located in Davis, CA,it is a huge element of the Sacramento/Northern California music scene. They play off the wall, obscure and local music 24/7.” – Terra




Buk Buk Big Ups – “Raver Nation”

Death Grips – “Guillotine (It Goes Yah)”

Raleigh Moncrief – “Lament For Mourning”

Sea Of Bees – “Gnomes”

Sister Crayon – “(in) Reverse”

Waylonn – “Turning Right Onto 16th St. From L St” (Dir. Raleigh Moncrief)


View AREA CODES: Sacramento, CA in a larger map

Comments (15)
  1. what ’bout terroreyes tv yo?!

  2. Nice list, but no DoomBird, or Adrian Bourgeois, or a host of other excellent acts from the 916. This represents merely a sliver. Also, Tres Hermanas is the best Mexican food in the 916? The cilantro salad dressing is craveworthy, but I’ll take Chandos Tacos for fast (non-truck) food, and 524 or Caballo Blanco for sitdown (none of these are in Midtown, though, where Tres Hermanas may rule the roost, just because there aren’t that many old-school cocina Mexicana joints).

  3. DoomBird. They made a nice album last year. And what are they doing with it now? Nothing. That’s why they garner little attention. They haven’t earned it.

    The article is focusing on the folks who actually promote, tour, and participate in the larger musical universe outside of the 916. Adrian will get there. He tours. He’s got the discipline down, he just needs to finish his next album and find a promoter who believes in him so he can build his fanbase beyond word of mouth and coffeehouse road gigs.

    Everyone in the article above has already done that. They hit the major markets, they do the showcases, and they win over the audiences. They are talented as hell, and should be damn proud of the effort they have put in so far. The recognition is well deserved.

    I do agree that deserves a shout out though. :-)

  4. I liked this article, but the depiction of Sacramento being this crime-filth-miserable area kind of pissed me off. Sacramento has it’s sketchy areas like any city/area, but this article paints it as this dilapidated shithole in the first paragraph, and the picture used is biased/misleading.

    • Yeah, it’s not Stockton.

    • exactly, it feels like the person who wrote this has never been to Sacramento. I lived there for just over a year, it is a very boring place, but scuzzy? Not at all. It is actually way cleaner than LA, SF, San Jose, etc.

      I lived in Athens GA for a year, they also have a tent city… like every other city in this country. The difference, Oprah visited Sacramento and featured their tent city on her show making it famous.

      The Boise Area Code article was good, this is a joke. Feels lazy and half assed. Just my opinion.

      • Agreed, but it is a reflection of Sacramento, half assed and out of touch. Sac is my hometown, but I can’t help but think it has potential to be way better, but I’m not sure anyone with the right vision can really make it a relevant town.

        There are people making strides to turn the city around, but too many will still think if it as that skidmark on the California map.

  5. I really like how they said “Sacramento doesn’t have a sound” I grew up around Sacramento and I like how it has been that way since I can remember. I’ve lived in San Diego, and now LA where there are obviously bigger music scenes here but the scenes are very niche or segregated as opposed to Sac. I love it down here, but I have to give Sac some kudos for that.

  6. it’s not really a ‘reputation as a city of trees’, its a nickname, and it’s not really something someone can ‘stand behind’.

  7. what about Anton Barbeau? hes one of the main musicians in sac i feel could actually mean a huge amount in the world. regardless of him being in england all the time

  8. Noel Gallagher Does Letterman?? WTF?!? What about Leno?

  9. Hey Y’all, as 916-er who recently relocated to NYC, it’s awesome to see my old ‘hood repped on my fave blog ever! Good call on featuring Sister Crayon. I’ve been touting them for a long time and always knew that Terra would one day be a star. As to Tres Hermanas, yes, it’s home to the best Mexi in Sactown and also home to the best bartender in Sactown. (Those margaritas will put you to bed.) Great to see Phono Select make the list as well. They are the closest thing to Other Music on the West Coast. Lastly, shout out to The Rum District peeps!

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