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Arroyo Seco Weekend 2018: Ringing in summer at Goldenvoice’s chilled-out Coachella for grown-ups

Arroyo Seco Weekend 2018Photos courtesy of Arroyo Seco Weekend // Written by Josh Herwitt //

Arroyo Seco Weekend //
Brookside at the Rose Bowl – Pasadena, CA
June 23rd-24th, 2018 //

No matter how old you are, going to a music festival can be a taxing and tiring affair. There’s a lot of walking, a lot of standing, a good amount of dancing and/or rocking out (depending, of course, on your energy level), and more walking and standing. If “festival shape” isn’t a catch phrase yet, it certainly should be. Because for some of us aging live music fans, being on your feet 8-10 hours and in the sun for two, three or four straight days isn’t as easy as it used to be.

Music festivals, in that regard, are designed primarily for the young and youthful, or at least for those who remain young at heart. So, when famed Southern California concert promoter Goldenvoice, best known for founding and organizing the world-renowned Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival every April, announced last year that it would be launching a brand-new, two-day event in Pasadena focused on various forms of rock, funk, folk and country, it served as an opportunity for a different generation of live music fans to experience the same platform that has dominated the industry for the past decade (and for some who are parents, possibly understand why their kids like going to Coachella so much).

Arroyo Seco Weekend 2018 - Neil Young + Promise of the Real


Neil Young + Promise of the Real

With its second installment now in the books, Arroyo Seco Weekend has already carved out a solid niche in Los Angeles’ massive live music scene with a winning combination: great music and high-quality, top-notch local food and drink. It’s the same formula that has made Outside Lands Music Festival in San Francisco a huge success for longer than 10 years, but it’s still one that had also been largely absent from Southern California music festivals until four years ago when Goldenvoice started making a concerted effort to partner with top-notch LA eateries and restaurants for both weekends of Coachella. That’s where the comparisons end, though.

Arroyo Seco is really its own thing. There’s no denying, even after only a couple of years on the calendar, that it fosters a much different vibe than Coachella or Goldenvoice’s other LA area music festival, FYF Fest, which was surprisingly canceled five weeks after dropping its 2018 lineup due to reportedly poor ticket sales. But with a clear identity from the start, ASW stands more than a fighting chance at a time when music festivals are sadly a dime a dozen (except for the ticket price).

Arroyo Seco Weekend 2018 - Robert Plant and the Sensational Space Shifters


Robert Plant and the Sensational Space Shifters

Goldenvoice CEO Paul Tollett and his team, for one, came out of the gate swinging for ASW’s inaugural edition with a roster led by the late Tom Petty, which unfortunately ended up to be one of his final performances before his unexpected death, and British folk rockers Mumford and Sons, plus Alabama Shakes, Weezer, The Meters, The Shins, Dawes, Fitz & the Tantrums, Live, Andrew Bird, Broken Social Scene, Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real, Charles Bradley & The Extraordinaires, Galactic and many more all making appearances. That didn’t mean, of course, it was void of suffering a letdown in Year 2, but such a thought was quickly put to rest when the fest’s 2018 bill came out and proved to be equally good, if not better than what 2017 offered. With rock legends like Neil Young and Robert Plant sharing the top of the poster with modern-day rock stars such as Jack White and Kings of Leon, ASW made sure to cater to more than four generations of live music fans, much like the longtime New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival — which White, Lukas Nelson + Promise of the Real (who also often serve as Young’s backing band), Irma Thomas and Aaron Neville, fittingly enough, all played this year — does each spring in The Big Easy. Throw in some nicer weather and some California-cool flavoring, and you’ve essentially got ASW. So, call it “#Dadchella” if you want, but that won’t stop those of us who are currently in our 30’s, 40’s, 50’s and 60’s from going again.

If rock is supposedly “dead” like so many say it is these days, you wouldn’t know it from the size of the crowd that descended upon the Brookside Golf Course adjacent to the Rose Bowl Stadium on a couple of hot summer days. ASW, rather, proved just the opposite, with even a few throwbacks, the Pretenders and Alanis Morrisette most notably, drawing large numbers over at the main stage. Then there were singer-songwriters Seu Jorge, Shakey Graves, Margo Price and Dwight Twilley, as well as blues savior Gary Clark Jr., pouring out their hearts and souls in what felt like a family-friendly environment (maybe the baby strollers helped). And how about Inglewood-bred jazz virtuoso Kamasi Washington mesmerizing with a powerful, mid-afternoon set? There were plenty of memories to be made at ASW in 2018, and we were just grateful to be there to bear witness to them.

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