Just Like Heaven 2022: Pasadena’s own slice of indie-music bliss

Just Like Heaven 2022 - Interpol, Santigold & The ShinsPhotos by Josh Herwitt & courtesy of JLH with artwork by Melissa Herwitt // Written by Josh Herwitt //

Just Like Heaven //
Brookside at the Rose Bowl – Pasadena, CA
May 21st, 2022 //

For those of you in California who haven’t noticed yet, we’re right in the midst of festival season.

With Coachella wrapping up last month and Lightning in a Bottle as well as BottleRock taking place over Memorial Day weekend, 2022 has already brought the live music industry back to the Golden State in a big way (and let’s make sure we mention BeachLife Festival, too).

But for those of us who haven’t been attending music festivals for a few years in part due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s even more exciting when any concert promoter can assemble a lineup of great artists and bands to perform all on the same day. That’s what Goldenvoice did, in fact, when it announced the return of Just Like Heaven with a dream lineup for any indie-music fan during the mid-2000s, anchored by Interpol, Modest Mouse, The Shins and M.I.A. with Bloc Party, Franz Ferdinand, Chromeo, Santigold, Cut Copy, The Hives, Wolf Parade, Peaches and !!! also listed on the poster.

After taking over the Queen Mary Park in Long Beach for its debut in 2019, Just Like Heaven has found greener pastures to call home 35 miles north in Pasadena at the Brookside Golf Course adjacent to the Rose Bowl. It’s a proven location for hosting music festivals at this point after holding several large-scale events there before like Shaun White’s inaugural Air + Style and both editions of Goldenvoice’s two-day Arroyo Seco Weekend. But with the AEG-owned company’s other single-day fest Cruel World occupying the site two days the previous weekend and more music festivals like This Ain’t No Picnic scheduled for August, it’s safe to say that the Brookside is becoming quite a hotspot for Goldenvoice of late.

Just Like Heaven, nevertheless, seemingly fits the bill for Goldenvoice CEO Paul Tollett. And though the festival didn’t sell out nor was a second day added this time around, it still felt like quite a success given everything we have endured for more than two years. If anything, it was a brief reminder of what life felt like before the pandemic.

Just Like Heaven 2022 - Peaches


Peaches

While there wasn’t one performance at Just Like Heaven that stood above the rest, there were certainly highlights throughout the day — starting as early as 2 p.m. when Peaches stepped onto the main stage with an array of scantily-clad costumes to celebrate the belated 20th anniversary of her second LP The Teaches of Peaches. For those who got there in time to witness the Canadian electroclash musician in all her glory, it was 50 minutes we’ll never forget as Merrill Nisker delivered one erotic moment after the next alongside her backing band and backup dancers who were wearing as little as her. Sure, hearing Wolf Parade play 2005’s Apologies to the Queen Mary right after wasn’t quite as entertaining, but it did feel apropos given Just Like Heaven’s prior location, setting us up for an evening of classic indie rock.

By the time Franz Ferdinand took the stage for their 5:10 p.m. start, you could tell that the attendance had grown considerably compared to what it was earlier for late-afternoon sets by Kele Okereke, The Hives and Cut Copy. Of course the latter did their best to turn the daytime dance party up a notch with crowd-pleasers such as “Lights and Music” and “Hearts on Fire” off 2008’s In Ghost Colours, but it was Franz Ferndinand, Santigold and Bloc Party who shepherded us through the early evening (and one of them even made us pretend like we were back in 2005 listening to Silent Alarm for the first time again).

One of our only grievances with Just Like Heaven this year was scheduling Chromeo to perform exactly when The Shins were, leaving us less of an opportunity to catch both acts during the sunset. But James Mercer and his sidekicks made the most of it after a long time away from touring, offering 15 cuts across the band’s catalog before finishing with a rare cover of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers’ “American Girl” as the sun fell behind the San Gabriel Mountains.

From there, the remaining hours of the festival belonged to Modest Mouse, M.I.A. and Interpol. With the first two receiving 60 minutes on their respective stages — Orion and Stardust — each made a point to placate the more casual listener with commercial hits like “Float On” and “Paper Planes” receiving their three minutes in the spotlight. But while some of the songs on Modest Mouse’s 2021 album The Golden Casket don’t translate as well to a live setting as their older material and M.I.A.’s show can often be a bit too bizarre for some, Interpol was there at the end to ground us and bring it all home.

The NYC post-punk revival trio has been on the road for about a month after completing The Other Side of Make-Believe, and although we will have to wait until mid-July for their seventh studio effort to arrive, Interpol did provide a preview of sorts with “Fables” and “Toni” sprinkled into a setlist highlighted by one of our personal favorites “Rest My Chemistry” from 2007’s Our Love to Admire. Yet, it was only fitting on this night for Interpol to also uncork “The Heinrich Maneuver” from the same record that hears frontman Paul Banks ask the audience in the opening lyric, “How are things on the West Coast?” before replying, “I hear you’re moving real fine.” With Just Like Heaven alive and well after a three-year hiatus and new music from Interpol on the horizon, there’s no doubt we are now.

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.