Review: Arroyo Seco Weekend and the joy of peaceful, easy feelings for grown-up festival fans

PASADENA, CALIF. - JUNE 24, 2017. Music fans wait for a performance by the roots rock band Alabama
Music fans wait for the Alabama Shakes at the Arroyo Seco Weekend festival in Pasadena.
(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

As one enters one’s mid-30s, the usual feeling at music festivals is some variation of “I’m getting way too old for this.”

Sometimes, like when walking into the EDM revelry at Electric Daisy Carnival in Las Vegas, the near-total disconnect from the hordes of fidget-spinning teen ravers is amusing. At other times, it’s a little more melancholy. One dies a bit inside the first time one skips a festival headliner in favor of sweatpants, HBO’s Sunday lineup and Thai delivery.

But it’s even rarer to walk into a new festival at age 33 and be able to say: “I’m definitely one of the youngest people here not currently being pushed in a stroller.”

For L.A. parents gently aging out of hipsterdom, the Arroyo Seco Weekend festival was a fantasy bill — a lineup of classic rock, tasteful indie, comfortable jazz and mature funk; a sylvan venue close to the Northeast L.A.-area neighborhoods where those who can afford it are nesting down; early set times and free admission for the under-10s; and plenty of frosty double-IPAs to help cultivate the proper dad-bod.


It’s a shame that HBO’s Eagle Rock-set relationship dramedy “Togetherness” won’t be back for another season, because the dramatic arc of that show would now obviously have to wrap up on the grounds of the Rose Bowl-adjacent Brookside Golf Club while Mumford & Sons played.

All jokes aide, though, Arroyo Seco was a welcome acknowledgment that the music festival market not only can accommodate a diverse array of ages and interests but can also be good business.

Baby boomer classic rock loyalty (and grown-up budgets) helped make last year’s Desert Trip in Indio the most profitable festival in America. The much smaller Arroyo Seco Weekend has a 10-year lease on the park to slowly establish itself as the young-family-friendly festival in Goldenvoice’s stable.


In L.A., perhaps the best festival-going city in America right now, one shouldn’t have to give up on that culture just because of domestic obligations.

While the screams of overwhelmed children did occasionally pierce the mood, remember that Coachella has plenty of overwhelmed children in need of snacks and a nap as well (they just happen to be 22).

Arroyo Seco set a new standard for how easy festival-going should be here. It brought back fond memories of hitting shows at L.A. State Historic Park (itself also just off the Gold Line), but with all of Goldenvoice’s crowd-control expertise and high-end catering. Just three stages, all easily walkable; plenty of green space and hills for lounging — these pleasures are ageless.

No one was expecting cutting-edge music here: That wasn’t the point, and Arroyo Seco made no pretenses otherwise. On Sunday’s closing night, Mumford & Sons played rousing, earnest folk-rock with a bit of U2 aspirations, while the Shins jangled their gentle indie hits across the park.

Weezer stuck to the hits and stirred singalongs from across its catalog, and Galactic brought an intergenerational New Orleans dance party to its feet (and how novel to see the equivalent of a Sahara Tent filled with live bands instead of DJs!).

Even if the main stages got a little crowded, it was mostly so pleasant and stress-free that it conjured up a whole new purpose for festival-going. Instead of vainly recapturing an idyllic youth, Arroyo Seco Weekend felt like gently ascending into L.A. yupsterdom: a great meal on a Pasadena knoll with a view of the stages, a couple of summery cocktails with lavender sprigs, an orderly Gold Line ride home under mountain silhouettes.

Something to aspire to, no?

For breaking music news, follow @augustbrown on Twitter.



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