Pasadena has long held a stellar reputation for live outdoor music, but this year the summer scene is definitely stepping things up a notch. With the huge new Arroyo Seco Weekend fest making its debut outside the Rose Bowl, four of the planet’s biggest acts playing inside the hallowed stadium, the Pasadena POPS paying tribute to Broadway and MUSE/IQUE honoring the legends of Motown, this season has something to please the ears of just about anyone.
The biggest news is the June 24-25 launch of the Arroyo Seco Weekend, a massive two-day concert featuring nearly 30 bands on three stages headlined by Rock & Roll Hall of Famers Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers on Saturday, and folk-rock favorites Mumford & Sons on Sunday. Also on the bill are power-pop veterans Weezer and blues-rock powerhouse Alabama Shakes, with an impressive array of other genres as well.
Among Saturday’s highlights will be blues pioneer John Mayall and a double dose of classic acts from New Orleans, with the Preservation Hall Jazz Band and The Meters respectively offering hearty servings of jazz and funk. Sunday will also feature a fresh mix of talents with the neo-soul of Fitz and the Tantrums, the innovative violin-based pop of Andrew Bird and local alternative-rock favorites the Mowgli’s on the bill. Add in 17 of Southern California’s most popular restaurants dishing out their best cuisine and this becomes one weekend to remember.
The Rose Bowl plays host on May 20-21 to two dates of a tour with a heavy sense of historic import, as U2 celebrates the 30th anniversary of its breakthrough album “The Joshua Tree” with shows centered upon the band performing it for the first time ever in its entirety. Then, just one week apart, the Bowl will feature two acts that couldn’t be further apart on the pop culture spectrum, with heavy-metal legends Metallica shaking the stadium on July 29 and Justin Bieber bringing his Top 40 pop to the stage on Aug. 5.
Closing out the stadium’s summer is Green Day, which will be playing the final date of their epic Revolution Radio world tour on Sept. 16.
A completely different kind of musical legend, Oscar and Tony Award-winning superstar Liza Minnelli, will help the Pasadena POPS ring in its summer concert series with “Broadway: The Golden Age” on June 17. The show pairs her with her “Cabaret” co-star Joel Grey in an evening that spotlights the best of classic show tune composers Rodgers & Hammerstein, Kander & Ebb, Cy Coleman, Frank Loesser and Julie Styne.
The POPS will also feature “The Music of Jersey Boys and Beyond!” starring four members of the original Broadway cast of “Jersey Boys” on July 15. Principal POPS conductor Michael Feinstein will take his annual turn in the spotlight by celebrating Frank Sinatra’s Rat Pack with “Michael Feinstein Sings and Swings” on July 29, before closing the season with a “Gershwin & Friends” concert Aug. 19 and a run through the history of Universal Studios’ greatest theme songs from “The Bride of Frankenstein” through “E.T.” on Sept. 9.
Before that series starts, the POPS will perform its annual free “Music Under the Stars” concert in front of Pasadena City Hall on June 3, celebrating the Great American Songbook with the JPL Chorus and soloists Kiki Ebsen, Valerie Perri and Christine Saffran.
Meanwhile, another of Pasadena’s prime orchestras, MUSE/IQUE, focuses its own Summer of Sound series around the theme of “Motown/Miracle” with three shows conducted by founder Rachael Worby on the Great Lawn in front of Beckman Auditorium at Caltech. “Gospel/Truth” will kick things off on June 24, followed by “Harlem/Renaissance” on July 22 and “Hitsville/USA” on Aug. 26.
Two long-running, free music events also return this summer in neighboring cities. First, South Pasadena’s 9th Annual Eclectic Music Festival & Arts Crawl brings headliner Ozomatli and 40 other music acts from the worlds of zydeco, bluegrass, pop, jazz, calypso and indie rock together on stages and in stores across the city on May 6.
Glendale also gets into the groove by hosting the 24th Annual Glendale Cruise Night on July 15, featuring a fireworks spectacular closing out the night after sets by Jimmy Buffett, Creedence Clearwater Revival and Rod Stewart tribute acts, all surrounded by hundreds of classic cars.
Finally, the Levitt Pavilion brings Pasadenans yet another summer of free shows in a relaxed atmosphere in Memorial Park. Among the highlights are the wild New Orleans-style jazz group Vaud and the Villains, the classic soul band the Chambers Brothers, and Jimmy Webb, who wrote the classic Glenn Campbell country song “Wichita Lineman.” Perennial favorite blues singer Barbara Morrison returns once again to close out the season on Sept. 3.
The Rose Bowl is located at 1001 Rose Bowl Drive, Pasadena. For Arroyo Seco Weekend tickets, visit arroyosecoweekend.com. For all other concerts, call (800) 745-3000 or visit ticketmaster.com.
Pasadena POPS performs its summer series at the Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanical Gardens, located at 301 N. Baldwin Ave., Arcadia. Its “Music Under the Stars” show will be at 8 p.m. June 3 at Pasadena City Hall, 100 Garfield Ave., Pasadena. Call (626) 793-7172 or visit pasadenasymphony-pops.org.
MUSE/IQUE performs on the Great Lawn at Caltech, 1200 E. California Blvd., Pasadena. Call (626) 539-7085 or visit Muse-ique.com.
The 9th Annual Eclectic Music Festival, which is from 3 to 10 p.m. on Saturday, May 6, features 40 acts performing on five main stages and dozens of shops throughout South Pasadena. The main stage, with maps provided to other locations, is at the city’s Metro Gold Line station, 907 Meridian Avenue, South Pasadena. Visit theeclectic.rocks.
The 24th Annual Glendale Cruise Night takes place from 5:30 to 10:30 p.m. Saturday, July 24, on Brand Boulevard, between Broadway and Milford Street, in Glendale. Visit glendalecruisenight.com.
Levitt Pavilion Pasadena is located in Memorial Park, directly behind the Pasadena Senior Center, 85 E. Holly St., Pasadena. Call (626) 683-3230 or visit levittpavilionpasadena.org.