The inaugural Arroyo Seco Weekend happened this weekend on the grounds of the Brookside Golf Course next to the Rose Bowl in Pasadena.
Some locals and neighborhood associations initially lobbied against the event, citing concerns about sound pollution and crowds. But after years of negotiations and talks, the Pasadena City Council approved the festival, which is produced by Goldenvoice, the same promoters of the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival and Desert Trip.
John Horn spoke with Mikael Wood, pop music critic for the L.A. Times, who was at the festival on Saturday and was a bit underwhelmed with the experience:
I think it was presenting itself as a sort of connoisseur's music festival and we saw that reflected in the food, which was from some high-end L.A. restaurants, [with] custom cocktails, so it was like elevated festival fare — a couple of steps above what you're used to getting. And I think the music played into that a little bit in the sense that it was sort of this rock-and-roll expert's vision of what music should be or could be. But the irony is that a lot of it ended up kind of dull and just sort of middle-of-the-road. It wasn't that exciting. I just feel like if you're a musical connoisseur and you stepped into this thing, it's just sort of like, Well, I've seen all this stuff before.
That's not to say there weren't any highlights. Amid the predictability, Wood says, there were some standout originals:
Alabama Shakes were great ... That is a great idea of a band that pulls from classic rock, classic blues, classic R&B ideas, but makes it sound very fresh. The Meters were great — the classic, New Orleans funk group that invented so many things that we hear in music today, were awesome and also felt alive to this current moment. They sang about having a right to live, they sang about the FBI and the CIA. They were old songs but they felt completely relevant. There's a young singer called Jade Jackson who's from a little town near San Luis Obispo and she was great. She played first on the big main stage and she's got all these songs about growing up in a small town and, again, kind of pulling from classic idioms, but in a way that totally felt personal and intimate and true to her own personal experience. It didn't feel kind of bland and vague and sort of 'rock-by-numbers' in a way that some of the other stuff did.
L.A. Times music reporter August Brown was at Arroyo Seco Weekend on Sunday. He observed a trend in the festival demographic:
It was a lot of gently aging hipsters with some gray in the beard and maybe a kid or two in tow. It still had that atmosphere of wanting to be outside and seeing a lot of music. It was kind of aspirational adulthood in music festival form.
The family friendly atmosphere was a desired effect on the part of the festival organizers. According to Brown, Arroyo Seco Weekend was Goldenvoice's attempt to reach a more niche audience:
To me it seemed like they were splitting the difference between the VIP areas of Coachella and the Desert Trip crowd from last year. If Coachella is for your 20s and 30s and Desert Trip was for your 60s, this was squarely at your 40s. I think it was successful.
To hear John Horn’s full interview, click on the player above. For photos from Arroyo Seco Weekend, click through the slideshow at the top of the page.