If you happened to be dropping by Old Town Pasadena this past Saturday, it would’ve been impossible for you to avoid the hundreds of bands and vendors appearing in the city’s streets, alleys, parking lots, shops and other recreational habitats in front of the thousands of Pasadena locals and fans from across the county.
With over 40 venues and stages set up across town from as big as three blocks to as little as a makeshift stage tucked inside a parking lot, the self-proclaimed free music festival Make Music Pasadena caters to all festival-goers seeking a song or drink or two.
With free rides on the Pasadena Arts Bus for the 12-hour event starting at 11am, festival-goers bathe under the sun while furiously trying to find ways to cool off from the 90-degree heat. Various acts and performances—from local jazz to pop to indie-rock and hip-hop—make up about 200 artists in total on stages at streets, plazas, parks and shacks placed all over town.
“[This event] is something that everyone can enjoy and go to,” local festivalgoer and volunteer Rachel Collins enthuses. “The fact that each stage is a different type of music … caters to every type of person.”
Main street Colorado Boulevard closes down to host the main Old Pasadena Indie Rock Stage including rows of vendors handing out Monster energy drinks, raffles for concert tickets at KCRW Radio and samples of organic soaps from Mrs. Meyer’s.
To grab the attention of locals walking down the street, water and tea vendors at Sparkling Ice and Bird Pick call out, “Would you like a sample?” Amoeba Music similarly places huge buckets of paper fans and stickers embedded with their logos in front of their booth with signs yelling, “Free!” and “Freebies!” All this happens while alternative and indie-rock bands Killola, Yacht and The Peach Kings perform onstage to power-driven and lazy guitar riffs to groovy electronics that vibrate throughout the neighboring shop walls.
Although the expansiveness of the festival’s layout makes it difficult to get from stage to stage, six blocks down Colorado Boulevard are the husband-and-wife harmonies heard from indie-pop band Young Empress at the Playhouse District Eclectic Stage.
The stage, tucked behind the Pasadena Museum of California Arts, is intimately set in a small parking lot filled with beer taps and food trucks devoted to providing smooth indie-rock and electronic tunes to listeners.
Performing for a small and intimate crowd of about 30 people, Spencer Lere, drummer of Young Empress, says, “Being the first band of the day is always kind of difficult because people tend to … come out later when [the weather is] cooler and the bigger bands come out.”
As Make Music Pasadena strives to support the locals by bringing in local bands and vendors, Lere, much to his embarrassment, mentions that his band scored the show by referral of his mom. “I don’t want to say I heard it from my mom ‘cause that’s not cool,” he laughs, “but she’s doing a show here at this museum, and she met someone [and they said] they needed a band.”
After performing a 30-minute set under the blazing 90-degree weather, Lere, out of breath, adds that performing up there was “hot.” He tucks his greased blonde locks out of his face and shakes his damp t-shirt from sweat.
To the likeliness of any rock star, he smirks, “You get free beer and food, so, I’m happy!”
Although a self-proclaimed music festival, this event also manages to bring together many locals with similar interests.
Located roughly in the middle of the city is another main stage—the Paseo Latino Indie Rock & Singer Songwriter stage, sitting beside the Pasadena City Hall at Centennial Square. As one of five main stages for the event, Brazilian Cauê Suplicy, an entrepreneur and cyclist, showcases his organic chewy banana bites called Barnana.
“[This event] is a great way to get people to sample [my] product,” Suplicy remarks alongside dozens of cyclists and vendors selling racing gear, offering up race registrations and samples of health-conscious energy-boosting products. He states that he finds people have continued to buy his product at local stores after showcasing his product just last year.
“Pasadena is a great area for cyclists,” Suplicy continues. “It’s pretty chill event and it’s always cool people coming and chatting so it goes by fast.”
Since its start in 2008, Make Music Pasadena has been increasing its numbers every year. Advertising 12 hours of music and 200 free concerts at over 40 locations, this event has brought in many adventure-seeking teens, art-loving young adults and elder Pasadena locals in for fun under the sun.
“The [guests] are always looking for things to do,” attendee and volunteer Collins says.
Whether you caught Make Music Pasadena this past weekend or not, it is definitely a free experience worth checking out.