As a wise man once said, “You can plan a pretty picnic, but you can’t predict the weather.” That much was true for day two of the Arroyo Seco Music Festival in Pasadena, California. Unlike day one, which saw temperatures around the high 80s, day two rocketed through the top of the thermometer, getting close to 100 for the majority of the day.
Despite the heat, Rachel Platten got the festival off to a great start. Though her set started at 1:55 pm (the hottest time slot of the day), she was able to coerce the crowd into getting down with some thumping bass and an impossibly bright smile. Platten held “dance contests,” where she awarded the most energetic attendees a free t-shirt. Though many stuck to the shade, a sizable crowd formed by the stage, especially considering how early in the day she played. She was much more energetic than yesterday’s openers, and the crowd responded in kind.
Next up was six-piece indie band, The Mowgli’s, who gave fans an upbeat start in the blistering sun. Fans seemed younger than yesterday at this time with a respectable crowd congregating towards the front of the Oak stage. Parent and child alike bopped to the feel-good tunes, be it from chairs or on foot. Though the heat was brutal, all seemed intent on enjoying the last day of the festival.
From there, Alice Smith took the stage at Sycamore to make her mark. The Washington D.C.-born vocalist started right on time even though the crowd in front of her was nonexistent. But with a booming voice like hers, her stage wasn’t empty for long. As her set wore on, her silky and warm melodies drew people in to find out what type of person could fill the Rose Bowl with so much sound.
Next on the setlist was ZZ Ward and her bass-heavy folk pop. Though the heat was still unbearable, fans and newcomers alike gave the Pennsylvania-born artist a warm reception and danced along to the thumping beats throughout her set.
As the day approached night — not that you’d know it from the heat — David Lindley sat down to perform some real American folk music with his slide guitar. The show was a welcome break from the louder thumping tracks of the day thus far. The crowd, too, seemed pleased with a moment off in the shade and sat under the canopy of the Willow tent, watching Lindley as he strummed, plucked and slid his way through a fantastic set.
Later at the Willow stage, Jamtown played an upbeat folk set to a packed tent. The crowd came in for Donavon Frankenreiter, G. Love & Cisco Adler as they strummed their guitars and gave us all a taste of folk music. The combination of the three artists singing and strumming in unison on stage rocking cowboy hats and acoustic guitars felt like the perfect personification of the modern American folk scene. Much like Lindley before them, this folk collective acted as a welcomed break before the heavy hitters of the evening took the stage. And with heat still in the upper ’90s, the shade of the Willow tent felt like an oasis.
Next up was multi-talented artist Andrew Bird at the Sycamore stage. A small crowd initially congregated around, but once he pulled out his weapon of choice, the violin, and began playing and looping his tracks live on stage, more and more came to check him and his band out. Before long, the Lake Forest, Illinois artist began plucking his violin while whistling, all in between singing with a sweet and melodic tone. As was expected with such a talent, word spread quickly, and by his third song, the Sycamore stage was packed.
At just four minutes past 7 pm, Weezer took the stage to roars of admiration from the crowd. Dressed like Guns N’ Roses, the four piece band consisting of Rivers Cuomo, Patrick Wilson, Brian Bell and Scott Shriner went right into one of their classics, “Hash Pipe.” And as soon as the first chord on “Hash Pipe” came bounding through the speakers at the Oak stage, the entire festival exploded into applause and cheers, and everyone began singing along. Weezer knew how to play to their audience and stuck with the hits for the first few songs of the evening before eventually playing a new song titled “Feels Like Summer.”
After Weezer came a trip back to Sycamore to watch the quintessential indie band, The Shins. Though the band came together in Albuquerque, New Mexico, their vibe couldn’t feel any more Californian. They ripped through some of their classic cuts, including fan favorite “Australia” and also played some of their newer hits like “Gone for Good” and “Painting a Hole.”
Halfway through the set, lead singer James Mercer declared that Weezer’s set was so good, they couldn’t possibly top it. However, they could still provide entertainment. By the looks of the crowd, especially after a few encores which included a cover of “American Girl” by Tom Petty, it seemed they wholeheartedly disagreed.
To close out the evening and the first ever Arroyo Seco Music Festival, Mumford & Sons took the stage at Oak. Their rock folk crossover, with a little violin and banjo mixed in, felt like the perfect way to cap off a successful festival. The crowd was receptive to their set, be it chart toppers or otherwise.
Fans seemed tired but were in no hurry to end the weekend, as Mumford & Sons played through some of their more well-known songs, like “Little Lion Man,” and some of their newer cuts, like “World of Mine.” Though the fireworks and pyrotechnics were a fun touch, Mumford & Sons connected with the crowd the most with their raw talent. Lead singer Marcus Mumford would take the spotlight at certain times of the set, with nothing but a spotlight and his guitar. Eventually, the rest of the band would come in, giving added depth to their set. As they eventually brought the evening to a close, Mumford & Sons ended with a special encore of an all-acoustic version of “Cold Arms” and then “Nothing is Written.”
All in all, the first annual Arroyo Seco was a resounding success. Logistically, the event staff handled the crowds like pros, learning from mistakes made on day one — like lack of guardrails and designated fire lanes — and brought out the best in the artists they showcased.
As Mumford & Sons wrapped up their set, Mumford told the crowd they were, “One of the best crowds we’ve played in front of for a very long time. Thank you very much.” So it seems from all perspectives, the inaugural Arroyo Seco music festival in Pasadena, California was a success.
Fitz and the Tantrums
All Photos by Brett Padelford