Filling the local summer festival void created by Make Music Pasadena going on indefinite hiatus, Arroyo Seco Weekend brings headliners Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers and Mumford & Sons to Brookside at the Rose Bowl Saturday and Sunday.
Other marquee acts scheduled to perform on the heavily promoted fest’s three stages include Alabama Shakes, Andrew Bird, Charles Bradley & His Extraordinaires, Dawes, Fitz & the Tantrums, Live, the Shins and Weezer. Arroyo Seco Weekend is being presented by Goldenvoice, the production entity behind the Coachella and Stagecoach extravaganzas in Indio and last year’s Desert Trip dad-rock fest.
Both the lineup and the layout were shaped over a year and a half of meetings between promoters, neighborhood groups and city planners. One result: Arroyo Seco will be catered by restaurants such as Barrel & Ashes, Broken Spanish, Chigo, Frankland Crab & Co., Genghis Cohen, Sweetfin Poké and Union. (So much for greasy burgers and cheap beer.)
The lineup spans several genres (although country and hip-hop are notably absent). Attendees jonesing for New Orleans grooves can get a rhythmic fix from Galactic, the Meters, Preservation Hall Jazz Band and/or the Revivalists. Americana is well represented (by banjopunk trio Baskery, Lukas Nelson & the Promise of the Real and David Lindley), as are funk (dynamic San Francisco septet Con Brio, New York ensemble Lettuce), jazz (vibraphonist Roy Ayers, saxophonist Bennie Maupin, Jeff Goldblum and the Mildred Snitzer Orchestra), pop (cheery LA outfit The Mowgli’s, Haley Bonar, busker turned Billboard chart-topper Andy Grammer) and R&B and soul (venerated Stax songwriter and Georgia Music Hall of Famer William Bell, old-school devotee Madison McFerrin, ear-grabbing Brooklynite Alice Smith, gospel-schooled vocalist Avery*Sunshine).
Regrouped Canadian indie-rock collective Broken Social Scene will be promoting their forthcoming album, “Hug of Thunder.” Mike Ness protege Jade Jackson, LA dance-pop trio Magic Giant, blues veteran John Mayall, bluesy popster ZZ Ward and Jamtown (Donovan Frankenreiter, G. Love and Cisco Adler) will also be pushing new releases. That discovery of new music is one of the festival’s driving attractions.
“It’s definitely a more positive environment at a music festival, because people are always looking for new sounds, new bands,” observes Arcadia native Nikhil Korula, whose NK Band will open the Willow Stage Sunday afternoon. “It shows the bands that can really play vs. the bands that are doctored in the studio, too. That’s one of the things we love about it.”
Rachel Platten, whose anthemic 2015 hit “Fight Song” uplifted scores of women with its resilient message, will be trying out material from the album she’s just finishing when she takes the Sycamore Stage early Sunday afternoon. It incorporates some of the R&B feel of 2011’s “Be Here,” although she says it’s “more experimental” and stripped down, with “kind of aggressive drum sounds. It’s so tough to talk about music; it’s so much easier to just play it for people and let them listen. The new songs are so fun, and show people the level that I think I’ve gotten to, which is something different from what’s on ‘Wildfire.’”
Platten, who will also open for Faith Hill and Tim McGraw’s Soul2Soul concerts at Staples Center next month, is a prolific writer with a sure grasp of songcraft. She estimates she wrote 250 songs for her 2016 album “Wildfire” and 100 for the new recording. She acknowledges that she thinks of herself as a songwriter first, but she’s such an effervescent personality that it’s surprising to hear her confess to onstage insecurities. After a decade of performing, she says she’s learned a key lesson.
“I understand now that the performance is way less about me being so aware of how my voice sounds and how I’m moving, and so much more about how the audience is feeling and if we’re all connecting, and the overall vibration of the place,” she says. “So now I’m way more into just spreading joy. How I’m feeling personally is secondary to that — although I’m definitely still judging myself. When I get in my head, I’m not able to connect with people as much, so I think my style changed from being all about me to being one that’s all about the audience.”
Korula, who co-wrote “Start It Up” for Ziggy Marley’s self-titled album last year, is one of the few acts representing the local music scene. He and his NK Band mates are looking forward to playing for their hometown crowd instead of out of town. They’ve performed at the Bonnaroo, Summerfest and Playboy Jazz festivals, and Korula is actively angling for a Coachella booking. A few years ago, after a decade and a half of playing nightclubs and community fairs, he promised himself he would only book the full band for “really big” shows: “We really want to honor the music and what we do as performers and artists, and keep it at a certain level.”
Solo, Korula projects Van Morrison-esque warmth and soul; his band makes it a grooving jam. They’ll be joined by a horn section, a deejay and guest slide guitarist Jayson Johnson. “It’s a very jam-packed setlist that’s full of fireworks,” he promises.
Arroyo Seco is striving to be a family-friendly concert-going experience, one where no glow sticks, hula hoops or tailgating will be allowed. And no musical instruments, either — except in the Family Jam curated by Kidspace Museum. The Family Jam area will include an instrument petting zoo, a Little Jammers section for toddlers 3 and under, an interactive drum circle led by Rhythm Child and a Make and Take place where families can build box guitars, kalimbas or shakers to take with them.
They won’t be the only ones milling around. Festivals like this are also a terrific opportunity for artists to network and catch each other’s sets.
“I saw Mumford & Sons a couple years ago and it was one of my favorite shows, so I’m definitely sticking around,” Platten enthuses. “My friend Andy Grammer is playing a little later in the day, too. I can’t wait.”
Korula also plans to make the rounds. “I’m super passionate about music, I think it’s one of the most important things in life,” he says. “Life is better with a soundtrack.” n
Arroyo Seco Weekend takes place rain or shine at Brookside at the Rose Bowl, Pasadena, from noon-11 p.m. Saturday, June 24, and noon-10 p.m. Sunday, June 25; Single Day Pass/$125, Weekend Pass/$225. Children 10 and under admitted free. Ticketing info: (855) 273-4481. Visit arroyosecoweekend.com for more details, including shuttle and Metro info.