Robert Plant and Gary Clark Jr. Rock LA’s Arroyo Seco Weekend

Golden Voice, producers of Coachella, brought a cross generational festival of rock, jazz and soul to The Rose Bowl in Pasadena, CA.  Two days of earthy rhythms and nostalgic pop hooks projected from 3 stages on the stadium’s surrounding golf course.  70’s icons, 80’s classics, 90’s superstars and 2000’s legends in the making brought together the broadest age range you’re likely to see at any festival this year.


Saturday began mellow with Jazz sets by former Coltrane collaborator Pharoah Sanders who set the stage for some standards performed by none other than Jeff Goldblum and the Mildred Snitzer Orchestra.  The band, who regularly play Los Feliz located Rockwell venue, made time for fans on the heels of Godlblum receiving a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and premiering Jurassic World 2 within the last week.  A number of yards away, sax man Kamasi Washington played the main stage debuting new tunes off of his brand new Heaven and Earth album.


Blues, jazz and southern rock seem to be the primary foundation of Arroyo Seco but a few curve balls were thrown into the mix.  Seu Jorge, beloved Brazilian musician/actor, brought his brand of funk and Bossa Nova, accenting the beautiful Summer Solstice afternoon. Chrissy Hinds and The Pretenders as well as UK ska band The Specials were on hand to provide memories of the 80s.


At sunset crowds flocked to the main stage to rock out with Jack White.  Playing a lengthy hour and a half, White jammed through a retrospect of White Stripes, Raconteurs, Dead Weather and solo tracks.  Raw rock was abundant throughout the day, but White has transcended to pop status over the years thanks to a knack for concise pop smart song writing and guitar riffs.  “Up next is uncle Neil,” White says, in reference to the legendary Neil Young set to headline shortly after his set.  Young has remained relevant since the late 60s due to a gritty delivery that was a precursor to styles like Grunge that dominated decades after his days with Buffalo Springfield and Crosby, Stills & Nash.  His political views have remained progressive making him a people’s champion that resonates on classics he played from “Ohio” to “Rockin In The Free World”.  A powerful close to day 1.


Early on Sunday afternoon a band which is arguably tighter than all other at the festival prepped to resurrect the songs of a recently passed icon.  The Revolution officially backed Prince through his hey day from 1982-1986 on his biggest hits and are immortalized on celluloid in the film Purple Rain.  Sadly it took the passing of the purple one for it to happen, but all 5 original members reunited and have been touring since 2017.  The set ranged from pop classics “Let’s Go Crazy” and “1999” to deeper fan faves “America” and “Let’s Work”.  Vocals were handled by bassist Brownmark and guitarist Wendy Melvoin along with guest leads by Stokely of 90’s R&B outfit Mint Condition.  You can never replace Prince, but the authenticity of the band brought his spirit to life in a way that was therapeutic, bringing church to the festivals grounds on a beautiful Sunday afternoon.


In an odd bit of synergy, The Bangles took to the same stage following The Revolution, playing their break out hit “Manic Monday” (a song written by Prince and gifted to them).  Across the field, a bulk of the attendees packed in at main stage to see 90’s rock poster girl, Alanis Morisette.  Her album Jagged Little Pill sold over 30 million copies after its 1995 debut and even if you don’t like it I’d dare you to not sing along to at least a few songs.  The 90’s sing along would continue a few hours later when Third Eye Blind revisited their biggest hits including “Jumper”, “Semi-Charmed Life” and “Never Let You Go”.


Further highlights from Day 2 include Los Lobos who brought East LA Rock En Espaniol to Pasadena, the iconic voice of Aaron Neville and rootsy soul of Fantastic Negrito. Smack dead in the middle of the day was one of the most electric performances of the weekend courtesy of blues prodigy Gary Clark Jr.  He has become the go to when discussing modern blues and the art of guitar playing, especially at a time when most insiders will tell you rock is dead.  With no lack of guitar solos, the crowd was treated to a master class as he shredded through familiar staples of his sets and a few new unreleased tracks from his upcoming release.


The Festival concluded with 2 big shows on the main stage, starting with former Led Zeppelin front man Robert Plant.  If you respect rock & roll then you worship at the alter of Zeppelin, and on this evening gray bearded octegenarians down to bright eyed teens were given chills as the unmistakable wale of Plant’s voice passed through bodies like a sirens scream.  The band played tit-for-tat going from classic to new and back capping it off with an encore of “Whole Lotta Love”. Officially closing the night were Kings of Leon.  The once biggest name in rock music 10-years ago have not regained that level of commercial success but have remained working and maintaining their core audience.  Arroyo Seco payed homage to the south in all forms and the Tennessee quartet fit in perfectly to please what was a crowd less concerned with the type of hype Coachella produces, and more with feeding their soul with great music.


Golden Voice found a sweet spot with Arroyo Seco Weekend that brought generations together in a mellow atmosphere that is night and day to the chaos of most festivals.  Children were not out of place and young adults looked as comfortable as those who could recount that time they saw Led Zeppelin back in ’73.  American music at it’s finest from blues to blue grass finding appreciation and being handed down to a new generation.


photos courtesy of Golden Voice