The Best and Worst of Arroyo Seco Weekend 2018

Arroyo Seco Weekend (Courtesy of Goldenvoice)

By: Mary Carreon, Marc Ballon, Christine Terrisse, Nate Jackson

It’s no secret that the vibe of a festival is the reflection of its surroundings. In the case of Arroyo Seco Weekend last Saturday and Sunday, its impossible to divorce the lush, laid back majesty of a Pasadena’s Brookside Golf Course from the spirit of this family friendly commuter Coachella. Over the weekend, powerhouse headliners Neil Young, Jack White, The Pretenders, Kings of Leon, Robert Plant and a host of others were offered up to entertain crowds for Arroyo’s sophomore year. Since its inception in 2017, the two-day event has felt like its own oasis from the pop culture bacchanal of its Indio counterpart right down to the ease with which we entered the gates our tires briskly gliding down the fairway and finding a parking spot within literally seconds. Inside, we were given a solidly curated lineup of a small handful of genres featuring legends of the past and those in the making that at times seemed larger than life. However, at times the festival might’ve felt a little too safe for some people who maybe have never seen so many strollers in one place and there were definitely instances where the performances reflected their surroundings as well. But if we were to take a minute to read the tealeaves of festival culture, it seems pretty certain that easy going outings like this are the future for even the most hardened Coachella warriors among us. So trade that molly for some merlot, sit back and enjoy the best and worst of what we observed at Arroyo Seco Weekend. (Nate Jackson)




Kamasi Washington (courtesy of Goldenvoice)

Kamasi Washington And His Band

At Arroyo Seco, saxophonist extraordinaire Kamasi Washington once again proved what his growing legion of fans have known for years: nobody can play jazz with the passion, power and precision of him and his band. Under a bright blue sky, Washington played a wide-ranging set that featured several songs from his excellent new album, “Heaven and Earth.” He veered between funk, jazz, soul and everything in between. Washington’s two drummers, bassist, keyboardist and others in his eight-person band put on a clinic on how great music played by great musicians can unite and uplift. (Marc Ballon)

Credit: Mary Carreon

Three Cheers for Gin Cocktails!

Music festivals are great. But they play us attendees pretty damn hard when it comes to getting drinks. There’s nothing cool about spending $10 on a Coors Light. Ever. Thankfully, their cocktail menu offered some redemption. A drink called the “Butterfly Effect” made with Hendrick’s Gin, Jardesca Aperitivo, Chareau Liqueur, Lemon and Butterfly blossoms changed the game—and I never drink gin, but it was the most refreshing, lovely cocktail I’ve had in years. The drink was the color of amethyst, so everyone—even the old folk—were sauntering around all weekend with mystical purple drank in one hand and waving a peace sign in the air with the other. It was a beautiful sight. Until this weekend I thought I hated gin—and purple drank. I’ve been proved wrong. (Mary Carreon)


Jeff Goldblum and the Mildred Snitzer Orchestra, Willow (courtesy of Goldenvoice)

Jeff Goldblum Working Jeff Goldblum for All Its Worth

I have room in my freebie list. Justin Trudeau: please scoot over to make room for sixty-five–YES sixty-five-year-old hottie Jeff Goldblum. Playing jazz piano accompanied by the Mildred Snitzer Orchestra, the ageless Goldblum’s tunes are enjoyable, but he knows what the people want: Jeff Goldblum in all his timeless, dapper nerdiness. Unabashedly working his brand for all its worth, Jeff mugs from his piano bench, and in-between sets throws out Jurassic Park trivia. (Christine Terrisse)

Double fisting (credit: Kendra Menendez)

The Churros to Die For

Churro’s are the best festival food. Maybe I’m biased because I’m half Latina, but my god. The celestial blend of fried dough, cinnamon and sugar never ceases to satisfy. Plus, you don’t need to two hands to enjoy the churro and in case of an emergency you can use it as a weapon—you’d be surprised how lethal a churro can be—especially when you’re double fisting churros. No one wants to mess with a churro double-fister. (MC)


The Parking Lot

Situated on the verdant fairway of a golf course, Arroyo Seco’s huge makeshift parking lot dazzled. The mile-trek to the concert felt literally like a walk in the park, what with all the surrounding trees, parents playing with their children and Southern California sunshine. Near the entrance, a group of small kids amused themselves by playfully tumbling down a small hill next to a sand trap. Beautiful. And the parking was free! (MB)

Chrissie Hynde of The Pretenders (courtesy of Goldenvoice)

Chrissie Hynde–Arroyo’s Coolest Rocker  

The longtime Pretenders frontwoman put on a show for the ages, hitting all the high notes, even on classics such as “I’ll Stand By You” and  “Kid.” With her trademark curtain of bangs covering her heavily mascaraed eyes, she oozed charisma, sass and badass charm. Hynde introduced “Bad Boys Get Spanked” from “Pretenders II” by teasing, “Are there any bad boys here, because I’m looking for one?” For a moment, I considered jumping on stage. At 66, Hynde remains the sexiest, most kickass woman in rock and roll. (MB)

Margo Price (courtesy of Goldenvoice)

Margo Price’s Tom Petty Tribute

Margo Price proves country is first and foremost rock music before it was hijacked by less authentic forces. Her voice is a shot of neat bourbon: sweet, warm, refining the song to its essence. From the cutting lyrics of “Cocaine Cowboy” she moved into an extended jam session with her drummer, headbanging in tandem. Her cover of Tom Petty’s “Last Dance with Mary Jane” was cathartic and appropriately in her realm. (CT)


The Specials (courtesy of Goldenvoice)

The Specials

These veterans from England’s ska revival worked the graying, middle-aged crowd into a sweaty frenzy with such classics as “Gangsters,” “Rat Race” and “Nite Klub.” Even the grizzled biker in a sleeveless denim jacket in front of me and his (very) old lady danced the night away. Nearly 40 years on, the band, fronted again by original singer Terry Hall in fine vocal form, showed that great songs delivered with commitment and expert musicianship can transform a formerly sedate crowd into a twisting, turning mass of humanity. (MB)


Neil Young + Promise of the Real (courtesy of Goldenvoice)

Most Distinctive Guitarist: Neil Young

Lots of guitarists possess far more technical prowess than the mutton-chopped Godfather of Grunge, but none can detonate their axe like Neil Young. Sludgy, loud and sloppy, his guitar sound has helped launch a thousand garage bands and made groupies out of the likes of Pearl Jam. Turning his amp to 11, Young blasted through “Rockin’ in the Free World,” “Cortez the Killer” and “Down by the River,” filling the night air with beautiful noise. “Long May Your Run,” Mr. Young! (MB)


NASA in the House!

Through out the festival there were tons of interactive art instillations strewn about. There was a NASA dome that paid homage to NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory located in Pasadena. There was a quaint little bookshelf/ library located under shady tree near the entrance that offered an excellent vantage point for people watching. There’s nothing better than a shady book area. But the best people watching occurred near the seesaw, though. Have you ever seen drunk people seesaw? If you haven’t you need to ASAP.  Like stop what you’re doing and YouTube it now. (MC)


Wendy Melovin of The Revolution (courtesy of Goldenvoice)

Wendy Melvoin Ripping Into the Purple Rain Guitar Solo

“Wendy.” “Yes, Lisa.” “Is the water warm enough?” Yes Lisa! Yes!! That Wendy and Lisa were on stage  as part of the original lineup of the Revolution, Prince’s backing band in his Purple Rain years. Any Prince fan worth their purple salt knows he only worked with musicians who could kill it and although they make it clear throughout the set that Prince is missed and missing; they own the songs they way no tribute band really can. It was a special treat on Day 2 witnessing Wendy’s melodically soaring solo during the band’s take on “Purple Rain.” “It’s time we reached out for something new. That means fucking all of us” she improvised.  For real. (CT)

Credit: Christine Terrisse

Pulled Pork and Muffin Kebabs

The food can be a little pricey, but that of course, is to be expected. Arroyo Seco’s  organizers know their audience and not just anything will do. Elevated fair food is the best way to describe the plethora of choices. I had a very tasty pulled pork sandwich from Barrel and Ashes, a serviceable churro, a muffin kebob: a row of mix-and-match muffins on a stick and on Saturday, the pad Thai which proved popular during the Pretenders set. The only thing that was slightly underwhelming (at least to justify the $16 price tag was a “sloppy” sandwich from Cal Mare. (CT)


Fantastic Negrito’s Supercharged Stage Antics

One of the best down-marquee performers I saw was the aptly named Fantastic Negrito. The Oakland blues/blues rock/funk performer is essentially a modern-day James Brown with a wild and wicked sense of humor. He seamlessly turns an improved audience interaction into spoken word, into a rhythmic chant, into a song. He’s a great musician but his genius is the immediacy of his stage act. It’s a refreshing to feel like you don’t know what’s coming next. (CT)

Gary Clark Jr. courtesy of Goldenvoice

Gary Clark Jr.

Gary Clark Jr.’s hat is the stuff rock & roll royalty is made of. There’s a blue-jay feather laid flat on the brim, a lucky rabbit’s foot attached to the side and a bright orange piece of coral pinned above his ear. If he is not an environmental activist he should be because he is one with the creatures. (MC)


Alanis Morrissette’s Glowing Smile

In the mid-’90s Alanis made an album that ultimately became bigger than her. At her performance last night she showed she knows it and has remained the album’s worthy caretaker.  Radiantly beautiful both physically (her signature long hair is shorn better defining her lovely face), but she seemed to glow from the inside and couldn’t stop smiling as she delivered a quality set. I’m waiting for a new album, Alanis (CT)



Jack White (courtesy of Goldenvoice)



Worst Personality: Jack White

The former White Stripes guitarist and lead singer has never been known as the warm and cuddly type. This is the guy who  once beat the crap out of Jason Stollsteimer, the former lead singer of the Von Bondies and plead guilty to assault and battery. For his brutality, the court mandated that White take anger management classes. Real charmer. That personality, or lack thereof, came through during his underwhelming Arroyo Seco set. White said nary a word to the crowd and scowled the whole way through. His dourness reminded me of a surly teenager on a really bad day. (MB)


Credit: Christine Terrisse

Biodynamic Wines

“How is it different from organic?” I asked the nice young lady working the booth. “It is organic,” she says as I try not to roll my eyes out loud. It turns out there is a little more to biodynamic wines than organic farming; I think involving astronomical signs or something but with a name like that, I expect to be transformed. Not merely broke and buzzed. (CT)


Crabby Seniors

I really love old people. In fact, I feel like kindred spirits with most of them. But when they start talking shit to you in a crowd for getting too close to them because they need their space for Robert Plant, and make note of the fact “they were there in 1975” so they understand the music better than you—they stop being cool. In fact, everyone stops being cool when they express possessiveness over a band. Sorry, lady. This isn’t 1975 anymore. This is the day of “rave culture.” I hope you get sardined in a crowd and people rub their sweat on you forever. (MC)


Jack White’s Performance

I have nothing but respect for Jack White the artist. The dude shreds as a guitarist, writes indelible tunes and happily ventures outside his comfort zone in search of news sounds and sources of inspiration. His latest album, “Boarding House Ranch,” incorporates everything from hip-hop to electronics to jazz. It works brilliantly. White’s concert didn’t. His dark mood hung over his performance like a black cloud. At times, White seemed to be going through the motions and disengaged. What a disappointment. I had seen White co-headline Coachella three years ago and his energy and joy seemed to levitate the jubilant crowd. Not on this night. (MB)

Credit: Christine Terrisse

Respect the Craft Beer

As a craft beer devotee I expect some flowery language to justify paying $6 more than Coors Light. In keeping with festival branding all of the vendor and food booths are pretty minimalist, devoid of individual signage. Fine. But when I go up to one of the best local breweries booth (Craftsman) and ask what they have I didn’t expect to hear “a lager, wheat or IPA.” Excuse me! It’s called Sumac Summer and knowing brewer Mark Jilg, is probably made with real sumac (it is.) (CT)


Overpriced Food and Long Lines

Overall, the food at Arroyo Seco was quite tasty. Several buzzworthy local restaurants were represented, including Kogi, Hanjip and Cena Vegan. Tangy, pungent and sweet smells wafted from the many food stands. To buy any of the grub, though, concert-goers needed a trust fund, sugar daddy or sugar momma. I spent $25 for a yummy burrito and agua fresca. Still, I could have taken my two sons to the delicious Indian fast-food restaurant down the street for less. And for the privilege of eating at Sage Vegan Bistro, I had to wait in line for 47 minutes. A bargain it was not. (MB)

Credit: Christine Terrisse

Those Damn Inflatable Chair Thingies

Most of the time when I hate there’s an element of jealousy. This might be the case as I begrudge those who bring the long  inflatable chair thingies. I think they look silly being lugged around and I’m sure they take up extra space. I’d have to try them to find out to be sure. I’m not the only one too. “Who has the best seat in the show? You guys do!” a young woman shouts, slapping the side of one such contraption. “Leave ‘em alone, Rachel!” her friend laughs.  (CT)

courtesy of Goldenvoice

White is good but…

I like white people. I, my wife and kids and many of my friends are white. However, I like diversity and its richness even more, especially in the Era of Trump and the attendant rise of racism, anti-Semitism and Islamophobia. So, I found it a bit odd to see almost exclusively white faces at Arroyo Seco, which takes place in L.A. (well, Pasadena) one of the world’s most ethnically and culturally rich regions. In fact, it seemed like there were more African-Americans playing onstage with Kamasi Washington than at the entire festival.  Goldenvoice, one of the nation’s top concert promoters, needs to find a way to attract a more diverse audience to Arroyo Seco. (MB)


Airport Security Revisited

Look, I know in the era we are in, there’s a whole host of stuff we can’t bring into a concert. And it’s my job to do due diligence and look ahead on the website for all the stuff I can’t bring in. I get it. Nevertheless, I can’t help wondering what good comes of making a thirty something woman part with her fake Soma bottle, the same one she had all day the day before. (CT)


Rude-Asses with Cell Phones.

Recording an entire set on your phone during a concert is horrific etiquette. I wonder if it occurs to avid concert-recorders that they block the view of everyone behind them? You don’t go to a show to watch a concert performance off the phone screen of the person in front of you. Also, to the people recording: doesn’t it make more sense to watch the performance live in front of you instead of through the screen? A picture and maybe a short video clip to savor the moment is fine. But anything longer than 30 seconds to a minute is rude. Be considerate of the music loving attendees behind YOU! (MC)


Concert Sight Lines

At the beginning of Jack White’s main stage set, my friends and I stood on the downward slope of a hill, unable to see his performance at all. That the video screens flanking the stage showed abstract images instead of White and his band for the first few songs made the experience especially frustrating. The problem? The ground around The Oaks stage isn’t flat, meaning some people will find themselves on a downward slope, like we did, and have absolutely no view. To fix this problem, I suggest that the promoters raise the stage significantly or flatten the ground surrounding it. When people pay as much as they do at Arroyo Seco to see live music, they should actually see it – not just hear it. (MB)


Third Eye Blind (courtesy of Goldenvoice)

Third-Eye Blind’s Awkward Attempt at Evangelism

I came for Semi-Charmed Life. I left feeling like I had come from Sunday service at a megachurch. Throughout Third-Eye Blind’s set, lead singer Stephan Jenkins seemed slightly too grateful to be performing at the festival. He started rambling a bit talking about how they aren’t on tour, they really want to be here and something about recording in Encinitas soon. After urging us all to sing along because that’s what we do at Third-Eye Blind concerts, and throwing out that it’s Pride, he instructed us to turn to the person next to us and wish them a good summer. I felt like he was one step away from asking us to pray over them. (CT)

Robert Plant and the Sensational Shapeshifters (courtesy of Goldenvoice)

Robert Plant Robbed of Headlining Slot

What’s interesting about the festival were the headliners. On Saturday Jack White played before Neil Young, which, in terms of legacy and respect, makes perfect sense. (Hence why Jack White referred to Neil Young as “Uncle Neil.”) So, if we’re going off the same logic, how the hell did Kings Of Leon play after Robert Plant? I mean, how can ANYONE perform after the front man of Led Zeppelin—a man who channels the ancient druid energy of Stonehenge and releases it in the form of “Lemon Song”? (MC)

Young Brats Who Don’t Care About Music History

During Robert Plant, a girl sat down the whole time staring at the ground. She looked like she was having a miserable time. She rolled her eyes at the guy she was with, while he passionately sang the words to “Babe I’m Going To Leave You.” Perhaps she moped because she knew that Zeppelin song would one day manifest in her life– and not in her favor. Or maybe the repercussions of day drinking took over, which is fair—we’ve all been there. But it’s not often you get the chance to see one of the greatest front men of all time perform locally. Day drunk and dying, or not—you figure it out and praise the high heavens for the music being made in front of you because Robert Plant is the closest performance to a Zeppelin reunion we’re probably ever going to get. (MC)


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