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.

Outside Lands Day 2: HAIM take another step toward the top

HAIM_postPhotos by Marc Fong // Written by Mike Frash //

Outside Lands Music and Arts Festival //
Golden Gate Park – San Francisco
August 8th-10th, 2014 //

Saturday brought a more celebratory tone to Outside Lands Music and Arts Festiva despite the typical August fog’s return to SF’s Golden Gate Park. Following Kanye West’s exciting Friday set that was marred by multiple man-baby moments, it was time for smiles to become contagious and for the communal spirit of the fest to take flight.

No one led this Day 2 transition better than HAIM. “I want to see babes on babes on babes. Totem pole!” demanded ESTE FUCKING HAIM of the Outside Lands crowd, and oblige they did. An effective festival technique, Alana, Danielle and Este quickly counted as festivalgoers doubled up toward the sky like a meerkat looking for a predator. And by the time the awesome threesome blasted into “Forever”, the crowd had been primed by funny, engaging banter.

More importantly, they are remarkably talented at what they do. HAIM fucking rocks live. They elongate and have adapted some of their songs, like “Forever”, for the better. Before introducing “The Wire”, Danielle prepped the audience for the call and response of “Right!”. Full buy-in permeated the Lands End stage as most everyone joined in the fun.

If HAIM continue to write undeniably catchy songs while retaining their fierce attitudes, the sky’s the limit. The atypical vocal phrasing never gets old, and I hope they continue to create music that develops around their quirky approach to modern pop while re-purposing the familiar. These Los Angeles-based sisters could be headlining big festivals in 3-5 years.

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Jagwar Ma displayed noted improvement since their show last year at The Independent, the group has expanded their sound further on stage, stretching out the vocal mantras into delirious territory. Jano Ma’s production showed shades of Nine Inch Nails, balancing Moog synthesizer and a squelchy analogue sound.

Big Freedia was everywhere Saturday. The Queen Diva brought a taste of NOLA to the new GastroMagic stage, allowing proactive patrons to cook up a beignet while they got there bounce on. Then, Freedia was at the Soundwave tent, and finally for her proper set at the Panhandle Stage. Ass Everywhere!

• SF-based graphic designer-turned-musician-turned-full-band Tycho had a prime spot mid-day at Twin Peaks, but it’s unclear if Scott Hansen’s minimalist approach translates in a big, open field at a festival. While the crowd energy was low as expected, it was a solid set accompanied by a new, intriguingly odd video component.

• The Sutro Stage was alive with an intimate crowd for Deer Tick. Screaming fans belted out lyrics and danced with interlocked arms to the group’s raucous, twangy Southern rock.

Duck Sauce is refreshing for embracing the absurd, boiling down dance music into explosions of bass with melodies as obnoxious as “Gangum Style” or happy hardcore. But A-Trak and Armand Van Helden have pinpointed the perfect equation for a ridiculously good time, making sure not to ever get too jarring or obvious. When looking for a raging, good time in a festival setting, nothing may be more fun than Duck Sauce. Quack.

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers are just about as “legend” as it gets, and tracks from Petty’s 2014 LP Hypnotic Eye were laced throughout the main stage headliner’s set. “Friend of the Devil” was covered, a nod and a wink to the Grateful Dead’s home turf, while “American Girl” finished of the night on a high note.

Macklemore & Ryan Lewis at Twin Peaks was way more crowded than Tom Petty’s show. Macklemore brought out Mary Lambert for the GBLT anthem “Same Love”, which included a wedding proposal well-suited for SF.

What was your favorite show or moment on Saturday? What are you looking forward to Sunday?

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Five Outside Lands trends in 2014

Outside Lands 2014Photos by Marc Fong // Written by Mike Frash & Kevin Quandt //

Outside Lands Music and Arts Festival //
Golden Gate Park – San Francisco
August 8th-10th, 2014 //

The lineup for the seventh annual Outside Lands Music and Arts Festival, taking place August 8th-10th in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park, was announced Tuesday. Headliners Kanye West, Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers and The Killers were the focus of the many knee-jerk reactions, but what does the lineup say as a whole? Here are five trends we’ve spotted.

Three-day passes for the festival go on sale Thursday, April 10th at 10 a.m.

Outside-Lands

1. RAP IS REPRESENTED MORE THAN EVER
Outside Lands missed out on the OutKast nostalgia sweepstakes, but the far more controversial (and relevant), Yeezus has been crowned as the first rap headliner in the festival’s history (see below). Beastie Boys were slotted to headline the festival in 2009, and they sadly had to pull out due to Adam Yauch’s cancer diagnosis. Tenacious D ultimately became the headliner over M.I.A. The Bay Area doesn’t attract an abundance of hip-hop or rap in general, yet many in the SF music community have wondered when Outside Lands, now a top national festival, would get into the game. El-P and Killer Mike, one of most dynamic music duos in years, are working on a follow-up to their incredible Run the Jewels debut and are sure get Golden Gate Park pumped. Macklemore & Ryan Lewis performed at noon in 2011 at Outside Lands, and since then, they own four major singles and seemingly sell out every show they perform. But they are dangerously within the range of overexposure, and since winning “Best Rap Album” at the Grammys over Kendrick Lamar (and Macklemore felt the need to text-apologize to Lamar), some music fans are out for vitriolic blood. That said, Macklemore’s impact on the popular music landscape is undeniable. Atmosphere, Aer and Watsky, also successful suburban-oriented spitters in their own right, are also on the bill this year.

2. KANYE WEST IS AS DIVISIVE A FIGURE AS EVER
Reaction to Kanye West as the top headliner was distinctively negative Tuesday, at least from the loudest people. West is at the peak of his career, releasing two of the most essential albums of the past five years with Yeezus and My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. The mega-narcissistic artist of a generation is already busy working on a follow-up to be produced by Q-Tip and Rick Rubin, and it may be out before Outside Lands in August. Odds are Yeezus will pull back from minimalist trap production and go back to his soul-sampling roots to cast a wider net. West has won over music critics with his recent boundary-pushing efforts, but the question becomes, can he avoid a Kardashian-enhanced mainstream backlash bigger than the “Swifting” he pulled at the MTV Video Music Awards? Our money is on ‘Ye.

3. THE FIRST REPEAT HEADLINER
Now in its seventh year, Outside Lands has finally reached the point when we see our first repeat headliner in the form of classic rock demigod, Tom Petty and his band the Heartbreakers. Having played on the second day of the inaugural year to a healthy-sized crowd, Petty worked through some technical errors with a set heavy on his standout hits from the past decades. A new release and tour recently announced lead us to think that Mr. Charlie T. Wilbury is primed to have a big second half of 2014.

4. A SLIGHT SHIFT IN ELECTRONIC MUSIC CURATION
One thing that Showbams noticed when culling through the lineup was the inclusion of slightly more progressive EDM. What was once a genre more reserved for Treasure Island Music Festival is making its way to Golden Gate Park, hoping to turn some folks onto a newer style of electronic production. This new shift is mainly represented by Disclosure, Flume, SBTRKT and Gold Panda. Each act brings a quality that is slightly out of the “dance music” box, whether it’s Disclosure’s 2-step-garage sound or Gold Panda’s experimental beat production. Even after all these years, Another Planet and Superfly keeps us on our toes.

5. THE MOST ECLECTIC LINEUP YET
Outside Lands has always basked in musical diversity, and this notion is true now more than ever. As our collective access to music becomes easier and more plentiful, so does our acceptance of a greater variety of genres. In one weekend, festivalgoers will bounce to Big Freedia, get rural with Kacey Musgraves and dance with Duck Sauce. Whether it’s folk, EDM, hip-hop, indie rock, country or soul, Outside Lands’ eclectic lineup suits the integrity and character of SF and the Bay Area.

Follow our Outside Lands 2014 playlist on Spotify.

Outside Lands