Beyond the Headliners: 6 Must-See Acts at Arroyo Seco Weekend
It's gonna be hot this weekend, so if you're going to the inaugural Arroyo Seco Weekend festival in Pasadena, you're probably tempted to skip the daytime acts. But beyond a solid slate of headliners that includes Tom Petty, Mumford and Sons, Weezer and Alabama Shakes, the latest entry in Goldenvoice's growing festival empire includes plenty of acts worth showing up early for — or even ditching the headliners altogether.
Here are L.A. Weekly's picks for the six artists you may not have heard of (or at least, never heard that they also do music) who are worth seeking out as you explore the festival grounds at Brookside, the park surrounding the Rose Bowl.
Jade Jackson (Oaks Stage, Saturday, 1:35 p.m.)
This young country-folk singer-songwriter from the tiny Central Coast town of Santa Margarita has been garnering all kinds of buzz with her debut album, Gilded, and it's all deserved. "Finish Line" has a world-weary twang reminiscent of Jason Isbell or Lucinda Williams; "Salt to Sugar" could pass for a countrified Fiona Apple ballad. Gilded undoubtedly owes some of its punch to its producer, Social Distortion's Mike Ness, but Jackson's earlier, less polished material, much of which can still be heard on her SoundCloud page, is just as riveting. She won't be the smallest font on festival flyers much longer.
Jeff Goldblum, jazz man
Jeff Goldblum and the Mildred Snitzer Orchestra (Willow Stage, Saturday, 4 p.m.)
Yes, that Jeff Goldblum. When he's not playing snarky antiheroes in blockbuster film franchises, the 64-year-old actor has a long-running residency as a jazz pianist at Rockwell Table & Stage in Los Feliz, where he regales audiences with eccentric banter in between vintage jazz and pop standards. His backing band, the Mildred Snitzer Orchestra, features a rotating cast of heavy hitters in the L.A. jazz scene, none of whom is named Mildred Snitzer. And yes, Goldblum can more than hold his own with them.
Roy Ayers (Willow Stage, Saturday, 5:15 p.m.)
Vibraphonist Ayers is soul-jazz royalty, with a catalog of vastly influential songs that presaged the rise of fusion, acid jazz and neo-soul. Even if you're never heard his name, you know his hit "Everybody Loves the Sunshine," which has been sampled and reinterpreted so many times it's practically the unofficial theme song of neo-soul and conscious hip-hop. That iconic track alone makes him a must-see, but his entire set should be a master class in how to channel brilliant musicianship into blissed-out, summery vibes.
Madison McFerrin (Sycamore Stage, Sunday, 1 p.m.)
The daughter of jazz vocal virtuoso Bobby McFerrin, Madison has carved her own lane as an R&B singer who employs some of her dad's looped vocal techniques to more soulful ends. She got the wrong kind of media attention last year when she delivered a shaky version of the national anthem at a Hillary Clinton campaign appearance, but don't write her off based on that one performance. Her most recent effort, the 2016 EP Finding Foundations: Vol. 1, is a fascinating experiment in a cappella R&B.
Alice Smith (Sycamore Stage, Sunday, 2:55 p.m.)
A decade ago, this D.C. singer released a superb album called For Lovers, Dreamers & Me that showcased her four-octave range on bouncy, soulful pop confections like "Gary's Song" and "Woodstock," the funkiest song ever to riff on the underwater chorus from "Octopus's Garden." Then she disappeared. Turns out she got signed to Epic Records and spent years toiling on an album that her label bosses decided, in their infinite wisdom, to shelve. She's finally free from major-label purgatory and back with a new album, She, that proves she hasn't lost any of her vocal chops or gift for making pop music sound profound.
Galactic (Willow Stage, Sunday, 7:55 p.m.)
I've only seen these New Orleans jazz-funk jammers live once before, at Coachella in 2002, but they attacked the stage with such ferocity that half the drummer's kit fell off the riser halfway through the first song — and while roadies repaired the damage, the band kept going without missing a beat. On disc, their blend of swampy jazz, funk, hip-hop and blues can be great fun — but in concert, it's downright electrifying. With all apologies to Weezer, skip their last couple songs, because the real party will be starting over at the Willow Stage.
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