It isn’t news that shifting music trends notoriously separate generations. If you’ve ever asked a Beatles fan what their parents thought of their music, you know the answer isn’t always met with enthusiasm. Elvis? Even worse. So does that make EDM the “great divide” of today’s music era? Perhaps, but we’ll leave that to be enjoyed by the selfie-snapping Millennials at Goldenvoice’s premiere festival, Coachella.
Last weekend (June 24 & 25), Goldenvoice changed its tune — going back to the roots, if you will — in an effort to bridge the generational music gap with their inaugural Arroyo Seco Weekend.
Transforming the grounds of Pasadena’s beloved Rose Bowl Stadium and adjacent Brookside Golf Club, Arroyo Seco Weekend focused on bringing the community — and all age groups within it — together for a two-day, family friendly event that felt more like a backyard barbecue than a music festival… just one with over 25,000 guests in attendance.
How’d they draw these crowds and attract different generations? They made it hard to turn down, for starters. Worried about parking? No need, parking’s free. Don’t have a car? There’s a free shuttle that runs to and from the Metro station. Concerned about the heat? Bring an umbrella, we’ll bring the misters. Where can you sit? Pack a blanket or lawn chair and park yourself anywhere — literally anywhere. What about my kids? Children under 10 are free, and there’s plenty for them to do inside.
Yes, you read that right — free entry for children 10 and under. This is where Arroyo Seco Weekend surpassed even the most community-driven festivals (think Napa’s BottleRock). Activity tents centered on learning, as local bookstore, Vroman’s, provided “little libraries,” while Pasadena’s Kidspace Childen’s Museum invited youngsters to build their own musical instruments to take, shake, drum, and even strum at each set. Community involvement didn’t stop there — prior to the event, Goldenvoice hosted over 200 of Pasadena’s public high school students in a two-day seminar which included educational activities, insight into the entertainment industry, and a behind-the-scenes tour of the upcoming festival. Props to Goldenvoice/AEG for looking beyond ticket sales and encouraging youth involvement in the arts! We commend you.
The weekend’s lineup featured something for everyone, with rock, jazz, funk, and indie artists performing on three different stages. Headliners Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers (Saturday) and Mumford and Sons (Sunday) rocked the quiet hills of Pasadena late into the night. Well, past 10 pm at least. Let’s not forget that this is a family show nestled in the middle of a wealthy residential neighborhood.
The wide range of artist came from all levels of fame and played to fans, music enthusiasts and those simply passing by on their way to another stage. Rachel Platten snapped pictures on her phone and belted her Top 40 hit, “Fight Song,” on the same stage that legend John Mayall showed off his 83 talented years of experience just the day before. Lukas Nelson shared stories of playing with his father, Willie Nelson, and Alabama Shakes (who played Coachella just two years ago) warmed up the stage before turning it over to Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers.
With a lineup peppered with LA natives, several bands united the crowd simply by being locals. Celebrity actor/musician Jeff Goldblum performed with his jazz band, Jeff Goldblum and the Mildred Snitzer Orchestra (weekly regulars at Rockwell in Los Feliz), while joking with the audience and quizzing them on Tom Petty trivia.
Dawes expressed their excitement to play a festival in their hometown, and Fitz & the Tantrums announced that this was the first show they’ve played that they could walk to. Andy Grammer and Andrew Bird also connected to their audience on a local level, and Albuquerque-based The Shins joined in on the fun with a surprise guest appearance by LA’s Los Lobos, who joined them on their song, “The Fear.”
In typical Weezer fashion, lead singer Rivers Cuomo and guitarist Brian Bell went a step beyond and took the stage in full costume. Though natives themselves, they paid homage to LA’s local and long-loved legends, Guns n’ Roses, performing dressed as Axl Rose from the “Paradise City” video (Cuomo) and Slash — top hat and all (Bell) — for the first four songs of their set.
Although British band Mumford and Sons concluded the festival on Sunday night, it was Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers that stole the weekend and brought the crowd together on Saturday.
Currently celebrating their 40th anniversary together, Petty united the eclectic audience with a two-hour set, covering everything from Billboard hits to die-hard favorites. Petty tipped his hat to his fans by introducing drummer Steve Ferrone as the “the new guy,” joking that while the rest of the band had been together 40 years, Ferrone “only” joined them 23 years ago.
Even the culinary scene appealed to all ages, featuring mouth-watering gourmet fare from many of LA’s renowned restaurants. While famed eateries Chego and Barrel & Ashes whipped up grab-n-go versions of their staples, kid friendly favorites were also in abundance. Classed up to satisfy an adult palate as well, families flocked to Spicy Pie Pizza, Dog Haus and Ridges Churro Bar for fancy sweet treats. The lack of beer gardens also helped to blend the masses.
Unlike many festivals of this kind, guests 21+ were not limited to a tent, but welcome to enjoy their craft beers and custom cocktails anywhere they’d like. For those underage or wanting an alcohol-free option, decorative old fashioned lemonade stands were readily available to cool down guests in the sweltering afternoon heat. Meanwhile, sponsor Bai also helped to cool down the crowds, passing out free low calorie antioxidant infused drinks.
So, what’s the downfall of bridging the gap? At Arroyo Seco Weekend, it was literally just that — shuffling festival goers across LA’s Arroyo Seco River (if you can call it a river) over the cramped bridges connecting the Rose Bowl Stadium grounds to Brookside Gold Club. Rather, the location of the small stage to that of the two larger stages. Heavy traffic piled up from people trying to get from one area to another, and lawn chairs make for wide loads. The likelihood of catching one in the jaw ran just as high as accidentally trampling a small child weaving through the hoards of people. In all fairness, this was the inaugural year for this festival, and several crowd control changes and restrictions had been made by the second day. Though assigning Enter and Exit bridges helped with traffic flow, the detoured route to and from each stage took equally as long.
Speaking of lawn chairs, the freedom to park-and-camp did provide a fun, laid-back vibe, but led to problems once the sun set and seeing directly in front of you became difficult (this could also be attributed to the previously mentioned craft beers and custom cocktails). The amount of people we saw trip, stumble or blatantly fall into groups on blankets proves that this could be managed a bit better next year. Though safety should always be the main concern, sprawling groups in chairs and on blankets also became an issue during popular performances, and especially during Tom Petty. Groups on blankets took up large amounts of room, limiting space to accommodate those flocking to the Oaks Stage once performances had concluded elsewhere. Security scrambled to keep people moving, but with nowhere to go, concert viewers crammed in like sardines to catch a glimpse…. forcing a large amount to watch from — you guessed it — the bridges.
All in all, Goldenvoice clearly hit it out of the park, err, golf course, with Arroyo Seco Weekend when it came to bridging the gap between music lovers of all ages — all while encouraging the younger generation to appreciate many different forms of art and entertainment. There’s no denying that certain kinks need to be worked out, but from the reviews we’ve heard, Arroyo Seco will be back and better than ever next year. Regardless, getting smacked by a backpack-wielding parent chasing after their child is a small price to pay for introducing the next generation to great music.
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