Walking and Eating around Arroyo Seco Weekend 2018
Neil Young on June 23, 2018
Year Two of the Arroyo Seco Weekend brought an eclectic mix of up and coming artists and Rock and Roll Hall of Famers to the beautiful Brookside Golf Course in Pasadena, California.
The Arroyo Seco Weekend is making its own statement of being a world-class concert/festival/foodie experience. This year's lineup was outstanding, with headliners like Neil Young with Promise of the Real, Robert Plant and the Sensational Space Shifters, Jack White and Kings of Leon.
This year the folks at Goldenvoice changed the layout for the stage locations, which I found very easy to get from one to another. There were isolated areas for folks to stand and sit, and clearly marked walking paths that made for safe foot traffic; not once did it ever get clogged up getting from stage to stage.
My Saturday went like this: Maxim Ludwig > Typhoon > Dwight Twilley > North Mississippi Allstars > Pharoah Sanders > Seu Jorge > Shakey Graves > Kamasi Washington > the Pretenders > Margo Price > Jack White > Neil Young & Promise of the Real.
I had recently seen Portland’s Typhoon at the Treefort Music Fest in March and they bring a refreshing jammin’ rock sound that gets you dancing, great band. Dwight Twilley was an artist I hadn’t heard from in a while and it was great seeing him on the stage, straight ahead rock and roll with a tinge of country.
Kamasi Washington and Pharoah Sanders both brought their unique brand of jazz to the folks at Arroyo Seco Weekend. Kamasi Washington is the future in fusion jazz and man can his band knock it out. Pharoah Sanders, simply put, is a legend, and seeing him here in this setting was wonderful.
Seu Jorge brought his Brazilian world beat rock to the masses and had everyone groovin’ to his hypnotic sound. I first learned of Jorge over 20 years ago when David Bryne introduced his Luaka Bop label featuring some of the legends of Brazil. Recently Jorge had been performing the David Bowie catalog sung in Portuguese across North America.
On the blues front, North Mississippi Allstars and Jack White respectively tore it up on their sets. Luther Dickinson and his North Mississippi Allstars were simply amazing. If you haven’t seen Luther on guitar, he can play! Along with Carl Dufrene Jr. on bass (whom I’ve seen with Anders Osborne), these two were rockin’.
Jack White hit the main stage with a power and energy that had everyone out of their seats and on their feet. White has his own brand of blues-infused rock that in concert is something else. As I’ve listened to his music off and on, I’ve not really embraced it, but seeing him live has me going back to revisit his music. Kinda like how the Grateful Dead’s studio albums are much different than their live performances. Now I can see why his music, in the proper setting, can reaffirm our belief in rock and roll.
Now, the only true Americana Country artist for the day was the one and only Margo Price, and she killed it. Performing on the smallest stage at the festival, she packed them in as she played a tight set with her band. With a festival lineup that was so diverse in musical styles, Price was one of the highlights. The last time I caught her in performance was at Bumbershoot in 2016, and you can really see and hear her confidence in her music and stage presence. I can see why she is selling out the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville on a regular basis.
Now I’ve gotta say, it had been awhile since I last saw Chrissie Hynde and The Pretenders. As Hynde hit the stage, the crowd erupted in delight to hear this iconic band crank it out. Inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2005 by Neil Young, it was fitting to be seeing them both on the same stage at Arroyo Seco Weekend this evening. Hynde and the Pretenders dazzled with a mix of new tunes and much loved classics.
Closing out the Saturday evening was Neil Young and Promise Of The Real featuring Lukas and Micah Nelson. As darkness fell upon the Brookside Golf Course, and the fog machines rolled out their mist, Young and POTR hit the stage opening with “Like An Inca” in epic fashion. This evening’s performance was straight up rock and roll featuring many of his songs with Crazy Horse. Following “Inca” came “F*!#in’ Up” and a blazing “Cortez The Killer.”
Lukas Nelson then sang his tune “Forget About Georgia” followed by Micah Nelson singing “Everything Is Bullshit.” From there Young performed “I Am A Child” and “Lotta Love” before kicking it into high gear with “Rockin’ In The Free World,” “Hey Hey, My My (Into The Black),” “Angry World,” “Powderfinger,” “Ohio,” “Down By The River,” and “Roll Another Number (For The Road).” An epic performance by an iconic musical legend!
After a fantastic first day of music, Day Two couldn’t come quick enough. My lineup for Day Two: Allen Stone > Tracksuit Wedding > Trampled By Turtles > The Revolution > Margaret Glaspy > Violent Femmes > The Bangles > Fantastic Negrito > Los Lobos > Gary Clark Jr. > Irma Thomas > Robert Plant and the Sensational Space Shifters > Kings Of Leon.
Allen Stone is one of those musicians that grow on you. Raised in Eastern Washington, he’s a fresh sounding blues soulster, mixing his brand of rock and soul. I last saw Stone when he performed at the Winthrop Rhythm and Blues Festival in Winthrop, Washington, so it was great to catch his set at Arroyo Seco Weekend.
Another band I hadn’t seen for a while was Trampled By Turtles, and I was looking forward to their set on the main stage. Part of the growing bluegrass rock sound, man, these guys really know how to jam. They had everyone twirlin’ and dancin’ to their upbeat acoustic music.
What I always enjoy about festivals is finding an artist I’ve never heard of, and Margaret Glaspy was a wonderful surprise. Her songs were straight ahead rockin’ and she cranked out some impressive guitar work, certainly someone to keep on my radar. Another artist who I’ve come to enjoy is Fantastic Negrito. He has an energy about himself, the guy just glows and get everyone skakin’ it down. I first caught him last summer at the Portland Waterfront Blues festival, and he did not disappoint.
The Revolution, featuring Wendy and Lisa, took the stage and had everyone groovin’ to the sounds of Prince. I had seen Prince when they toured behind the “Purple Rain” album at The Forum back in 1985 so it was nice to hear this music live again. The Revolution was really the only soul and funk band playing this weekend and it would be great to see more rhythm and blues, funk, and soul bands in the lineup next year.
Following the Revolution set came my all-time favorites, Los Lobos from just across the LA River, celebrating over 40 years of musical excellence! The City of Angels has had many bands that claim to represent the essence of this community, but I can honestly say that Los Lobos has represented the eclectic fabric of Southern California for decades. I have been going to their shows since the early '80s, when they broke into the LA Punk scene along with The Blasters, X, and the Bangles. It was great seeing them on the big stage at Arroyo Seco Weekend.
Speaking of The Bangles, they hit the Sycamore Stage with a rousing set of their classic pop rock that propelled them to the top of the charts. Susanna Hoffs, Debbi Peterson, and Vicki Peterson pounded out their classic songs to the thrill of their many fans in the summer sun.
Celebrating her 50th anniversary as The Soul Queen of New Orleans, the legendary Irma Thomas graced the Willows Stage performing many of her classic songs. Her band was so tight and her singing really shined, so very cool to say the least. As we headed in the home stretch of the evening, coming up next would be Gary Clark Jr. on the Oaks Stage.
Gary Clark Jr. has become one of the best electric blues guitarists in the current music scene. His band is great and Clark brings a swagger to his playing. With his band pounding it out, these guys know how to bring it down. Just an awesome set of rockin’ blues.
The headliner before the headliner … that is how it felt from my point of view. Robert Plant and the Sensational Space Shifters hit the Oaks Stage as the sun began to set opening with the Led Zeppelin classic “Lemon Song.” Robert Plant looked and sounded fantastic. The charismatic frontman sounded great and moved and grooved across the stage. His band, the Sensational Space Shifters, were really quite amazing and rocked it. Plant covered several Led Zep tunes and played some songs from his latest album.
My evening closed out with the Kings of Leon and by the time they hit the stage, after having walked over 20,000 steps each day (thanks Fitbit for keeping count), it was time to call it a night. I caught a little bit of their set and based on the production elements, it certainly was grandiose.
The one aspect that I need to take advantage of next year is the food and beverages being offered. The folks at Goldenvoice have done a great job of bringing unique food offerings and assorted libations. On day one I grabbed some barbeque tri tip with an IPA that was tasty and on day two I had some pad thai, but the pace of going from stage to stage to cover as many bands as possible is a enjoyable workout that kept me going all day!
I will be excited to return for Arroyo Seco Weekend in 2019, hopefully a little more Americana flavored artists and maybe some more funk and rhythm & blues. Congratulations to all the hardworking folks at Arroyo Seco Weekend for putting on a well run and organized event.