Arroyo Seco Weekend, turned ‘inside out’

Arroyo Seco Weekend 2017 (Photo by Samantha Saturday)
Arroyo Seco Weekend 2017 (Photo by Samantha Saturday)

Last year’s inaugural Arroyo Seco Weekend was all about the jams. Headliners Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers and Mumford & Sons and the rest of the bill that included Alabama Shakes and the Shins did their part. Unfortunately, so did the daily crowds estimated at 25,000, creating human traffic jams that put a damper on the “day in the park” vibe for many.

So for its second act, the Goldenvoice-produced festival has turned itself upside down. “And inside out,” says festival director Nic Adler.

Arroyo Seco, which returns to Brookside Park on June 23-24, headlined by Neil Young, Jack White, Kings of Leon and Robert Plant, gets a makeover for 2018 that includes an expanded footprint and some new viewing guidelines.

“We learned a ton from last year and it caused us to take a look at the overall map,” Adler says. “As you do your first festival, you lay something out and put it on a map, but there’s no history to go from. There are things you don’t know until you put people into the space. And last year things turned out tighter than we’d hoped.”

||| Tickets: Passes go on sale here at 10 a.m. Friday.

||| Also: See last year’s Day 1 coverage and Day 2 coverage

Besides its bucolic setting on a golf course adjacent to the Rose Bowl, one of the new festival’s biggest calling cards was that attendees were allowed to bring things like blankets, chairs and baby strollers. That ended up creating problems when die-hard fans arrived early, staked out space near from the of the stage and stayed there all day, crimping the flow of pedestrian traffic. Moreover, many remained seated, taking up more space than a standing spectator would, throughout the night.

“I don’t think we could have anticipated the blanket and chair problem.” Adler says. “If you’re a regular festival, you understand that if you’re in one spot, you don’t own the space for the rest of the day.”

Many at Arroyo Seco weren’t festival regulars, though, and many became pretty territorial.

So, new this year will be areas designated “no chairs, no blankets” in front of the two main stages.

Two other issues confronted organizers during the first year: Jammed traffic on the pedestrian bridges over the wash that halves the festival grounds, and complaints about overcrowding and sight lines in the VIP area.

So the festival layout has essentially been flopped, with the two main stages are now on the east side of the wash (and farther apart). Instead of two VIP areas for each stage, it’s one connected space that also utilizes the Brookside Golf Club clubhouse as a “super-VIP” area with special food and beverage amenities. Festival-goers will cross the wash to visit the Willow Tent or the culinary village.

“We didn’t do enough the first year to separate the GA and the VIP experience, but this year with additional space, shade, tents, food and beverage options and other amenities, we’ve addressed that,” Adler says.

“The first year wasn’t perfect,” he adds, “but enough people enjoyed themselves that they saw a future in it.”