With a mix of feel-good tunes, top-notch eats and shady trees and picnic blankets to balance out the punishing Pasadena heat, the inaugural Arroyo Seco Weekend took over Brookside Club, the Rose Bowl-adjacent golf course, for two days this past weekend.
In some ways, the laid-back music festival borrowed a little bit from each of Goldenvoice's other banner events: The main stage-centric blanket and chair vibe of Stagecoach, the astonishingly good food lineup of Coachella and the "I can sleep in my own bed tonight" convenience of FYF. But Arroyo Seco's music lineup and setting were wholly its own: A multi-generational mix of AM radio era R&B, ’90s alternative favorites and feel-good indie darlings came together on the tree-lined golf course.
All photographs by Rozette Rago unless otherwise stated.
The indisputable headliner of the weekend was, as Taylor Goldsmith from Dawes put it to us, "a cool band from Florida called Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. For any young band that wants to understand the romance of being in a band, they're exhibit A." That romance reverberated throughout the weekend, even outside of Petty's classic-filled Saturday night show, as the Shins—toward the end of a terrific set—ripped through a verse of "American Girl" the following evening.
Though the festival only featured two main stages, the acts consistently delivered throughout the weekend, whether Andrew Bird's whistling, guitar and violin virtuosity, the tremendous raspy soul of Alabama Shakes or the near constant stream of funk and jam bands inside the fest's only tent. It was a true family affair, both on stage—with little kid cameos during Jeff Goldblum's movie trivia-filled jazz set and Broken Social Scene's welcome return—and off as parents picnicked with their toddlers or brought them by a boisterous music-making tent from Kidspace.
That picnic-perfect setting was both the festival's greatest asset and hindrance. Trees and fenced-off greens and hazards put space near the main stage at a premium. If you were looking for standing room—protective picnickers held down the primo spots with blankets all afternoon—you might've found yourself way down the narrow fairway, with but a squint of the stage and the din of the bathroom and beer line over the sometimes surprisingly quiet sound.
The Arroyo Seco channel split the festival grounds in two via a series of narrow bridges. While the side with the two main stages was a typical—but satisfyingly scenic—music fest setting, the other half felt like a bona fide food and beer fest. Chefs like Bruce Kalman, Phillip Frankland Lee, Roy Choi and Dakota Weiss personally took the helm at their booths as they served a staggeringly delicious assortment of porchetta, crab rolls and poke while jazz floated by from the nearby tented stage. Throw in some curated picnic packages and unforgettable soft serve from the Nomad Truck—the perfect antidote to a near-triple-digit day—and we may just have our new favorite food gathering.
Even with the blistering heat and a couple of logistical hurdles, Arroyo Seco Weekend was incredibly smooth for a first-year fest. We'll be eager to see what awaits next year—and awfully curious, with a potential expansion to three days. In the meantime, check out the rest of our photos from the two-day fest.
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