Thousands of fans gorged on music on a mercifully temperate Saturday at Make Music Pasadena, the 30-stage, 150-plus-artists day of free shows in the Crown City that was best enjoyed in comfortable walking shoes. It was a day you could be among the throngs on Colorado Boulevard one moment and be seated comfortably in a craft store hearing country singers the next. Or be in a park listening to a band like The Moth & the Flame sound larger than life and then walk across the street to hear The Anti-Job playing sweet acoustic the next. Or watch the Pasadena Symphony and POPS perform in front of City Hall and then take short jaunt to hear Hundred Waters’ electro-pop. All these things we tried, with varying degrees of success.
- ||| Also: Around Make Music Pasadena with photographer Carl Pocket
- ||| Also: Around Make Music Pasadena with photographer Michelle Shiers
Below, my 10 memorable moments from Make Music Pasadena:
Sir Sly on the Old Pasadena Main Stage: Even if you think the L.A. indie-poppers’ album sounds like a bunch of B-sides from the Neighbourhood, you had to marvel at their main-stage performance. With frontman Landon Jacobs wailing, jumping and teetering into the crowd, Sir Sly elicited huge roars in reaction to singles such as “Gold” and the album’s title track “You Haunt Me.” “Oh, no, what did we miss?” a fan two blocks away was heard to say upon hearing the din from Colorado Boulevard. A true spectacle.
Kishi Bashi on Old Pasadena Main Stage: The ovation was similar for singer-violinist-looping wiz Kaoru Ishibashi’s set; the 39-year-old who has played with Of Montreal, Regina Spektor and Sondre Lerche last month release his second Kishi Bashi album, “Lighght” (not a typo). His interplay with Mike Savino (Tall Tall Trees), who plays what Ishibashi calls “space banjo,” was remarkable. Did anybody sing along to the innovative single “Philosophize In It!”? Well, they tried.
Nick Waterhouse at the Levitt Pavilion Stage: The expanse of lawn in Memorial Park is comfy, but everybody was standing for Waterhouse’s passionate sunset set. Waterhouse and his ace band threw down a couple of new songs along with the old-school R&B on his album’s “Holly” and “Time’s All Gone.” Dance like it’s 1956.
Leslie Stevens at the Stage at the Shoppes at Stats: Like the Wild Reeds who played just prior, Stevens had a sense of humor about the setting. (“I’ve never played in a craft store before,” Wild Reeds’ Mackenzie Howe said. “I guess I can cross that off my bucket list.”) Yet throughout the day, it was a nifty space devoted to the glories of Americana and country. Stevens [pictured] was at her songbird finest, playing all new material with no word on when it will be released. Wild Reeds’ three-part harmonies were special too; you know you’re in the right place when a polite, attentive crowd is dead silent during the closing number, a soft acoustic song.
How to Dress Well at the Playhouse District Stage: The most beautiful choice for the Playhouse stage, the experimental pop of How To Dress Well echoed throughout the Pasadena neighborhood offering a tenderness as the sun began to fall. Tom Krell’s falsetto vocals were gentle and flawless paired with danceable R&B beats. It wasn’t all serious, though, as Krell paused between songs to tell the crowd they are celebrating the 30th birthday of his drummer Andrew, whom he has been friends with since they “were 14 or 15.” This announcement was followed by Andrew’s cell number, his parents’ landline and, of course, a happy birthday sing-along.
Nightjacket at the Armory Center Studio Stage: A little dream-pop in the middle of the afternoon? Sure, why not. With singer Holland Belle commanding a stage erected in a space normally used for kids’ art lessons, the quintet played their entire forthcoming EP, overcoming some vocal mic hiccups as Jordan Wiggins’ warm, fuzzy guitar tones recalled the early days of indie-pop.
Little Wolves at the Playhouse District Stage: With Tapioca & the Flea in their rear-view mirror, Samuel Jacob-Lopez and Ronnie Watson are carrying on as Little Wolves, with their new songs in largely the same vein — chill, danceable electro-pop with Jacob-Lopez’s upper-register vocals suggesting a disco in outer space. Some of the duo’s new songs got lost in the backing tracks, but like the TATF favorites they played, they were good for a late-afternoon high.
Dark Waves at the Playhouse District Stage: Following a hip-swiveling set of gypsy rock from Kera and the Lesbians — nice new guitar, Kera Armendariz — Dark Waves’ Nick Long rode solo for this round, charming the crowd with more than just his good looks. Accompanied by his computer, Long made fun of himself for being “that guy” his punk band history would have hated. The moody alt-rock was romantic and longing, even in such a non-intimate setting. The crowd swooned as he concluded his set with the buzzing hit “I Don’t Wanna Be In Love.”
Caroline Smith at the Old Pasadena Main Stage: What was it about R&B on this day? Moments after the U.K.’s Hidden Charms blasted through a sparkling set of vintage, English-style rhythm & blues, Minneapolis soul singer Smith wooed the crowd with her ’90s-style neo-soul. Some new songs were sprinkled in with tunes from 2013’s “Half About Being a Woman,” with Smith’s silky voice threatening to wilt in the afternoon sun. It never quite did.
Kid Bloom at the after-party at Der Wolfskopf: At their second show of the day — they played the Paseo Colorado Stage in the afternoon — the L.A. quintet barged through a sketchy sound system to lay down some groove-heavy indie-rock in the faux German pub. Perfect for a nightcap.
Britt Witt contributed to this report
Photos: Sir Sly by Carl Pocket; Kishi Bashi by Michelle Shiers; Leslie Stevens, Nightjacket, Little Wolves and Kid Bloom by Bronson