Music Without Boundaries
Annual free Make Music Pasadena festival returns Saturday
By Bliss Bowen 05/30/2013
“I love going to places like New Orleans where there’s music everywhere, and you kind of get that for one day here with this festival,” says drummer/keyboardist Marc Cazorla of the Record Company, one of the don’t-miss acts set to perform at Saturday’s sprawling, free-to-the-public Make Music Pasadena festival. His comment is worth pondering. Despite its historically rich cultural life, Pasadena doesn’t have that many venues that regularly host live music year-round. Make Music Pasadena provides a lively opportunity to sample the possibilities of being a destination location where live music is a welcome aspect of everyday life.
This year’s diverse lineup features a good mix of indie rock, electronic, Americana, pop and global artists. We Are Scientists, the Lonely Wild, indie popsters Youngblood Hawke, sultry songstress Irene Diaz, Torreblanca, Tanlines, Simone White, Eagle Rock Gospel Singers, engaging string-band revivalists Dustbowl Revival, jazz keyboardist Bill Cunliffe, Radar Brothers, Robert DeLong, Hunter Hunted, Philosophy of Soul featuring the Avila Brothers, Yacht, Peach Kings, Los Fabulocos, harmonious duo David & Olivia, Superhumanoids, Vanish Valley, Marina V and the Ukulele Orchestra of the Western Hemisphere are just some of the artists who will be performing on stages across Pasadena throughout the day. Additionally, Kyle Shevlin and Ashley Aparicio will be entertaining riders on Pasadena ARTS buses from noon to 10 p.m.
Obviously, with that much music happening, the festival offers attendees an excellent opportunity to experience dozens of local, national and international artists. For artists, it’s a terrific chance to connect with new listeners.
“Between the three of us,” Cazorla says, referring to guitar- and bass-playing bandmates Chris Vos and Alex Stiff, “we’ve all been in a number of bands and done touring where you feel like you’re out touring just for the sake of doing it, in a small club in the middle of nowhere on a Tuesday night and two people are there and one of them’s the sound guy. [Laughs] But [at] festivals, you roll up and there are people there. And there’s nothing more important for a new band than to have people there. It’s your job to see what you can do and change their opinion, standing in front of a band they’ve never heard of. … If you’re doing something you believe in and it comes across as real, it seems to work.”
Jarana player Hector Flores says he and his East LA-based ensemble Las Cafeteras are similarly eager to prove themselves to Saturday’s crowds with their son jarocho-inspired Afro-Mexican sound.
“LA is a small microcosm of the world,” Flores says. “It’s so diverse and so geographically large. … You can hear the rhythms, the beats, the messages and sounds from Los Angeles, you can hear hip-hop, you can hear ska, and you can hear traditional Afro-Mexican music, all rolled into one. That’s the music scene, growing up in East LA, in Highland Park. I feel like if Las Cafeteras was born out of another city, it would be a different sound, a different experience and a different message.”
Flores also believes that Make Music Pasadena is setting an example for other area festivals.
“Pasadena is sort of leading the way in bringing local and international music to the scene and neighborhoods,” he says. “Music has no boundaries. In 2013, when we have Coachella raising the prices every single year, we have the Pasadena music fest saying, ‘No, music is for everyone, we’re not going to charge and we’re going to bring the best music from all over the neighborhood and over the world.’ Pasadena is setting the model for what other cities should be doing and want to be doing. It’s an honor to be playing in a model of that kind of accessibility.”
Make Music Pasadena began as part of the global phenomenon known as Fête de la Musique, which was launched by France’s Ministry of Culture in 1982. Honoring summer solstice and World Music Day in more than 100 countries each June, it is a free, all-ages celebration of music’s importance in the community that embraces amateur as well as professional musicians.
This year’s musical performances will be augmented by the opening of “This Ain’t a Scene,” a sequel of sorts to the same-named photography exhibit recently mounted at 1650 Gallery in Echo Park. Presented by the Armory Center for the Arts and Radio Free Silver Lake, the collection offers approximately 40 photographs of live performances at local venues, candid backstage shots, band portraits and album covers. Curators hope it will provide insights into the indie rock sector of the local music community.
From his slot on the California College of Music Blues & Jazz Stage, Cadillac Zack will be doing his part with his band to spread the gospel of blues — much as he does with his weekly blues parties at Buster’s in Long Beach and Maui Sugar Mill Saloon in Tarzana, where he hosts local and national blues artists in a valiant effort to revive LA’s moribund blues scene. That puts him in sync with the overarching mission of Saturday’s festival — and, interestingly, KCRW DJ Valida. Although her eclectic tastes embrace “everything from soul to indie rock to disco and bossa nova to four-to-the-floor dance stuff,” Valida similarly seeks to spotlight worthy artists with her radio show as well as her weekly Desert Nights showcases at the Standard Hotel in West Hollywood. She says the greater Los Angeles music scene has made “great strides” over the past six or seven years.
“In the ’90s, people looked to Europe for inspiration,” she says, “but more and more the artists that find themselves in my sets are not just American, but really local, LA based. Quality. All of a sudden I feel like LA is the epicenter of a pool of really amazing artists. Some of them are LA born and raised, but a lot of them come here and spend a few years honing their skills and then they break in LA before they break anywhere else. We have a vibrant and very diverse music scene. I’m inspired by it.”
That talent pool is well represented in Saturday’s festival lineup. So … make music, Pasadena, and hope for a spillover effect that will benefit our local music scene. Let’s ask ourselves: What will it take to make greater Pasadena a place where music is made and heard all across town the other 364 days of the year?
The sixth annual Make Music Pasadena festival takes places at 40 venues and stages across Pasadena from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday, June 1; free admission but a $5 donation is suggested. For more details, including a full schedule of performers and set times, go to makemusicpasadena.org