Goldenvoice knows how to put on a festival. Arroyo Seco Weekend is their latest iteration and given the big crowds, it seems like it could be Goldenvoice's next big annual festival. In this article we review the music and attendee experience from Arroyo Seco Weekend’s first day.
Sunday was the day we were most looking forward to for music at, but Saturday proved to be a damn good day in its own right. The following sets are my top five from Arroyo Seco Weekend's debut.
Think HAIM, but Swedish and more folk rock. Baskery is cool, because they are so different from other bands I’ve seen at festivals. What other band is lugging a double bass around with them or singing traditional Swedish songs during their set? All three sisters sing and play instruments, one of them, Greta Baskery plays two… at the same time! Their crowd interaction and commentary was also hilarious, which was great as sometimes the early morning sets can be a little sleepy as people are just getting to the festival. By the end of their show they had attracted a big crowd and a lot of new fans.
It was really cool to see how much Alabama Shakes has grown since I first saw them at Coachella in 2015. Some of the crowd was obviously waiting for Tom Petty, but a large amount clearly knew Alabama Shakes as they sang along to multiple songs throughout the set. This was a great booking for Arroyo Seco Weekend’s first year as Alabama Shakes have limited shows in 2017, making this festival one of the few opportunities fans will have to see the group this year. Alabama Shakes always has so much energy and appreciation for the crowd, they are impossible to not enjoy. They didn’t play "Hold On" though - come on Brittany!
I listened to Haley Bonar’s music for the first time just a week before Arroyo Seco Weekend, but I knew I liked her sound immediately. I would describe her music as a nice, hazy alternative rock sound that is perfect for relaxing in the grass, enjoying the sun and letting the day go by. If she would have played all afternoon, we would have stayed and listened.
Broken Social Scene was really good, so good that I seriously considered ranking them as #1 even over the legendary Petty, but ultimately no one tops Tom Petty & the Heartbreaks. However, Broken Social Scene was a lot of fun, one of the most fun bands I’ve seen at a festival all year. There are 15 members in the band and the number on stage ranged anywhere from 6 to 13 members at any given time. With each song, I never knew who was going to pop out, one minute I’m enjoying a song and watching Brendan Canning rock out, a second later I look back to the right and there are 5 new people with trumpets on stage! The band also just looked like they were having a blast together, which made the set even more fun. They also mentioned they would be back in Southern California later this year, so if you missed them at Arroyo Seco Weekend, you’ll have another opportunity to see them!
Petty is the f'n man! This was one of the best headlining sets I have ever seen at a festival and one of the best crowds as well. From the beginning of the day at Arroyo Seco Weekend, it was clear that many of the people were there for Petty. The Oaks Stage, which is the main stage at Arroyo Seco Weekend, was completely packed all day with people waiting out the afternoon and early evening sets to get to the headliner. He rewarded them for their long wait with a set list that spanned his entire career, playing hit after hit after hit. Of the headliners I’ve seen, Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers had the largest percentage of the crowd singing along to their songs. There were a lot of people in the crowd who seemed to know all the words to all their songs. Originally Tom Petty’s set wasn't the one I was most excited for at Arroyo Seco Weekend, but it ended up being my favorite. Even after 40+ years the band still sounds incredible!
Honorable Mention: Jeff Goldblum and the Mildred Snitzer Orchestra
Probably the most intriguing / curious booking on the lineup poster, was Jeff Goldblum. I had no idea Jeff Goldblum played the piano, let alone performed with an orchestra, but Jeff Goldblum and the Mildred Snitzer Orchestra were a ton of fun. His name drew big crowds to the Willow Tent who laughed along as he talked and joked with the crowd prior to bringing out the band. He seemed to genuinely be having a good time and that energy definitely rubbed off on the crowd. Plus, the man came out in a full suit when it was a sweltering 90 degrees out, that’s impressive!
The stages are set up perfectly at Arroyo Seco Weekend with no apparent sound bleed issues between the stages. The first stage you’ll see when walking into the festival is The Willow Stage, a small tented stage and the only option for seeing a show in the shade. As you continue walking, you will cross a bridge to the main area of the festival with the two main stages (Oaks and Sycamore) on opposing sides. They are far enough apart that there is no sound bleed or overlap between the crowds of the opposing stages, even when shows are going on concurrently. Overall Arroyo Seco Weekend did a great job using the grounds and the space they have.
There are multiple ways to get to Arroyo Seco Weekend, which we review in more detail in our Arroyo Seco Weekend Transportation Guide. For our first day at the festival, we booked a hotel that was close to a Metro Station, so that we could walk to a Metro Station and take the Gold Line to the free Arroyo Seco Shuttle. The metro was easy to navigate even though we aren’t from the area and extremely affordable ($1.75 each way). Once we got to Memorial Park, the shuttles were easy to find and board, getting us to and from the festival quickly and efficiently without any lines. It is important to note that we do make a point to leave just before the headliner wraps up to specifically avoid the lines. However, there were multiple buses lined up and waiting to take people back to Memorial Park, so I imagine even the wait wasn’t too bad for the people who stayed until the end. Overall, their transportation was the easiest and most efficient we’ve experienced at a music festival.
The crowd is older and more mature than the other music festivals we’ve attended festivals, which makes for a more relaxed experience. For me, this is refreshing after attending EDC and Gov Ball NYC in recent weeks, both of which are known for having younger audiences. Haley Bonar put it best during her set, when she commented that she saw lots of "Blanketing and Dancing,” adding, “I love both". If you wanted to dance you could, if you wanted to relax in a chair or lay down on a blanket, you could do that too.
Initially, the blanketing aspect seemed awesome, but as the day progressed and the crowds grew, bringing more blankets and chairs with them, the grounds started to look more like a maze than open festival grounds. Depending on where a person found a spot, they would likely be surrounded by multiple rows of blankets and chairs to all sides. This made even the most minor tasks like grabbing a drink or using the bathroom difficult as a person would need to weave through a haphazard layout to make their way to a walking path without stepping on anyone’s hands or personal items. Plus, if you like to bounce around stages, you’ll most likely be stuck with an obstructed view by the time the headliner taking the stage due to the limited availability of open areas available for attendees without a mini camp set-up.
The food and drinks at the festival was top notch and the best of any festival I've been to. We had tacos, a poke bowl, cupcake kabob (amazing) and drinks throughout the day and everything was incredibly tasty. The prices are standard: $10-$15 for food items, beers are $10-12, and cocktails are $14-16. It’s expensive to eat and drink at Arroyo Seco Weekend, but in our experience the prices are standard with every other music festival. If you want more information about the food, read our 2017 Arroyo Seco Weekend Food Review.
Arroyo Seco Weekend was a lot of fun and my fiancé and I both really enjoyed the music, food and experience. I was surprised by how well everything was run, being Arroyo Seco Weekend's first day of their first year, but at this point Goldenvoice has so much festival experience, I probably shouldn't have been. Overall, Arroyo Seco Weekend delivered an awesome guest experience, which has us very excited to go back and experience it again for day two.