X-Fest is many things to many people. Loud. Fun. Crazy. But lost amid all the headliners and the hard partying is that for many local performers, it can be their big break.
The annual music bacchanalia in the streets of downtown Modesto is bringing in about 120 bands to play on more than a dozen stages. While touring headliners like Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, E-40 and 3OH!3 get most of the attention, the vast majority of the lineup each year is composed of local acts. X-Fest founder and organizer Chris Ricci estimates this year that 80 percent of the bands are local.
Among those are fellow headliners the Moonshine Bandits. The Los Banos band broke out after becoming popular in the Central Valley to find national fame. And they owe some of that success to their many performances at X-Fest over the years, where they’ve consistently wowed local fans.
Like the Moonshine Bandits, area groups such as Flying Blind have found their footing in part by taking advantage of the showcase an event like X-Fest has given them. Flying Blind, which is in semi-retirement now, has repaid the favor over the years by filling in last minute for cancellations – first in 2011 for Panic! at the Disco and again last year for Puddle of Mudd.
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Now the Moonshine Bandits, slated to play again at X-Fest this year, are also paying it forward, and helping local performers. The outlaw country rap duo launched its own record label, MSB Entertainment, this month. And its first signed artist is fellow Los Banos-based outlaw rapper Pruno.
Pruno, also known as Joshua Gamble, will release his album “Trailer on Tanner Road” this September on MSB Entertainment. He has appeared on the Moonshine Bandits single “Whiskey in My Soul” and “Dive Bar Beauty Queen.”
“Pruno is from our hometown of Los Banos and he has always been around us for years,” said Dusty Dahlgren, known as Big Tex, of the Moonshine Bandits.
“Pruno has showed the drive and ambition that it takes and he has also grown as an artist. His work ethic is amazing. We felt it was only fitting for him to be the first artist on MSB Entertainment.”
Dahlgren said the group also has its eye on a few local artists, as well as a group out of the Pacific Northwest for its next acquisitions.
While the duo will continue to release its own records on Average Joes Entertainment in Nashville, it expects to release Shiner Nation compilations on its own imprint.
“When we first started music, we put out albums ourselves and did all the marketing and design by ourselves, so it only felt like the timing was right to sign other artists that we feel should get an opportunity,” Dahlgren said.
Pruno will be at X-Fest with the Bandits this year. As will dozens of other local acts looking for their shot. The appeal of playing the outdoor festival, which regularly draws around 15,000, is undeniable for bands.
Excited emails from local groups flood in to me each year telling me how they’ve booked X-Fest. Modesto rappers Serious Bizness, the Nightlife Entertainment DJ team and a local Fleetwood Mac cover band teaming with the Gregori High School Marching Band all reached out to let me know they’d be there.
So this year, when you’re sipping your beers and waiting for the big names to come on, why not also check out some of the other stages? Cheer on the local performers, hoping their X-Fest will lead to something even more exciting.
Who knows, maybe one day you can tell your friends, “I liked them before they were cool. I liked them when they were at X-Fest.”