Friday, March 17, 2017

Arroyo Seco Weekend | Lefsetz Letter

Arroyo Seco Weekend

I’d rather go to this than Desert Trip.

As for Coachella, despite the press of it being America’s greatest festival, the truth is it’s a rite of passage for Southern California teenagers, where you put on your outfit and take selfies, they should rename it INSTAGRAMELLA, because it’s got little to do with the music and all to do with the attendees. And I give the promoters credit, they’ve finally woken up to this fact, albeit far too late, booking Beyonce, now replaced by Gaga, and Kendrick Lamar, if they really had it together they’d have booked Bieber, years ago, because he is now credible and the favorite of those who actually go to this show, although most of them will be high in the Sahara Tent, listening to deejays. The undercard? No one’s broken out of Coachella, any damn festival at all, for eons, if at all. It’s a circle jerk, akin to a booking at SXSW. You used to go from nowhere to somewhere by appearing, now you still stay nowhere, unless there’s a big push on you anyway and the festival is just icing on the cake.

But this Arroyo Seco Weekend…

The first canard is that Coachella is such a beautiful site, on the polo fields. Wrong. It’s a barren landscape with a few rides and sculptures that can be way too hot and way too windy and the truth is the biggest festivals in America, other than gross, the best planned and most fun to attend, are Lollapalooza and ACL right in the heart of the city. Kind of like the granddaddy, Jazz Fest, which ends in the early evening so everybody can shuttle back to town and eat!

And for those who went to Desert Trip, what they could not stop talking about was the food. The concert experience has flip-flopped. You used to be satisfied being treated like cattle, eating hot dogs and popcorn, now you want respect, and the lineup of eateries involved with Arroyo Seco makes one interested in going irrelevant of the acts on stage.

Food is more interesting than music right now, MTV is no longer called “Music Television” while the Food Channel continues to burgeon and everybody on it has a restaurant and brand extensions. Because chefs take risks, they don’t play it safe, something musicians have lost sight of.

As for the headliners at Desert Trip, other than maybe Neil Young, they’re all past they’re sell date. McCartney’s voice has withered, Dylan’s is near-nonexistent, Roger Waters never sang much to begin with, and although the  Stones and the Who are experiencing renaissances, with the World’s Greatest Rock and Roll Band firing on all cylinders and Roger Daltrey taking time off between gigs to rest his voice, you can see them anywhere and everywhere, as for the Who’s recently announced Las Vegas residency, positively brilliant. The road kills bands, why not have the audience come to them. Vegas is the new Branson, for far too long it was about irrelevant shows with boobies and aged entertainers, but now it’s a mix of old and new musicians/singers and is more attractive every day, kudos.

So, Arroyo Seco, unlike Coachella, underplays. It’s not for everybody, but locals. I’m not saying out of town people and foreigners can’t attend, but the truth is every community now has its festival and by trying to be more than that you often end up with less.

Tom Petty may be from Florida, but he’s now seen as a SoCal act. As are Dawes, Fitz & The Tantrums and Weezer and…

This festival may be enhanced by the food, but first and foremost it’s positively about music. What a change from Coachella. And it’s not a notch in the belt like Desert Trip, where old fogeys go to congratulate themselves, but an enjoyable experience both seeing the headliners and those coming up. And I’m sure substances will be taken, but this is not music made inside the box, but with real instruments, played by both the old and the new, it’s refreshing, you can go and enjoy what you already know and discover new bands. This festival is more in touch with the audience than any record company, playing to radio and the lowest common denominator listener, Arroyo Seco is about the AUDIENCE!

And the audience is segmented. Arroyo Seco writes off the baby boomers, if they want to come, cool, but really it’s about the Generation after, X, which is fifty give or take. But it does not write off their younger brethren, still stimulated by music that in many cases gets no airplay.

And I cannot ignore the food, but this is the first festival in a long time that is about the music, not the site, not the aura. You see the lineup, note it’s in Pasadena, and say I WANT TO GO!



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