Arroyo Seco Weekend: A Music Festival With A Rocking Line Up That’s Perfectly Suited For Family Fun REVIEW+PHOTOS: Arroyo Seco Weekend June 23-24, 2018
PASADENA, CA- My married friends Jonny and Emily met at a music festival. In fact, I’d like to think I was partially responsible for making that magical connection happen for them as I literally got Jonny to the festival by offering to give him a ride. The connection that they made through a shared love of live music led to them dating, which led to them getting married and having a beautiful baby boy. Ah, music … It’s one hell of an aphrodisiac.
Em and Jonny will still call in a baby sitter every now and then so that they can head out for an evening concert, but their relationship with music festivals has waned a bit. After all, I’m pretty sure that taking care of their infant ranks a little higher on the priority ladder for them than hearing their favorite song played live. But what if you could have both? What if there was a music festival that specifically catered to their familial needs?
Celebrating its second year in existence, Arroyo Seco Weekend once again set up shop at Brookside at the Rose Bowl (the golf course which surrounds the venerable stadium). Sprawled out on the manicured grass, and amongst the cared for trees and grassy knolls, were three stages that over 25,000 guests could walk to and take in some music from venerable legacy artists, music legends and rising talent. And of those 25,000 guests, I’d guess at least 5% of them were under the age of 10, with many of those kids being pushed around in strollers or dragged along in wagons.
With admission to the festival free for kids under the age of 10, many parents clearly seemed to use Arroyo Seco Weekend as “an excuse” to get the family out of the house, and I don’t blame ’em. After all, if you could take your kids with you to enjoy a day full of music featuring the likes of Robert Plant, Jack White or Neil Young and get them in for free, I’d say you’d be a fool not to take advantage of that deal.
Now, the main question is whether or not the festival setting lent itself to such a family oriented affair. The answer is a resounding yes. The festival grounds was very spacious. In order to get within earshot from one stage to another, it was a brisk 3-5 minute walk, but because the of the spread out location of the stages, there was never any need to shoulder your way through a crowd or zig-zag like a mad-man around other attendees. Families could literally, leisurely stroll the festival grounds from one point to the next. For those children who may have been more interested in running around and playing rather than listening to sophisticated jazz or rock & roll, the spacious festival grounds offer plenty of distractions, including a pop-up space science exhibit, an outdoor children’s library, and various other playground installations that many adults seemed to enjoy as well.
What made Arroyo Seco particularly attractive for families, in my humble opinion, was the way in which the festival grounds itself was organized. Arroyo Seco had designated seated and standing zones with security constantly ensuring that guests were in their appropriate areas. Guests could bring their own folding chairs and set up a mini-camp to picnic and just hang out without having to worry about a random person overing over them. Walkways were also clearly demarcated, so there was no excuse to even venture into a seated area unless you were heading in to join some friends.
This “structure”, and the way it was enforced by security, was absolutely conducive to the overall mellow atmosphere of the festival. Though there were no official “festival rules”, there simply seemed to be a basic understanding of consideration and respect to make sure that everyone, including the babies in the strollers, were enjoying their time at the festival.
That’s not to say that there weren’t a few things I thought that could be improved upon.
I know that long lines for food, especially during “peak” dining hours, will always be an issue no matter what festival you attend. I waited in line for 25 minutes to order a gourmet hot dog and tater tots, and waited another 10 minutes for my meal to get served. That’s 40-45 minutes that I spend waiting for, and eating, a meal I only needed because I was feeling a little woozy from being so hungry, when I could have been seeing a band play. If there was some way to expedite that process, like perhaps preordering and prepaying (even with an additional surcharge) for food to be picked up at a certain time, I would have signed up for that service.
I place and order for two slices of cheese pizza, or a plate of pad thai, with a bottle of water at noon, to be picked up 5pm at a certain vendor. I walk by the vendor en route to the next act I want to catch play, pick up the food, scarf the food down, and on to more music. THAT would be something I’d pay extra for.
Also, the merchandise store at Arroyo Seco could have been run a little tighter. I got in a line, but I noticed that there were way too many people walking up to inspect the hanging merchandise on the wall who simply cut the line to sneak in an order at a register that happened to open up. I was in too good of a mood to complain, although I maybe should have, since I saw a cutter get a large Neil Young t-shirt that I wanted, which was somehow sold out by the time I got up to the front of the line I had been waiting patiently in. I still bought the t-shit. In a medium. I need to lose about 15 pounds before I can feel comfortable wearing it.
But at the end of the day, my concerns about the food and merchandise booths are inconsequential when compared my overall enjoyment of the weekend festivities. It’s my humble opinion that Goldenvoice hit the nail on the head with Arroyo Seco Weekend.
As a man in my 40s who still keeps up with modern music trends, I loved the nostalgia that the truly eclectic line-up provided. From free jazz originator Pharaoh Sanders, to the rising country star Margo Price, to modern rocker Jack White to classic rocker Neil Young on Saturday, and Rock & Roll Hall of Fame vocalist Aaron Neville, to the queen of New Orleans soul Irma Thomas to the gournd- and record- breaking Alanis Morrisette and the inimitable Robert Plant on Sunday; there was truly a little bit something for virtually everybody.
From the silver-haired sexagenarians and the professional suinquagenarians to the kids in their twenties and the middle aged couples with kids, this was a festival that everyone could enjoy. You can bet I’ll be encouraging Em and Jonny buy tickets for next year. I have a feeling it’ll be just their speed.