Courtesy of Visit Pasadena

If trekking out into the desert for a music festival is not your scene, the inaugural Arroyo Seco Weekend might suit you better. The two-day festival takes place June 24-25 in Pasadena, Calif., in the shadow of the Rose Bowl and its genteel surroundings. It features a strong lineup of Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers and Mumford & Sons as headliners, plus The Shins, Weezer, Broken Social Scene, Alabama Shakes, Charles Bradley & His Extraordinaires and many others.

Although it’s also put on by Goldenvoice, Arroyo Seco is the anti-Coachella in many respects. For instance, there’s no need to skip out because you have young kids in tow; children 10 and under can attend for free. Los Angeles gem Kidspace Children’s Museum will keep pint-size festival-goers entertained with ample activities, from a rock star photo booth to making their own guitars and creating concert buttons.

In the shade of Oak trees and over grassy meadows, you can also stretch out a picnic blanket and feast on a chef-curated basket from top restaurants such as Rose Café, or a Mediterranean-inspired vegan option from Crossroads chef Tal Ronnen. Each basket includes a three-course meal for two, beverage vouchers and of course, a picnic blanket.

To get a better idea of what to expect, we spoke to Goldenvoice Festival Director Nic Adler about the genesis of the festival, its fine dining picnic baskets, and how organizers worked with the local community to ensure the festival kept its unique Pasadena flavor.

AXS: Paul Tollett (Goldenvoice CEO ) and yourself started brainstorming in 2013 about the idea for this festival but why Pasadena?

Nic Adler: There are not many areas in L.A. that are this beautiful and in all our backyards. Plus there’s a facility there; the Rose Bowl [is] used to doing events for 80,000 people, so there was infrastructure and plans in place to move large amounts of people too. When we do a festival that is of utmost concern: is it easy to get in and out? Is there public transportation? We’ve got to check all the boxes here.

AXS: The truth is, festivals that stand out are as much about the location as the bands, the identity and experience are all tied up – like Coachella and the desert or Glastonbury and fields of mud. You’ve set about giving Arroyo Seco a really local flavor – its name, the local kids museum and library. Tell us a bit about that.

NA: You have to have a relationship with the community when you do these large scale festivals. We’ve learnt that from the desert festivals we do. We quickly learnt that it’s important to Pasadena to stand out culturally; in our many meetings, art always rose to the top. Through our conversations on art, it also became apparent how educated and passionate the community are about art. We then partnered with cornerstones of art in Pasadena: the Armory Center for the Arts and the Pasadena Arts Council. But also with the smaller Side Street Projects, which helps kids from local schools find their path through art. Our goal with these projects is to grow these programs organically. The second thing that Pasadena is excited about is reading and literature. It kept coming up.

AXS: That’s interesting.

NA: Yes, it is interesting! We were sitting in these meetings thinking how do we incorporate reading into a music festival? We ended up having these library boxes. They look like bird boxes but have books in them and if you take a book, you have to replace it with another. With the library boxes we took care of two components: art and reading. We partnered with Side Street Projects to build library boxes and local bookstore, [and] Vroman’s came on to be our festival librarians.

AXS: Not many music festivals have their own festival librarians.

NA: Yes, those are probably not words that have been uttered before (laughs). Vroman’s have curated the books that will be available in this library boxes: books on art, architecture, culture and Pasadena. Look, we are not expecting folks to read a whole book at the festival but I think it’s a moment, even if they think it’s funny or doesn’t make more sense. Still, festival-goers might be surprised; they might have have fun flicking through the pages and learn something.

AXS: You also have restaurant-curated picnic baskets – that’s more like a civilized evening at the Hollywood Bowl rather than a two-day indie rock festival.

NA: When we were looking at the festival overall, with our knowledge of food at music festivals, there’s this ‘we got to get from one stage to the next stage’ mentality. The way you interact with the food is, you’re just sustaining yourself. And we’ve changed this culture a lot, as we’ve done with Coachella, we wanted the festival to breathe. We think something special happens when you put a picnic blanket on the ground, and sit with friends; whether you’re eating or not, you’re taking the time to enjoy each other’s company. That’s how I’ve always festival-ed. Not how many bands I see but how much time can I spend doing something else? We took this idea of fine dinning and made it accessible by marrying it with our picnic baskets. There’s also that sense of discovery. Festivals are about discovery; you listen to new music, see new art, try a new experience. The picnic baskets are curated like their own musical sets; what’s this entrée? Side-dish? It fits in with our mantra for this festival – a day in the park. We can go to the beach or downtown but as Angelenos, rarely do we sit under an Oak tree with a group of friends, and just enjoy the company with amazing music.

AXS: And it’s a festival for the whole family?

NA: It is a family-friendly festival but it’s not a festival where your kids are going ‘mum and dad, you have to take me to Arroyo Seco to see Tom Petty.’ It is the opposite of that; it’s more an opportunity to say to kids ‘I want you to experience this with me.’ You’re not going to walk into the festival and see balloons everywhere or an overwhelming number of kids activities. Yet, no one will feel out of place. The 25-year-old will not feel that they are at a kid’s festival. And a 9-year old is not going to be feeling like they want to go home immediately. One block away from the Rose Bowl is one of Southern California’s gems: Kidspace, and they organized a bunch of activities that parents can experience with their kids. It’s all happening in a natural park setting and something we would be doing with our kids on the weekend anyway: having a picnic, throwing a ball. It’s a nice way to introduce family to festivals.

For Arroyo Seco Weekend tickets, please click here. To purchase chef-curated picnic baskets, please click here. And for all your information on Arroyo Seco Weekend, keep it here on AXS.

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