Tag Archives: arroyo seco weekend



  1. LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION! : Sprawled out on manicured green lawns nestled amongst shady scrub oaks, this event took on a decidedly sylvan aura. Strolling from stage to stage was literally a walk in the park, and it was always easy to find shelter from the persistent California sun.
  1. WAIT…DID I JUST SEE LOBSTER ROLLS?: A dazzling array of delectables was on hand, from gourmet grilled cheese to poke bowls, there was something for every palate – a far cry from the usual burgers and pizza (although upscale versions of those were offered as well). The fact that this delicious food was brought to the scene by local Pasadena and L.A. restaurants, and not national concession chains, made it all the more special.
  1. CHEERS, MATE!: To wash down your culinary selection, an equally extensive selection of libations was offered: from kombucha to cold brew, Chardonnay to IPA, virtually any food pairing was made possible. Again, it was local brewers, vintners and beverage gurus bringing us these tasty treats. A personal favorite: nitrogen-infused iced coffee – cold and surprisingly subtle.
  1. DON’T LOOK NOW… BUT YOU’RE LEARNING SOMETHING: Scattered throughout the venue were tents and exhibits sponsored by community organizations like the  Kidspace Children’s Museum, Friends of the Los Angeles River (FOLAR), and Visit Pasadena  that presented mini-lessons in creative and captivating ways to an audience looking for something to fill the 15 minutes before the next band hit the stage.


  1. DAMMIT! I’M OUTTA SUNSCREEN!: No problem. There were General Store tents or carts posted literally every 500 feet  If you forgot your Claritin or needed that extra layer of Coppertone, it was readily on hand without having to walk back to the car. The tents also offered parasols and blankets to further ensure your comfort in style.


  1. EXCUSE ME, BUT CAN YOU DIRECT ME TO…? : Unlike other festival events we’ve attended, where trying to find a knowledgeable staff member can be like a quest for the Grail, this event was literally overstaffed. It was remarkably effortless to find a helpful and friendly employee to answer even the most inane of questions.


  1. KEEPIN’ IT GREEN: As part of the effort to appease the residents of Pasadena, and out of respect for the planet in general, it was obvious a tremendous amount of thought and preparation went into minimizing this event’s impact on the environment. Clean-burning generators, biodegradable food utensils, and differentiated waste receptacles were in full use. A veritable army of yellow-shirted waste management staff kept the venue virtually spotless.    
  1. THE ROAR OF THE CROWD: Perhaps due to the selection of bands, or the location, or the family-friendly nature of the event, this festival drew a delightful cross-section of folks who really seemed to be there more for the music than the party. Conspicuously absent from the event were the obnoxious slice of the concert-going population that seems hell-bent on drinking themselves to a point where they’re not likely to even remember what bands they saw play.
  1. ARTFULLY DONE!: Partnering with Pasadena’s Armory Center for the Arts Project brought a whole other layer of fun and culture to this festival. Giant inflatable Buckyballs and a quarter-mile long snake-like “Red Line” played with one’s sense of scale and provided great conversation and photo opportunities. One very popular exhibit allowed visitors to concoct their own fragrances by mixing aromatic essential oils as an expert parfumier described their characteristics and explained the chemistry behind the olfactory experience.
  1. IT ALL COMES DOWN TO THE MUSIC: Regardless of all the other trappings, any music festival lives or dies on the selection of music being presented. The promoters of this festival did an outstanding job of selecting an array of incredibly talented and important musical acts. Regardless of one’s musical tastes, the quality of the musicianship was undeniable. It was a real music lover’s dream to wander among the stages and discover, and rediscover, some truly terrific tunesmiths.   



Arroyo Seco Weekend







Saturday on the Green – Arroyo Seco Weekend 2017


Arroyo Seco Weekend Festival photography by Alex Huggan alexhuggan.com

This past Saturday, thousands of music lovers of all ages and descriptions descended upon peaceful Pasadena for Day One of the 1st Annual Arroyo Seco Weekend; and after a somewhat overly-long wait for the gates to open, the pleasantly mixed crowd was released upon the green to spend a delightful day soaked in sunshine and song. As vendors and staff finished the last bits of preparation, we joined the light sprinkling of spectators headed towards the first show on the Sycamore stage.

As we approached, lilting Celtic-tinged strains of acoustic guitar, banjo, and upright bass supported a trio of female voices in close-knit harmonies entreating us to be their “…fine companion …in the canyon” – we had found Baskery. This upbeat sister act from Sweden was a sweet surprise, and a great appetizer for the day ahead. They mixed their peppy originals with covers – including an excellent rendition of Neil Young’s “Old Man” and added a dash of charming, snappy patter.

Baskery by Caren Spitler

After taking in about half of their perky, pop-folk set, it was time for a bit of lunch over at one of the many rows of delicious “gastro-tents” scattered about the concourse. Along the way we were distracted some lovely music which lured us over to the Willow stage, a more intimate, covered venue, and our next happy discovery – Avery*Sunshine.

Avery*Sunshine – Arroyo Seco Weekend, by Caren Spitler

We walked up as she was finishing a story about being personally invited to sing at Aretha Franklin’s birthday party, twice, then she launched into a version of Ms. Franklin’s “Day Dreaming” that was rich and deeply soulful. She and her remarkable back-up band followed this up with her Al Green-inspired gospel hit “Won’t You Try” that morphed into a highly-unlikely, but thoroughly funky mash-up with James Brown’s “Sex Machine” and brought the house, er tent, down. “Sure feels good to me!”

At this point, the heat was upon us so we needed to find something to quench our thirst. Although there were numerous alcoholic options around us, including delicious wines and a dazzling array of craft beers, we opted for something lighter this round and filled our cups with guava kombucha and nitro-infused cold brew java. Refreshing indeed!

Heading across the bridge, we saw a massive multi-colored backdrop, reminiscent of a mid-century modern painting in front of which emerged the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, direct from New Orleans. These veteran jazz masters treated the crowd to a fresh gumbo of all the best flavors the Big Easy has to offer, from Bourbon Street swing to Basin Street boogie, and even a bit of the St.Louis Cemetery dirge. Every musical bar was beautifully arranged, and every soloist a virtuoso. Despite the now-oppressive heat, the crowd could not be held down, and was on its feet moving and shaking, happily clinging to every delicious note.

A quick stroll back across the lawn brought us again to the Sycamore stage where British blues legend John Mayall was just taking the stage with his trio. After Mr. Mayall noted that they were “the only blues band on the bill” and would “give it their best,” they launched into their set and promptly delivered on their promise. The band brought authentic, stripped-down, heartfelt blues, including a tune called “Moving on” and the serendipitously-titled “Gimme Some Gumbo.” Mayall showed his skills on guitar, as well as keyboard and harmonica, occasionally playing the last two at the same time. Double-fisted blues! This was definitely a Hall-of-fame moment with a world-class layer.

John Mayall – Arroyo Seco Weekend Festival photography by Alex Huggan alexhuggan.com
John Mayall – Arroyo Seco Weekend Festival photography by Alex Huggan alexhuggan.com

But wait…it was time to head back to the Willow stage and catch a bit of what had to be the most unexpected, and quirkiest, name on the bill, Jeff Goldblum and the Mildred Snitzer Orchestra. Mssr Goldblum arrived in a spiffy black suit with matching fedora and skinny black tie and dove right into a bout of lively give-and-take with the audience, including true or false quizzes and bits of trivia wrapped around swinging jazz tunes delivered by his very capable ensemble and dominated by his deft piano work. This is the same act he brings to local audiences every week at Rockwell Table and Stage, and it’s a crowd-pleaser. Highlight of the set: a jazz arrangement of “American Girl” dedicated to headliner Tom Petty.

Jeff Gioldblum – Arroyo Seco Weekend Festival photography by Alex Huggan alexhuggan.com
Jeff Goldblum – Arroyo Seco Weekend Festival photography by Alex Huggan alexhuggan.com

By this point, hunger was an undeniable beast in our bellies, so we grabbed some scrumptious short rib and jalapeno sliders and enjoyed a solid set by Broken Social Scene. Though not particularly my flavor, the alt-rock outfit had plenty of people shaking it in the sunshine, and performed their material with skill and sincerity.

Broken Social Scene – Arroyo Seco Weekend Festival photography by Alex Huggan alexhuggan.com

Now, the time had arrived for what was one of my primary reasons for attending – the appearance of Charles Bradley and His Extraordinaires. Although he’s been recording and touring for over a decade, Bradley’s revivalist sound of authentic 60s funky soul is really catching fire and has recently been included in soundtracks for TV project like “Suits,” “Ray Donovan” and “Luke Cage” – as well as a documentary “Soul of America.” Following a heartfelt and remarkably tender introduction by a bandmate, “The Screaming Eagle of Soul” swooped onto the stage and dropped the most intense package of funky sweet soul directly onto the audiences fully-blown minds.

Arroyo Seco Weekend
Charles Bradley – Arroyo Seco Weekend Festival photography by Alex Huggan alexhuggan.com

Still recovering from a recent bout with stomach cancer, Mr Bradley humbly thanked his audience for their support throughout his illness, and dedicated his show to “the love that binds us all.” Tough and tender, the sexagenarian soul master then pounded the crowd with funky body blows like “Where do We Go From Here” and “Ain’t it a Sin” and followed up with sweet sonic caresses like “Strictly Reserved for You” and “Changes,” his amazing reinvention of the Sabbath single. I heard crowd members spontaneously breaking into the refrain long after the show was done.

A bit shagged from the heat and frivolity, we found a nice little hillock some distance from the Oaks stage but still in view of the massive video screens and well within earshot, and enjoyed the astonishing talent of Alabama Shakes.  Suffice it to say this act deserves every ounce of its fame. Hands down.

Alabama Shakes – Arroyo Seco Weekend Festival photography by Alex Huggan alexhuggan.com
Alabama Shakes – Arroyo Seco Weekend Festival photography by Alex Huggan alexhuggan.com

After resting our weary feet for a bit, we headed back to catch the closing act on the Sycamore stage – The Meters. We were still some distance away when the lights came up, and all soul broke out. It was truly a “Come to Funky Jesus” moment as this legendary band tore it up for good. There was not a single body standing still as The Original Funkmasters wove their intricate rhythmic web and wrapped us all up in the grooves of classics like “Fire on the Bayou,” “Cissy Strut,” and their wicked reworking of the Beatles’ “Come Together” – with an added horn section riff that took that tune to the stratosphere. Like a fine cheese, this band has gotten more funky, and delicious, with age. After fifty minutes of full-tilt musical mastery, he band had worked their “Funky Miracle,” and we left with our lives fully Funkified.

The Meters – Arroyo Seco Weekend Festival photography by Alex Huggan alexhuggan.com
The Meters –
Arroyo Seco Weekend Festival photography by Alex Huggan alexhuggan.com

Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers closed the day with this stop on their 40th Anniversary Tour. Petty took the stage and, to the delight of the crowd, promised a “100% Rock and Roll Show.” To tell the truth, by this time we were well and truly bone-weary, and chose to enjoy his set from the relative comfort of a rickety picnic bench adjacent to our previous hillock. I’ll just say he sounded great, and the band delivered his signature tracks with punch and precision to the obvious pleasure of all in attendance.

This first round of the Arroyo Seco Weekend’s freshman outing provided an outstanding array of talent, too much to all be taken in by one pair of ears – truly an embarrassment of riches! The promoters have signed a 10-year agreement with the city with an option to extend beyond. If things continue at this rate, we’ve got us a winner, and right here in our own front yard!

Arroyo Seco Weekend


Festival photography by Alex Huggan alexhuggan.com

Additional images Caren Spitler

Arroyo Seco Weekend Preview Promises ‘Multigenerational’ Appeal with Picnic Vibes

Last week, Goldenvoice held a preview event for the upcoming Arroyo Seco Weekend festival. Presenters provided sneak peeks about what to expect at the event, including food and beverage samples. The festival, which takes place on June 24th and 25th, will be located at the Rose Bowl grounds, on the rolling greens of the Brookside Golf Course. 

3D diagram of the festival and stage locations. Photo by Caren Spitler.

Arroyo Seco promises a fun-filled weekend which will feature local, organic fare, art, popup libraries and three stages for musical performances. Headliners include big names such as Tom Petty, Alabama Shakes, Mumford & Sons, Weezer, The Shins, and Andrew Bird.

This will be first annual Arroyo Seco Weekend; however, the festival has been years in the making. Four years ago, Festival Director, Nic Adler, and Goldenvoice President, Paul Tollett, came up with the idea for the festival while relaxing in the Arroyo Seco. Tailgating with beers and admiring the scenery of the park, both men agreed that the serene location would be an excellent place for a music festival. What followed was three years of planning and meetings with all walks of the Pasadena community — from city planners, to the old lady next door. Goldenvoice is now set with a 10-year contract with the Rose Bowl, which is celebrating its 95th year. 

The main focus of Arroyo Seco Weekend is to work closely with the Pasadena community to provide a festival which can showcase the culture, art, and food of the city. Popup libraries at the fest will provide books about Pasadena’s history, landscaping, architecture, and culture, while art by Pasadena locals will be featured throughout. In addition, 30% of the food vendors will be Pasadena restaurants.   

Craft mixologist shakes up samples of gourmet cocktails to be available at Arroyo Seco Weekend. Photo by Caren Spitler.

Festival organizers promise a laid back atmosphere, much different from Goldenvoice’s larger festivals like Coachella. This pacing is in part due to the location of the event — which is surrounded by family neighborhoods — and will have more of a picnic vibe. Indeed, along with gourmet restaurant venders, Arroyo Seco Weekend will be providing a picnic basket service. The baskets are curated by professional chefs, and can be reserved online prior to the event. 

Adler is promoting Arroyo Seco Weekend as a “multigenerational” event, which community members of all ages can enjoy. The Rose Bowl’s Kidspace Children’s Museum have organized activities for parents and kids to enjoy together such as DIY instrument building and themed photo opportunities. 

Nic Adler speaks in front of scenic Arroyo Seco Park at Arroyo Seco Weekend preview event. Photo by Caren Spitler.

Adler’s vision is a relaxed festival experience, stating that he wanted attendees to be able to, “sit down, put a blanket down, have your family run around, with your favorite bands playing…You’ve got your friends and your drink in hand.” 

This is only year one of the festival, and it is expecting to grow. Adler added that Goldenvoice will continue to work with the city of Pasadena to improve and provide the best festival experience possible.