Pasadena, California’s inaugural year of Arroyo Seco Weekend was a stunner and a great success. Several art installations presented good photo opportunities and were used frequently for selfies and group shots throughout the weekend of June 24 and 25. Delicious local food was abundant, and long lines wrapped around the brewery stations. Despite the relatively uncomfortable summer heat hitting triple digits at times, the festival provided great shade structures throughout – with plenty of seating opportunities, if you desired a break from jamming out at one of the three stages.
The three stages were well separated, so the sound from the various shows never overlapped. The two larger stages also offered a spacious VIP area with extra vendors and toilets, while the smaller stage was under a circular tent, inviting all people to mingle under its shade.
The festival certainly catered to its grown-up Pasadena audience with a very peaceful and well-organized vibe, a kid-friendly arts and crafts space and a play area. There was lots of open space for families to spread out and enjoy a picnic, a book from one of the many libraries throughout, or a power nap. It felt easy, it felt safe. Forget your typical teen-raver festival attendee – Arroyo Seco was designed for families. Kids under 10 were even granted free admission.
The festival started around 1:00 pm every day, but due to the intense heat, many chose to skip the earlier shows and joined later on for the headliners. Consequently, it offered great opportunities to spread out and get way up front during the day, while the closing shows were crowded with fans shoulder to shoulder sharing their bliss.
Here are a few high-lights from our favorite performances this weekend:
Charles Bradley & His Extraordinaires
Fans were extra excited to see Charles Bradley this weekend, as was he. After a year-long battle with stomach cancer, Charles Bradley is back on tour. Despite pushing 70, this soul-singer was on fire, bringing the funk like it was 1970. His set seemed extra cheerful and fun but also very emotional. A true performer and entertainer at heart, Bradley rocked a black and silver studded outfit, threw his arms in the air any chance he got and had the crowd dancing and cheering to his hit songs in no time. Yet, Bradley also took breaks to tell stories, enabling him to connect with his audience on a deeply personal level. He took a moment to celebrate surviving cancer and with tears in his eyes thanked his fans for the many, many letters he received wishing him well. And just before his final song, “Changes,” dedicated to his late mother, Bradley took a moment to remind the audience to make peace with the loved ones in our lives, with our family despite their shortcomings, and to treasure them while they’re still walking this earth. Needless to say, many left this show tear-drenched and truly moved.
Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers
Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, on their 40th anniversary tour and (supposedly) final tour, brought out everybody, young and old, to Arroyo Seco. I don’t think you could have fit one more body on that lawn, it was that packed. And just like 40 years ago, the band still sounds as sharp as ever and knows how to rock a crowd. Their two-hour long set brought all the hit songs one could hope for, starting with the first song of the first album they ever did: “Rockin’ Around (with You).” “Free Fallin’” probably wins “most popular song of the weekend” considering the enthusiasm of the crowd singing along, chin high, top of lung, obviously. No wonder, after all those delicious IPA’s the baby boomers who likely made up two-thirds of that audience were delightfully free of inhibitions and letting out their inner rager… in a most contained way, of course.
Mumford & Sons
I believe Mumford & Sons delivered their best performance yet at Arroyo Seco. In this fun finale to the weekend, Mumford quickly engaged his audience to “have a f***ing dance, shall we?” Needless to say, Mumford, being the great front man he is, had people dancing, skipping and clapping along to pretty much every song. Unlike Tom Petty’s performance the night before, the show seemed a bit less claustrophobic and more relaxed. And with the exception of a short serious nod to recent attacks in London, Mumford & Sons left the audience exhilarated – like one hopes to leave a festival: recharged and full of joy.
– By Angela Forsyth and Michaela Marchardt