Arroyo Seco Weekend felt smooth as a putting green: Larry Wilson
|June 26, 2017 - Larry Wilson had a great time at Arroyo Seco Weekend.|
Taylor Goldsmith, foreground, and Wylie Gelber of Dawes perform during the Arroyo Seco Weekend festival June 24 at Brookside Golf Course in Pasadena. (Photo by Sarah Reingewirtz/Southern California News Group)
I felt like Max Yasgur at his temporarily transformed Yasgur’s Farm.
Now, the Woodstock Music and Art Fair of 1969, the Arroyo Seco Weekend of this past Saturday and Sunday wasn’t.
But just like dairy farmer Yasgur, who agreed to lease his land for the transformational event when neighboring villages in Upstate New York turned it away, I knew the festival grounds rather intimately for their ordinary use. It was discombobulating to see thousands of people on blankets under the camphor trees where I have wandered hundreds of mornings in search of a Bridgestone 2 after an untimely snap hook.
For the rest of the 25,000 people who came to the glorious canyon in west Pasadena each day of the weekend to hear music, drink craft beer and wear flowers in their hair — $20 a garland from Crown Bloom Co. — the main stage, The Oaks, was just the bigger one where Tom Petty played.
To Brookside golfers like me, it was the dogleg part of the tough but short par-4 16th fairway on the No. 1 course.
To the assembled music fans, who were told that they’d be partying on “the grounds outside the Rose Bowl stadium,” it was just a park. Until they noticed a few odd amenities.
As I sat on the grassy knoll west of the par-3 17th — er, the VIP section, where the bathroom and beer lines were shorter — a passing festivalista said to her friend, pointing to the white picket fenced-off bunker and putting green: “See! I told you this was a golf course.”
I tried not to let my localism spoil the fun. It’s just that I knew too much. As I rounded a fake hedge on the 18th after picking up a cooling Hendrick’s gin on the rocks with a sprig of lavender, some 40ish fellows at a picnic table, noticing I was smoking a cigar, waved me over. There was a small pipe between them, filled with something green and no doubt medicinal. “You got a lighter, man?”
“Uh, it’s not that I don’t, fellas, and you’re welcome to it. But I got to tell you, I just ran into police Chief Phil Sanchez and the missus, Deborah, right around the corner, and ...”
This information was of no interest whatsoever to them. They were from La Canada, from San Marino, and didn’t know the chief. It was 2017, not ’69. The ceremonial herbs were lighted. I made to take my lighter back and head for the fantastic Alabama Shakes gig. “Can’t we keep it?” In the spirit of peace and love, I agreed.
I’d also seen the chief earlier in his Crown Vic driving the streets of Linda Vista as I rode my bike down. He was talking to dog-walkers, asking them if yet another event in their neighborhood was going OK, noise- and traffic-wise. In fact, it was remarkably placid. No gridlock, as people arrived at different times.
Unlike for U2 and other big acts in the Rose Bowl itself, everyone nearby was impressed how the subtle sound systems directed music at the audience, not up out of the Arroyo.
I also ran into the other chief, the Fire Department’s Bernal Washington, strolling the fairways by himself, eyebrows a bit furrowed. “What do you think, chief?” I asked, merely conversationally. I thought he might have caught a few of the acts.
“Oh, Larry,” he intoned. “I mean, it’s all pretty good. But I’ve got some ingress and egress issues here. I have a mind to make one of these bridges emergency-vehicle only. And, tell me — if you collapsed right here on the ground, would you know where to go for help?”
Actually, I felt very well-cared for. The place was crawling with EMTs and helpful security guards. When I later ran into a group that included Mayor Terry Tornek and Maria with their kids and grandkids, former City Manager Michael Beck, Rose Bowl boss Darryl Dunn and Councilwoman Margaret McAustin, I noted that the festival was so well-staffed, the sound systems so huge but natural, the amenities so fine, that promoters had to be at best breaking even.
“That’s part of the business plan,” said Dunn. “They’re in it for the long run,” said Tornek.
Returning Sunday with my friend Cynthia, we hit the Union restaurant booth for a pork sandwich with bitter greens that you couldn’t beat. Next year, more craft beer — the Smog City lines were long — less Coors. And if I can make a programming suggestion: When surprise guests Los Lobos joined The Shins for an encore, the Sycamore crowd went wild. Book them, X, Chicano Batman. Get a little bit L.A.-edgier, now it’s been shown a golf-course fest can be run smoothly as The Masters.
Follow Larry Wilson on Twitter: @publiceditor.
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