Looking beyond the headliners at Arroyo Seco Weekend
While the cancellation of the FYF Fest may have served as a canary in a coal mine moment for the concert industry, festivals with a niche may prove to be the way forward.
Consider Goldenvoice’s Arroyo Seco Weekend, a family-friendly selection of food, drink and music that doesn’t try to offer a snapshot of music in 2018 in the manner of its springtime sibling Coachella.
Its goals are more modest in aiming to draw roughly a quarter as many people — maybe of parenting age (and their children, considering kids under 10 get in free) — with the easygoing atmosphere of a tastefully curated block party.
It’s the sort of idea that can be tough to argue with when taken with a lineup that includes top-of-the-bill acts such as Robert Plant, Neil Young, the Kings of Leon and Jack White with the seductive prospect of not trekking to Indio or farther-flung festival destinations.
And while even the middle of the lineup has its pleasures, further down holds some promise as well. Here are five not to miss between visits to Jon & Vinny’s pop-up or the Kidspace tent.
Fantastic Negrito: Mixing blues, funk and R&B, the singer-songwriter named Xavier Dphrepaulezz won a contemporary blues Grammy last year for his debut album, “The Last Days of Oakland.” That work examined the gentrification struggles of Dphrepaulezz’s booming hometown, and the follow-up, the newly released “Please Don’t Be Dead,” mines a similarly soulful, rootsy vein with timely political outrage. Sunday.
Margaret Glaspy: With acts such as the Pretenders along with New Orleans’ Irma Thomas and country upstart Margo Price, the festival offers a strong assortment of female voices, including this 29-year-old singer-songwriter, who had a breakout year in 2016 with her debut album, “Emotions and Math.” A barbed new EP, “Born Yesterday,” showed the best may still be to come. Sunday.
Pharoah Sanders: The debut installment of Arroyo Seco last year wasn’t shy about drawing from the rich history of jazz with Roy Ayers, Preservation Hall and Bennie Maupin, and this year will feature one of the most powerful sounds on tenor saxophone in Sanders. A fiery improviser, his presence feels like an inspired nod to the recent crossover success of Kamasi Washington (who also performs Saturday), whose spiritually charged compositions share echoes with Sanders, whose 1969 album “Karma” beautifully built upon John Coltrane’s legacy. Saturday.
Hurray for the Riff Raff: Nashville singer-songwriter Alynda Segarra expanded her bold, distinctive vision of Americana on her 2017 album, “The Navigator,” which was a semi-autobiographical concept album that beautifully drew from her Puerto Rican heritage and growing up as a young folk-punk in New York City. Songs such as “Rican Beach” and “Pa’lante” testify to Segarra’s readiness to mix her activism with her art, something that’s unlikely to change here given current events.
Gomez: After winning Britain’s prestigious Mercury Prize in 1998 for the debut album “Bring It On,” Gomez found themselves in an unconventional position of being better known in the U.S. than their home country with hazy, jamband-adjacent takes on vintage blues and rock led by the raspy voice of Ben Ottewell on tracks such as “Free to Run” and “Get Miles.” The band embarked on more eclectic directions with subsequent albums, but with 20 years gone since “Bring It On,” an anniversary tour beckoned.
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Arroyo Seco Weekend
When: 12 p.m. Saturday and Sunday
Where: Brookside at the Rose Bowl, 1001 Rose Bowl Drive Pasadena
Tickets: $254 — $1004
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