Creativity, Collaboration and Community
Make Music Pasadena features at least 100 free concerts across town Saturday
By Bliss Bowen 06/16/2011
“To stop the flow of music would be like the stopping of time itself, incredible and inconceivable.”
Stopping the flow of music in Pasadena this Saturday may well seem inconceivable, when the Make Music Pasadena festival hosts at least 100 free performances at 25 venues across Pasadena. Organizers of the annual event, now in its fourth year, anticipate approximately 20,000 attendees. They’ve also deepened their commitment to presenting a diverse lineup with better-known artists.
According to Director of Event Production Kershona Mayo, who heads the “small, tight committee” that selects the talent, “We typically look for bands that are hot off the press, [depending] on the stage.” This year’s Indie Rock Stage on Colorado Boulevard will present Ra Ra Riot, the Morning Benders and Eagle Rock heroes Best Coast, fresh off the high of the Bonnaroo fest and a string of tour dates with the Decemberists. French pop star Ben L’Oncle Soul, Mexican rockers Hello Seahorse!, Carla Morrison, Brazil’s Tita Lima, Kisses, B Side Players, Jenny O, Zola Jesus, the Soul of John Black, NewVillager, Seasons, Jessica Fichot, Tijuana Panthers, Saint Motel, Dustbowl Revival, La Santa Cecilia, Robotanists, the Driftwood Singers and I See Hawks in LA are just some of the other artists who will be performing on various stages around town. Choirs will perform gospel music at churches, and acoustic musicians will entertain shuttle bus riders throughout the day.
Additionally, KCRW Music Director Jason Bentley, who’ll be on the Indie Rock Stage, will be one of three DJs representing the taste-making public radio station. Anthony Valadez will spin sets at the Luckman World Music Stage on El Molino, while Garth Trinidad will be part of the lineup on the Levitt Pavilion Afrobeat and Reggae Stage on Holly Street.
Headlining the Levitt stage will be LA-based Rocky Dawuni, recently named Best African Artist at the World Music Awards. A savvy entrepreneur and enthusiastic cheerleader for his native Ghana, Dawuni’s accessible blend of African and reggae rhythms with a positive message exemplifies the event’s family-friendly vibe.
Make Music Pasadena occurs under the global umbrella of Fête de la Musique. Launched by France’s Ministry for Culture in 1982, Fête de la Musique now commemorates World Music Day and the summer solstice in more than 100 countries on June 21 each year. Free and open to all ages, it welcomes amateur as well as professional musicians and celebrates the vital role music plays in its host communities. Presenting performances outdoors underscores its call for music to be accessible to all.
“It was nice to see people passing on the street who hadn’t planned on seeing music,” says Zach Lupetin, whose band Dustbowl Revival is returning this year. “Having music outdoors always makes a community better. For me, it’s all about spreading joy … Sometimes being outside in the middle of a community, whether it’s on the street or on a big stage like this, can really win you some new fans who wouldn’t have normally seen your music.”
Fête de la Musique lures orchestras out of their accustomed symphony surroundings into the street, thereby making classical music more accessible to passersby. Following that lead, Make Music Pasadena is hosting classical music on the steps of City Hall. “We’ve always wanted to bring in full orchestras,” Mayo says. “That does make the festival truly diverse.”
But the spotlight remains on marquee names like the Morning Benders and Mexican singer-songwriter Carla Morrison, who’s releasing an acoustic EP online and readying a full-length follow-up to her Natalia Lafourcade-produced album “Mientras Tú Dormías.” The daughter of a Beach Boys- and Patsy Cline-loving dad and a poetry-writing mom, Morrison says, “No one else actually plays any instruments in my family. I’m the weird one.” But now, she adds with a laugh, her younger brother is playing drums after watching her chase her dreams to fruition.
Morrison speaks to the redemptive power of music from personal experience: As a child growing up in Tecate, she was so “super extra shy” that she would sing only behind her bedroom’s closed door. “I would always think, ‘One day I’m going to write music for other artists, I’m just going to write, I’m not going to do it myself,’” she recalls. “But then I discovered that I kind of could sing, so maybe I should try it. When I did, people turned around and said, ‘Hey, I have this band’ and ‘Do you want to collaborate with us?’” Morrison moved to Phoenix, Ariz., where several aunts and uncles lived, to attend high school and study music at Mesa Community College. But she was frustrated by teachers who scolded her for playing by ear.
“It just didn’t work for me,” she says. “I would play everything, but I couldn’t read. After a year and a half, I started saying, ‘I’m just going to play it the way I want to do it, and I’m going to make it happen. I don’t know how I’m going to make it happen, but I’m gonna do this.’ I still don’t read any music.”
Morrison has been championed by several blogs and US radio stations, including KCRW, since the release of “Mientras Tú Dormías” last year. “For some reason, people take you more seriously, which is nice,” she says of the radio support. “They don’t feel like you’re just another girl singing with your guitar.” She’s returned to Tecate and thrives on the unfiltered joy of creating and collaborating with other musicians on her songs. As a thank you to the many people who’ve helped her, she has posted a documentary on YouTube, “Dolores a Colores,” which elaborates on her belief that “you don’t have to live in a great big city to make your dreams come true. … If things are done with love, anything can be done.”
The Fourth Annual Make Music Pasadena festival starts at 11 a.m. Saturday, June 18, and continues throughout the day and evening with simultaneous performances on stages across Pasadena: Indie Rock Stage (1 E. Colorado Blvd.), the Luckman World Music Stage (16 S. El Molino Ave.), One Colorado Emerging Artist Stage (41 Hugus Alley), Levitt Pavilion Afrobeat and Reggae Stage (85 E. Holly St.), Majestical Roof Stage (88 N. Fair Oaks Ave.), Vroman’s Jazz Stage (695 E. Colorado Blvd.), Pasadena Central Library (Donald R. Wright Auditorium, 285 E. Walnut Ave.), the Shops on Lake Avenue Courtyard (345 S. Lake Ave.), the Acoustic Stage at the Armory (145 N. Raymond Ave.), Paseo Colorado (280 E. Colorado Blvd.), First United Methodist Church of Pasadena (500 E. Colorado Blvd.), T. Boyle’s Tavern (37 N. Catalina Ave.), El Portal Restaurant (695 E. Green St.), Elements Kitchen (37 S. El Molino Blvd.), Mercantile Alley (18 S. Fair Oaks Ave.), Pasadena Convention and Visitors Center (300 Green St.), Lineage Performing Arts Center (89 S. Fair Oaks Ave.), Alliance Française Stage (34 E. Union St.), Scientology Pasadena (35 S. Raymond Ave.), City Hall (100 N. Garfield Ave.), Pasadena Museum of History (470 W. WalnutSt.), Pop Champagne & Dessert Bar (33 E. Union St.) plus DJ sets on Colorado Boulevard (65 E. Colorado Blvd.). Free for all ages.
For details, including a full schedule, map and links to artist videos, please visit makemusicpasadena.org.
To learn more about Fête de la Musique, go to fetedelamusique.culture.fr/en/International/presentation/.