Tuesday, June 19, 2012


GROUPLOVE'S Hannah Hooper and Christian Zucconi at Make Music Pasadena performing on the Main Stage.
photos by picksysticks
For this year's Make Music Pasadena, 35,000 attended the largest free music festival in the country.  Over 100 bands, performing at one of the over 30 venues and stages located in Old Towne Pasadena.  From Grammy nominees, platinum recording artists to up-and-coming artists from all over the world, Make Music Pasadena boasted A-list acts featuring The Cults, Grouplove, Grimes, Honeyhoney, Dengue Fever, Soko, Dam Funk and many others. This all-day, twelve-hour event is becoming popular each year.  Last year, 20,000 showed up for the event that celebrates the spirit of music while providing top quality shows for free.

Hannah Hooper of GrouploveGrouplove's Hannah Hooper


Happy Hollows' Sarah Negahdari
The main stage, better known as the Old Pasadena Indie Rock Stage, hosted Grouplove, the Los Angeles-based band that made Colorado Avenue swell with dancing crowds.   The group, quickly becoming one of music's exciting live bands have been touring non-stop these past few months on the strength of their debut album Never Trust A Happy Song.  Currently, their single "Tongue Tied" has moved up to #2 on Billboard's Heatseekers chart while it crept up to #4 on the Billboard's Rock Songs chart.

Earlier in the day, another LA-based band The Happy Hollows started the day.  The power-pop indie band fronted by Sarah Negahdari mentioned to the noon-time crowd that this was the earliest the band has ever played – thus the red, bumblebee sunglasses.  These guys have been through some change since last I saw them opening up for Siversun Pickups awhile back.  For one thing, the once trio is now a four-o, losing drummer Chris Meanie and adding Richy Epolito and Matt Fry.  Charlie Mahoney and Sarah, the two original members who anchors the group, has also kept its identity their fans, including myself, have grown to love about The Happy Hollows – frenetic, fast and experimental with a melodic twist to boot.  Sarah is still a beast on guitar, shredding her steel strings like no one I've ever seen.

The Peach Kings' Paige Wood and Steven Trezevant Dies
Paige McClain Wood and Steven Trezevant Dies of The Peach Kings.
photo by picksysticks
Having never seen The Peach Kings, their set was a pleasant surprise making them my 'I gotta tell everyone about them' band. Classic rock with a southern twang, Peach Kings lets their songs breathe like fine wine. Why rush when you have the attitude-laced, sultry vocals of Paige McClain Wood making this hot day even hotter. An ice-cold beer would've been perfect at this moment.
The Cults
Fans rockin' out to the Cults at the Old Pasadena Indie Rock Stage during Make Music Pasadena.
photos by picksysticks
Madeline Follin of The Cults
The New York based The Cults' rise to stardom came rather quickly, forming in 2010 and signing to Columbia Records a year later after they posted a song on their Facebook page that somehow found its way  to Pitchfork, who, if any band out there knows, a thumbs up from Pitchfork jump starts your career and gets you noticed, especially by the record labels.  Hipsters rejoiced when their highly anticipated debut album was released in June of last year to rave reviews, praising their girl-group sounds laced with electro-pop melodies which were showcased in front of the thousands who waited to see the New York duo.

Festival organizers planned well, scheduling set times to start either at the top of the hour or bottom but when bands started late, it made a mess with my perfectly planned attack.  Leaving after a few songs for each band was required if I wanted to watch as many as my favorite bands I could.  Having never seen Correatown, for instance, now was my chance.  A hop-step away around the corner was the Majestical Roof Courtyard Stage and majestical it was.  A courtyard, surrounded by boutiques and bathed in a warm, orange glow, tree branches and leaves brought refuge from the hot sun.  I got there just in time to catch her last three songs, one being "Further," the dream-pop ballad that is on a constant loop on my iPod.

Correatown performs at the Majestical Roof Courtyard Stage
Correatown performs at the Majestical Roof Courtyard Stage.
photo by picksysticks

While Pasadena Art Buses were on hand to shuttle music-goers  from venue to venue, my first year at Make Music Pasadena taught me one thing about this festival. Bicycles are a necessary mode of transportation if you want to watch anything at either Vroman's Bookstore or, in my case, The Playhouse District Eclectic Stage which, by foot, takes fifteen minutes to walk.


Make Music Pasadena's strengths is also bringing together, in one big event, all types of music from all over the world, from different cultural and social backgrounds.  This year, there were three bands I had to see at this stage – Soko, Dengue Fever and Grimes.

First off was Soko, the melancholy, indie-folk artist, originally from France was often times touching and soft, playing her acoustic guitar in a barely there whisper, stringing  beautiful, warm melodies in an already warm day.  Soko, whose real name is  Stephanie Sokoliski, recently released her debut album I Thought I Was An Alien and her performance was presented by the Consulate General of France in Los Angeles which is fitting because  Make Music Pasadena is modeled on the Fete De La Musique event that got its start in 1982  in Paris as a way to celebrate music.

And in a stark contrast from Soko, Canadian electric-dream pop artist Claire Boucher, AKA: GRIMES made use of the speakers, shouting into her mike as her beats echoed while the parking lot overflowed with fans, some even taking up prime real estate on a nearby parking structure for the chance to catch a live performance from GRIMES.  One couple I met drove all the way from Mexico just to see her.   Spacey electronics from the Canadian-born musician, Grimes floated her sonic landscaping over her wispy vocals.  She announced to the crowd that she just officially moved to Los Angeles

Crowds wait for Grimes
Grimes performs on the Playhouse District Eclectic Stge during Make Music Pasadena 2012.
photos by picksysticks
Claire Boucher of Grimes
Since the release of their self-titled album in 2003, Dengue Fever has received rave reviews all over the world, their songs fusing East Asian pop with Western retro-60's lounge and surf music gaining them a large international fanbase while creating music that is partly traditional yet so refreshing in many ways.  Since their critically acclaimed debut, they've released three more albums, Cannibal Courtship being their most recent and released last year.  Those in attendance got to see why LA Weekly named them Best New Artist and why their albums have been heralded by publications and critics alike.

With over 100 bands performing on this day, it's impossible to watch every single one, spanning over 30 stages.  So many great bands and so little time.  One stage that I always end up at is at the Mercantile Alley which, I think, is the best kept secret of Make Music Pasadena, between Coffee Bean and a parking structure and positioned next to a steady stream of strollers.  It, for some reason, hosts the best emerging acts in music today.  I got a chance to see HOTT MT, a electro-dreamy-pop band fronted by Ashleigh Allard.   A welcomed surprise, their music? –Erratic, ADD language  that somehow forms into a beautiful cohesive thought. Their next scheduled show on June 29th at The Satellite.
HOTT MTDengue Fever

Dengue Fever
Dengue Fever performs on the Playhouse District Eclectic Stge during Make Music Pasadena.
photographs by picksysticks  
Maybe next year, I'll make a point to specifically visiti the other venues like The Old Towne Pub where Odd Modern and Pageants performed or The Creme de la Crepe where singer/songwriters like Emily Wryn, Doe Eye and Macedo performed to a packed and intimate house.  There are just so many artists to make please every music lover.  If last Saturday was any indication of what next year may look like, I wouldn't be surprised if, in the near future, Make Music Pasadena will be an all weekend event and even rival Austin's SXSW.

Make Music Pasadena is just the beginning of the city’s musical series of summer outdoor concerts that are free to the public which reflects the spirit of the community and the overall music scene.   Levitt Pavilion Pasadena who puts on all these programs is presenting 50 free shows as they celebrate their tenth year of bringing outstanding artists free of charge to audiences.  The summer festival lasts from June 16th through August 26th and will include such artists as Thao and the Get Down Stay Down, The Watson Twins, Luisa Naita and soul singer Barbara Morrison.  Head over to LevittPavilionPasadena.org for more information and dates.

Crowds at Make Music Pasadena
Crowds at Make Music Pasadena cheer on Grouplove.
photos by picksysticks
Check out last year's Make Music Pasadena:  2011 Make Music Pasadena

Check out more pics from the festival below on our Flickr site: