Amid the myriad of bistros, bars, and businesses around Old Pasadena, the list of things to do is never really depleted. In fact, it only grows as one mom n’ pop shop closes and another opens (unless, of course, it is replaced by a corporate chain, which happen to be systematically steamrolling the beauty of Downtown Pasadena, but hey, where else are you going to get your groceries, summer wardrobe, and office supplies in one stop?). How could this den of activity become any more exhilarating? Did someone say free concert?
Make Music Pasadena is much more than free concerts. It is a community event. All of the local businesses and all of the vendors come out to show their support. And make loads of money. Families cruise the streets with their kids/dogs as well as every Coachella-going indie rock fan who already have the set times memorized and are used to rushing from one stage to another to catch their favorite acts. And out of all of the free summer concert series happening across LA, Make Music Pasadena had arguably the very best line-up.
With six main stages, actual stages set up in courtyards and parking lots with decent stacks of speakers, headlining bands such as Dam Funk, The Happy Hallows, Peach Kings, Ozma, Electric Guest, The Steelwells, NO, Dengue Fever and many more were able to play in surroundings not so atypical from the venues they play on the road. (Editor’s Choice: Dustbowl Revival, a catchy, unique act that can’t be imitated. Catch them June 21, 8 PM, at Pasadena Memorial Park) Music roared down corridors, echoing across streets and drawing a continually growing audience. Best of all, every performance was a genuine concert with every band leaving every drop of sweat in them on the stage. Egos where nowhere in sight.
The real charm in MMP lies in the hundred bands playing around the city. Setting up some amps wherever there was an outlet, or just going acoustic and rocking it out, bands would strut their stuff in alleyways, stairwells, rooftops, the back of restaurants, anywhere they damn well pleased. Because of the sheer number of these improve stage, catching all of the performing bands is beyond impossible, but that is part of the chaos one must embrace at MMP. Again, all of the bands here were happy to have an audience, be it 4 people standing around or 40, and played their hearts out. (Editor’s Choice: Armory Center for the Arts stage with talented bands like xxx)
Unquestionably, the highlight three performances of the day were Cults, Grimes, and Grouplove. Cults know exactly how to ship their fans into a frenzy and never disappoint. They’ve got hits, they’ve got hooks, and they’ve got chutzpa. Catch them at FYF later this summer. Grimes tends to get a little freaky on stage. Nothing sexual, usually, just plain weird; perfect for MMP. When your fans are willing to scale a six story parking structure to watch your one hour set (before getting chased off by the police) you are doing something right. Grouplove ends their national tour with a bang at MMP, and they could not have been happier about it. As the audience spilled out into ever neighboring alley, blocks down the street, many fans weren’t even put off by the fact that they couldn’t actually see the band – just grateful to hear them perform – and what a performance. Next time, Pasadena, maybe some bleachers will do.
It’s worth mentioning that Pasadena’s Chalk Festival also happened to be in full effect. The mingling of sidewalk art and free music fans is indeed the definition of community oneness. Some fantastic pieces graced the grounds of Paseo Colorado. Hundreds of sites set up for any chalk artist of any age to participate. From the very elaborate portraits to cute cartoons, the site was truly one to behold.
Free summer concerts are a music addict’s wet dream. When the bookings are genuinely skilled, generous, and grateful, it’s like coming back from a devastating hand at a Vegas poker table with a full house. And what a full house it was in the streets of Pasadena.
If you haven’t had the opportunity to check out some of the free summer concerts happening all across LA, check out our other articles detailing the dates and line-ups and don’t forget to SUBSCRIBE for updates.