Arroyo Seco translates to “dry stream” in Spanish but in its first year debut, Arroyo Seco Weekend – a two-day festival of music, food, and drinks held at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena – was anything but dry.
As the festival bubble has waxed and waned over the past 15 years, event producers have learned the hard logistical lessons on how to provide an outstanding experience. Luckily, the producers of Arroyo Seco Weekend took those lessons to heart.
With the power of Goldenvoice to book a solid lineup and host them at the Rose Bowl‘s idyllic Brookside Golf Course, Arroyo Seco Weekend felt well-planned, well-staffed, and well-stacked.
Day 1 – Saturday June 24, 2017:
Automobiles funneled into both sides of the Country Club midday Saturday to enjoy free parking on the course. Security was a breeze as festival goers young and old entered the festival on the east side of Brookside’s big concrete drainage ditch. That side hosted well-spaced vendor and sponsor tents, gourmet food options, the Draftsman Project craft beer cottages, the shaded Willow tent, and much more.
Balloons 100 feet in the sky served as landmarks (airmarks?) for every type of sustenance. Water, beer, wine, lemonade, craft cocktail, and free Bai drink stands sprouted up every few feet, keeping everyone lubricated in the 90+ degree heat.
Crossing one of three bridges, the other side of the ditch housed the two main stages on opposing ends of the par-4 fairways. There was enough distance to separate the sounds without making everyone feel like they had to cross the Mojave Desert to see the next band.
Preservation Hall Jazz Band kicked off Saturday on the Oak Stage, with early arrivals spreading out chairs, blankets and towels to stake their claims. The scene had a classic Summer picnic feel and all ages grooved to Preservation’s sweet New Orleans jazz sound.
We headed back to the Willow stage tent to catch Jeff Goldbum and the Mildred Snitzer Orchestra, where Jeff charmed us with Jurassic Park jokes and jazz piano. LĪVE played their classic 90’s rock, followed by the 12+ person supergroup Broken Social Scene, which was the most fun performance by far.
Dawes gave a raw, country rock performance back on the Oaks stage as the air started to cool and the crowd began to grow. The grass in front of the stage grew increasingly messy and congested; half the people stood, half sat, blankets and chairs were scattered everywhere, those lounging tried to avoid getting stepped on, and those standing pushed ever closer to the front. Luckily, as far as festivals go, this was a mostly mellow crowd and the majority of attendees stayed civil.
The popular choice was to watch the vivacious Alabama Shakes, but we decided to do the opposite and caught funk legends The Meters on the Sycamore stage, which was a ton of fun.
And as the sun set, tens of thousands swarmed to see the one and only Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. It was amazing to see multiple generations come together and sing along with his wide catalog of classic songs; a perfect way to end the first day of Arroyo Seco Weekend.
Day 2 – Sunday June 25th, 2017:
Our collective blood was boiling at the start of day two, with midday temperatures reaching over 100 degrees. Saturday and Sunday’s lineups seemed to draw different crowds of single day pass purchasers, with Sunday feeling significantly younger, better prepared, and more aggressive.
Radio pop bands like Magic Giant and The Mowgli’s kicked off the afternoon as sweat dripped from everyone’s pores and the smartest people huddled in the shade with popsicles.
Despite encountering a few electrical issues, ZZ Ward nailed her badass performance of blue-eyed soul. She brought out Michael Fitzpatrick of Fitz and The Tantrums to perform the hit “Domino”.
A surprisingly large crowd gathered for The Revivalists’ mid-afternoon set, but the size felt appropriate after watching a few minutes of front man David Shaw howl his spectacular New Orleans breed of roots-driven rock ‘n’ roll.
More surprising was the small audience that Lukas Nelson & the Promise of the Real drew. With evidently Willie Nelson genetics, Lukas nailed his own take on classic country rock ‘n’ roll and gave an excellent, energetic performance.
The Oaks stage was more safely managed on day two. A makeshift fire lane on the right side, metal barriers, and more security apparently acquiesced the Pasadena Fire Marshall on site. However, the blankets and towels had to go, and the bodies were packed into the designated areas like sardines.
Weezer kicked off the evening, appearing on stage dressed as Guns ‘n’ Roses. Rivers himself swapped his trademark black frame glasses for a red wig, white leather jacket, and white cowboy boots. They played hits from the previous 20 years, and even a brand new track off The White Album.
The Shins closed the Sycamore stage at sunset, playing nostalgic 00’s classics and some of their newer tracks. They had the best stage decorations- big rainbow paper flowers- and the best surprise collaboration- Los Lobos- whom they brought onstage to sing their cover of “The Fear.”
So while the temperatures ran high and the crowds built up, Arroyo Seco Weekend kept us cool, well-hydrated, well-fed, entertained, and happy. We’re wet with anticipation for next year.