What they wanted, and what the bustling masses embraced with every ounce of their sweaty bodies, was the feel-good and the familiar. Sunday’s lineup catered to (and drew) a younger audience, but with some notable exceptions — the playful sophistication of Andrew Bird, the seemingly effortless uplift of The Shins — the fare felt like background music to one hell of picnic. If your tastes extended to anything challenging, or even slightly piquant, there was the spicy pork at the Kogi truck.
Which does not mean Arroyo Seco Weekend wasn’t a success on Sunday, despite temperatures in the mid- to high-90s, 12 degrees warmer than Saturday. The experience suited most of the festival’s goals: It was nearby (no fewer than five performers Sunday mentioned their own proximity to the fest); it was held in a beautiful park-like setting (and some of Saturday’s logistics problems were ironed out on Sunday); it was family-friendly; it was foodie-friendly; and it was Pasadena-friendly.
There was, in sum, much “enthusiasm” — a quality mentioned from the stage Sunday by no fewer than six performers. At next month’s FYF Fest across town, there will be much enthusiasm too, but suffice to say this was not that.
Between stops for spicy pork, here’s how Sunday went:
1:15 p.m. — Magic Giant, dressed like they just left the boardwalk in Venice (quite possibly the truth), take up their banjo, fiddle, cello and guitar and embark on their set to a healthy group of superfans planted in brutal afternoon sun. It’s 97 degrees. The superfans don’t care. They know a lot of the words to the songs Magic Giant’s just-released debut, “In the Wind.” And in solidarity, frontman Austin Bis ventures out into the sunshine with them — because, as their song “Nothin’ Left” goes, “Without you I am nothing at all.” There is much enthusiasm.
2:10 p.m. — It’s 98 degrees and aspiring pop star Rachel Platten is having a dance contest at the Sycamore Stage. There are free T-shirts to be won. “It’s not about skill,” she explains, “but more about enthusiasm.” A dude goes nuts. He wins. She plays “Fight Song.”
2:45 p.m. — “Just so you know, we’d come to watch your band in the heat too,” Colin Dieden tells the sun-baked crowd as the Mowgli’s get happy, gang vocals cascading down from the main Oaks Stage. “Drink a ton of water with your beer — I’m being your dad right now,” he adds, pointing side stage, “and my dad is right there being my dad.” Their early hit “San Francisco” is an ice cream cone with sprinkles. At the end, Katie Earl says, “Thanks — if you liked the set, we’re the Mowgli’s. If you hated the set, we’re Weezer.”
3:10 p.m. — There is no place sweatier right now that the breeze-less Willow Tent, where Bay Area septet Con Brio is laying down some serious funk.
3:45 p.m. — ZZ Ward is teasing her new album “The Storm,” which is out this Friday, and probably lures a few buyers with her set at the Oaks Stage. Whether sticking to old-school blues tropes or updating them with electronic flourishes, she can belt. “Help Me Mama” stands out. And were we the only ones to note guitarist’s Erick Walls’ formidable chops? Nice.
4:05 p.m. — Perched under an umbrella on one of the elevated tee boxes (the festival was held on Brookside Golf Course), a man named Roger from Riverside cares not a whit that his view of the main stage is partially obstructed by tree limbs. “If I can hear Weezer and catch a breeze, I’m fine,” he says.
4:10 p.m. — Technically dazzling and looking like a rock band to boot, The Revivalists’ revivalism is hitting home with a populace whose appetite for foundational rock remains unabated.
4:50 p.m. — Onetime busker and current pop hitmaker Andy Grammer busts out his vocoder chops, the nadir in one of the most aggressively grating sets of the day. Maybe because the festival is kid-friendly, though, he does pepper his banter with “freakin'” rather than that other F-word.
5:15 p.m. — Spicy pork really hits the spot right now.
5:35 p.m. — Jamtown gets under way a bit late in the Willow Tent, but the new supergroup — Donavon Frankenreiter, G. Love and Cisco Adler — are just as advertised: kind of a twist on the Traveling Wilburys (albeit with less distinguished individual catalogs), making easy-to-digest Americana. Backed by a sharp band, each principal wears a black hat and wields an acoustic guitar. Somewhere in the corner, there’s a fiddler too, y’all.
5:55 p.m. — Michael Fitzpatrick declares “I can almost see my house from here” as Fitz & the Tantrums bop through a crowd-pleasing set that includes the new single “Fool,” just released on Friday. Later, singer Noelle Scaggs allows as how she grew up in South Pasadena. “HandClap,” “Out of My League,” “The Walker” and even “Moneygrabber” — you know these. They’re stuck in your head like this pepper is stuck in my teeth right now. Enjoy. (Postscript: FATT today announced they will be playing Aug. 31 at the Forum and Sept. 2 at the Honda Center along with One Republic and James Arthur.)
6:15 p.m. — Trekking down the grounds towards the Oaks Stage, a young woman douses her boyfriend’s head with cold water. And 25 yards later, she reaches up and grabs his man bun, as if it were a sponge, releasing a trickle of water. So that’s what those things are for.
6:30 p.m. — Andrew Bird, who now lives a “15-minute drive” from Arroyo Seco, dazzled with his looping, violin, guitar, whistling, singing and general improvisational spirit. As the sun mercifully ducked behind the horizon, Bird played “Capsized,” from his most recent album, and the labyrinthine “Three White Horses.”
7:00 p.m. — Some people dressed like Guns N’ Roses walk on to the Oaks Stage and starting playing Weezer covers. They do a great job with Weezer songs like “Hash Pipe,” “My Name Is Jonas,” “Say It Isn’t So” and “Buddy Holly,” but only middling work on OutKast’s “Hey Ya!” and Mike Posner’s “I Took a Pill in Ibiza.”
7:15 p.m. — OK, OK, that is Weezer, with Rivers Cuomo dressed as Axl Rose and Brian Bell dressed as Slash. Lest you think that there was some subversive message, we heard that the garb was for some sort of (ostensibly whimsical?) video shoot that took place prior to the concert inside the (Axl?) Rose Bowl.
7:55 p.m. — The Shins steal Sunday. Into the gloaming James Mercer and his affable band of hired guns send “Caring Is Creepy,” “Australia,” “Name for You,” “Girl Informed Me,” “Gone for Good,” “Simple Song” … with no cheerleading, just the unadulterated joy of the songs. It all leads up to the three-song encore that perhaps constitutes the best 20 minutes of the festival. (If you left early to hike down to Mumford & Sons, you missed out.) First, Mercer brings out East L.A. legends Los Lobos. “They covered our song ‘The Fear,’ and they just destroyed our version,” he says as the ensemble launches into the song. Some hugs and handshakes later, the Shins finish with “New Slang” and “Sleeping Lessons” — splicing some of Tom Petty’s “American Girl” into the middle of the latter. The Shins’ set runs over their time allotment, so thank you, Arroyo Seco Weekend, for not cutting them off.
9:05 p.m. — Lawn chairs are folded up, food baskets are set aside and blankets are twirling as the massive crowd dances and sings along to Mumford & Sons. A more genial frontman than Marcus Mumford you will not find. Their 18-song set includes a new song, “Blind Leading the Blind,” and a small fireworks display for “Dust Bowl Dance,” at the end of main portion. Throughout the three-song encore, “Hot Gates, “I Will Wait” and “The Wolf,” a still-sizable crowd swirls and sways. If, like many festival-goers (ahem), anybody had trouble finding their car in the parking lot, it felt well worth it.