Arroyo Seco Weekend Music Festival Debuts to Tens of Thousands in Inaugural Success

Tom Petty and Mumford and Sons headlined the relaxing weekend at the Rose Bowl

PHOTO: Thomas Forman | Staff Photographer South Pasadenan | Charles Bradley at the Arroyo Seco Weekend

From Coachella to Oldchella, concert promoter Goldenvoice has a commanding grasp on the Southern California music festival scene. It was inevitable that the dominant organization would eventually conquer one of Los Angeles’ most coveted venues: the Rose Bowl and its surrounding area.

PHOTO: Thomas Forman Staff Photographer | Jeff Goldblum and the Mildred Snitzer Orchestra perform on the Willow stage

Goldenvoice’s newest festival, Arroyo Seco Weekend, immediately became the talk of the town after it was announced. Between the heavyweight headliners Tom Petty and Mumford and Sons and the promising setting, it was sure to be a success. Despite a rainy slow start to the festival on Saturday, Goldenvoice did what they do best. Straying away from hip hop and electronic artists, the event evoked a clearly analog feeling, something seldom seen in high profile music festivals. Arroyo Seco Weekend, a music festival unlike any they had thrown before, was a triumph like the rest.

The family-friendly affair saw thousands bring out picnic blankets to lay on while sipping craft beer and eating gluten-free poke bowls. The headliners were the only sets that brought about sardine-like crowds. For the most part, people were content with laying down and watching the performances from afar. This could have been a byproduct of the heat and evasive shade, but there was a distinct feeling of relaxation in the air.

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The festival had three stages, Willow, Sycamore and The Oaks. Willow was the smallest, but still drew thousands to see the likes of Roy Ayers and Jeff Goldblum with the Mildred Snitzer Orchestra. A large shade tent covered the audience, which was close enough to the stage that the artists could talk with many of their fans. For example, Goldblum presented a trivia question to the audience in between each of his songs.

PHOTO: Thomas Forman | Staff Photographer | Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers headlined Day 1 of Arroyo Seco Weekend

Sycamore was the next largest stage, hosting some bigger-name artists such as Charles Bradley and The Shins. Bradley stole the show with his 50-minute set, spreading love and literal roses across the thousands who came out to watch him. The Oaks was the largest stage and presented fitting performers. Petty, Mumford and Sons, Alabama Shakes and Weezer were just a few of the heavy-hitters to play. Two performances that stuck out above the rest were Alabama Shakes and the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, both of which were teeming with passion.

PHOTO: Thomas Forman Staff Photographer | Ronell Johnson of Preservation Hall Jazz Band plays the trombone during their set on The Oaks stage

The music wasn’t the only attraction at the festival; far from it. The Brookside Golf Course was flooded with much-revered LA eateries such as Rose Cafe, Locol, and Red Bird. David Johns, a sous chef at the Venice-based Rose Cafe, described what goes into catering a large-scale music festival.

“It’s a challenge to prep all this stuff, transport it and store it properly out here,” Johns said. “That weighs heavily on our thought process [for creating a menu].”

Thomas Forman Staff Photographer | Bradley passed out a bouquet roses at the end of his set

The cafe was one of many hip restaurants to make an appearance, complementing the relaxed nature of the festival well.

“We love music. We love listening to great music,” Johns said. “This is the kind of festival that I would want to go see if I wasn’t working. It’s nice to get out of the restaurant.”

Arroyo Seco Weekend was a celebration of music, food and drink, and the City of Pasadena. The festival was a relaxing sunny afternoon in the park for the whole family, truly encapsulating the cozy feel of the Rose Bowl and its surrounding area. Goldenvoice and the Rose Bowl have a 10-year contract agreement for future festivals, and despite the lack of Top 100 hit-machines like Justin Bieber or Migos, the future of Arroyo Seco Weekend is promising.

Thomas Forman Staff Photographer | Crowds soaking up a special and entertaining weekend of performances


Julian Prime
Staff Journalist | Julian is a long-time resident of South Pasadena and former Editor-in-Chief of the Tiger Newspaper. He is currently pursuing a degree in Journalism at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism at ASU and is a 3-time Columbia Scholastic Press Association Gold Medalist.