The inaugural Arroyo Seco Weekend took place in Pasadena, Calif., June 24th & 25th, as concert juggernaut Goldenvoice added another feather in their cap of summer music festivals.
Targeting the bouji older Pasadena crowd and their families by allowing kids ten and under into the festival for free was a smart move, and you could tell as soon as you arrived that the festival was catered towards them.
Many people had no shame at all in setting up their chairs and blankets 25 feet from the stage, when most festivals would have the sense in having either a designated area or line which all chairs must be behind. People were getting incensed if you stepped across their blanket to move forward in the crowd – almost as if they thought their general admission ticket somehow afforded them extra privileges than the rest of us.
Being a Goldenvoice event, at least the production and sound was pretty top-notch. The event took place on a golf course that wraps around the Rose Bowl Stadium, which provided a number of trees for shade. There were bottlenecks in a number of places where the crowd moved at a snail’s pace – mostly between the VIP area and the left side of the main stage where a path was narrowly fenced in.
On night one of the two-day festival, Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers brought the house down with a two-hour set featuring many of the band’s smash hits they’ve written over 40 years together. It was during Petty that I saw the highest amount of people toke up, perhaps after many of the younger kids tired out and went home. My favorite thing was watching a couple of people in their fifties or later fiddle with a weed vape pen like it was a contraption from the year 2500, and also cough up a storm because they didn’t know how hard they should rip it.
The Alabama Shakes were the perfect main appetizer before Petty and Co. would take the stage. Anyone who says rock ‘n’ roll is dead hasn’t seen Brittany Howard wail on a guitar or scream into a microphone. They are a band that could be connecting generations for decades to come.
Charles Bradley & His Extraordinaires gave Pasadena some warm, fuzzy feelings as his smile and James Brown-level showmanship lit up the crowd mid-day. Bradley proclaiming he had beat the cancer that sidelined him last year may have gotten the biggest cheers of the weekend.
‘90s revival act Live got the audience out of their lawn chairs and onto their feet to remember a time when MTV actually played videos (anyone else remember Live singer Ed Kowalczyk swinging his ponytail around during the “I Alone” video?). Reformed after years of strife, I almost forgot how many classic rock jams were theirs.
Day Two of the festival was much hotter, and Goldenvoice responded admirably by lowering the price of water to $2 a bottle. Heatstroke is no joke. Mumford & Sons were the perfect choice to close out the festival, being one of the few arena-level rock bands with as many fans in their sixties as in their twenties.
Mumford split their set between old favorites and their new electric stuff. It’s whenever a banjo was involved that people went crazy. To me, their electric jams make Mumford sound like pretty much any ‘80s nu-wave band. Props to the keyboardist for rocking a Chance the Rapper “3” hat.
Weezer brought pretty much the same festival set they’ve been playing the last few months, which was a hit with the Arroyo Seco crowd. Those who wanted to avoid the last few hours of the heavy heat like me spent a fair amount of time in the one tent stage for Jamtown and later Lettuce. Between the two acts, there was more funkiness and swagger than Pasadena had seen in ages.
Andy Grammer was an act I had never seen before, and to be honest, all of his hits were songs I heard on the radio and thought were either Maroon 5’s or Jason Mraz’s. I was impressed not just by him, but also his backup band. Not only did they jam like crazy, but also they even had some dance unexpected dance moves. They gave 110 percent and really connected with the crowd. Grammer also acknowledged it being “hot as balls” outside.
Overall, I enjoyed the first Arroyo Seco Weekend. They’ve got to fix how close they let people setup chairs. I don’t hardly hangout in Pasadena, but I got the sense that this is where resting bitch face was founded. Making it family-oriented was a genius move, but there’s got to be a balance between the two.
Arroyo Seco Weekend felt like Goldenvoice’s answer to BottleRock Napa. Napa is NorCal’s Pasadena in my opinion, a region with a ton of money that doesn’t often get targeted in the music space. Though numbers haven’t been shared yet, it’s estimated Arroyo Seco hit about 25,000 attendees, not shabby for its first year. There’s room to expand things and I’m sure they’ll fix a few of the hiccups if they move forward with it in 2018.
-words: Mark Ortega
-photos courtesy of Goldenvoice