Critic’s Notebook: What the new Arroyo Seco Weekend festival says about its owners’ ambitions

Mumford & Sons
Mumford & Sons are among the acts booked for June’s Arroyo Seco Weekend festival in Pasadena.
(Drew Gurian/Invision/AP)
Pop Music Critic

First they came for the kids. Then they came for the parents. Now they’re coming for the whole family.

That’s what the concert promoters at Goldenvoice appear to be doing anyway with Arroyo Seco Weekend, a splashy new music festival announced Tuesday by the Los Angeles company that’s also responsible for Coachella and Desert Trip.

The two-day event, scheduled for June 24 and 25 on the grounds of Pasadena’s Brookside Golf Club near the Rose Bowl, will present performances by headliners including Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, Mumford & Sons, Alabama Shakes, Weezer, the Meters and the Shins.

But Arroyo Seco Weekend is also set to have high-end food and drink from L.A. restaurants such as Chego and Barrel & Ashes. And the festival says it will team with Pasadena’s Kidspace Children’s Museum to program activities for young ones more stimulating than sitting sun-dazed in a stroller.


Putt-putt, anyone?

Along with that multi-generational lineup, the range of offerings here seems to reflect Goldenvoice’s determination to colonize every demographic of show-goer — not just the twentysomethings who routinely flock to Coachella (which next month will bring Lady Gaga and Kendrick Lamar to Indio’s Empire Polo Club) and not just the baby boomers who crowded the same venue for October’s Desert Trip (with Bob Dylan, Paul McCartney and other classic rockers).

Arroyo Seco Weekend also looks an awful lot like the promoter’s attempt to eventually move in on Bonnaroo, the annual Tennessee blowout that comes closer than any other American festival to matching Coachella’s prestige.

Like Bonnaroo, Arroyo Seco Weekend will mix established mainstream draws (in this case Petty and Mumford & Sons) with rootsy heritage acts (the Meters, William Bell, John Mayall) and younger, more indie-aligned artists (Broken Social Scene, Andrew Bird, Fitz and the Tantrums).


The new festival will even nod to Bonnaroo’s so-called Superjam collaborations with an appearance by Jamtown, a three-way bro-down featuring G. Love, Donavon Frankenreiter and Cisco Adler.

Arroyo Seco Weekend has its quirks, most notably the hard-to-fathom presence of the washed-up alt-rock band Live, which probably hasn’t seen its name this high on a festival bill since 1999. More welcome is the actor Jeff Goldblum, who’s booked to perform the jazz repertoire he’s been doing with ample charm for years at the Rockwell club in Los Feliz.

In a way, though, even the show’s weak links represent a potential asset. As the American festival scene has expanded dramatically over the last decade (thanks in large part to the huge success of Coachella), one bummer has been how similar many of the bills have become.

When Outkast reunited in 2014, for instance, the influential hip-hop duo played its first show at Coachella — then went on to hit Hangout in Alabama, Sasquatch in Washington, Governors Ball in New York and dozens of other events, each less special than the last.

By including some head-scratchers — and what promise to be site-specific amenities — Arroyo Seco Weekend could carve out a unique space for itself even as Goldenvoice uses the festival to tighten its grip on a growing market.

Twitter: @mikaelwood



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