Over the past two-plus decades, Goldenvoice has played a leading role in the rise of the modern live music industry by way of its stewardship of Coachella. More recently, the producers of the world’s pre-eminent music and arts festival have expanded their house of brands to include a growing slew of genre- and generation-specific events, from the country-friendly (Stagecoach, Palomino Festival) and the hip-hop-oriented (Cali Vibes, Day N Vegas, Camp Flog Gnaw Carnival), to indie (This Ain’t No Picnic, Just Like Heaven), electronica (Splash House, Portola Music Festival) and punk rock (Cruel World).
With this year’s Re:SET Concert Series, Goldenvoice and the series’ presenter AEG have once again embarked on an ambitious project to redefine—if not revolutionize—what a music festival can be.
As with touring festivals of the past, like Warped Tour and Rock The Bells, Re:SET brings a consistent lineup from stop to stop, entertaining fans across the country all the while. The areas where Goldenvoice has, well, reset expectations and operations for a tour of this sort are manifold.
For one, each stop consists of three days of music, with a headliner playing an active part in curating who gets booked. The inaugural edition saw Steve Lacy choose James Blake, Toro y Moi, and Foushee as undercards; boygenius opt for Clairo, Dijon, and Bartees Strange; and LCD Soundsystem bringing along Jamie xx, IDLES, and Big Freedia.
Rather than lugging all 12 artists from one location to the next, Goldenvoice scheduled weekends by region, with each quartet of acts rotating daily. During the opening weekend of Re:SET, that grouping included three locations in California: Frost Amphitheater at Stanford in the Bay Area, Thrive Park at Snapdragon Stadium in San Diego, and the familiar Brookside at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena.
Despite a handful of hiccups and seemingly minor mishaps, the Los Angeles edition turned out to be a tantalizing proof of concept for Goldenvoice.
The first Friday of June featured Steve Lacy and his chosen set of supporting acts. Foushee started off the proceedings with a mesmerizing solo set showcasing her versatile vocals and multi-instrumental talents. The New Jersey native ranged from emotional whispers of her breakout hit, “Deep End”, to a heartfelt rendition of Frankie Valli’s “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You”. She ceded the stage to Toro y Moi, with lead singer Chaz Bear guiding a giddy crowd through a growing catalog of chillwave hits that now includes “The Difference”, “Magazine”, “Ordinary Pleasure”, “Laws of the Universe”, “Freelance”, and “Girl Like You”.
The shift from day to night—and from the swelter of the Arroyo Seco to the chill of a Pasadena evening—was ushered in by the angelic voice of James Blake. With two of his longtime friends and bandmates by his side, the Londoner sat behind his setup of keys and mixers to meld sonic highs and lows as only he can. From the wobbling bass of “Limit To Your Love” and “Retrograde” and crunchy hip-hop rhythms of “Life ‘Round Here” and “Mile High”, to the Metro Boomin-assisted newness of “Hummingbird”, a heartfelt cover of Bill Withers’ “Hope She’ll Be Happier”, and his own Frank Ocean’s “Godspeed” (which Blake produced), James nailed every note with aplomb, as he is wont to do.
While Steve Lacy couldn’t quite match the skillful precision of his direct opener, he didn’t have any trouble working the youthful audience into a tizzy. With songs like “Bad Habit”, “Mercury”, “Lay Me Down”, “Ryd”, and “Hate CD”, the Compton native brought his brand of sexy, tongue-in-cheek R&B to bear on a crowd that crooned along with every word. And with Foushee already in the house, Steve made sure to bring her out for “Sunshine”.
Come Saturday, boygenius had a trio of young up-and-comers open the proceedings. There was Oklahoma’s own Bartees Strange, who rocked out to “Stone Meadows”, “Heavy Heart”, and “Boomer”. He and his band were followed by Baltimore-based “military brat” Dijon, whose raw, earnest voice on tracks like “Coogie”, “The Dress”, “Dance Song”, “Big Mike’s”, and “Rodeo Clown” echoed early Bon Iver while matching perfectly with his band’s garage-recording-studio setup.
Clairo is now nearly six years removed from her own DIY hit, “Pretty Girl”, launching her music career into the stratosphere. At Re:SET, the artist known otherwise as Claire Cottrill balanced out that lo-fi charm with playful confidence while hopping between instruments and looks. She sat soberly behind the keys for “Bambi” and “Softly” before shedding her sunglasses and donning a guitar for “4EVER” and eventually returning to her seat for a rendition of Carol King’s “Bitter With The Sweet.”
Clairo’s indie versatility was a pitch-perfect warmup for boygenius. So, too, were the representatives from the native Tongva nation, who came out to sing a song to their ancestors—and, in the process, continued the tradition of boygenius making space before, during, and after their shows to acknowledge and honor indigenous peoples.
From there, boygenius proceeded to rock (and folk) its way through a 90-minute set replete with recent favorites. The superlative trio of Phoebe Bridgers, Julien Baker, and Lucy Dacus began with an off-stage a capella of “Without You Without Them” before blasting Brookside with “$20”. As they wound their way through sweet-yet-painful refrains like “Emily I’m Sorry”, “True Blue”, “Cool About It”, and “Not Strong Enough”, these three showed off their superb musicianship while combining for superstar harmonies that evoked much more than mere shades of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young.
The third day of Re:SET’s L.A. stop eschewed any inklings of indie folk or chillwave synth for pure, unadulterated energy and attitude. Big Freedia brought New Orleans bounce music to Southern California with beats like “Bigfoot”, “$100 Bill”, “Rock Around The Clock”, and, of course, “Explode”, which was sampled on Beyoncé‘s hit “Break My Soul”. Along the way, she and her dancers twerked up a storm, managing to coax many a spectator into joining them.
IDLES summarily shifted the vibe from booty shaking to head banging with their bruising Brit punk. Lead vocalist Joe Talbot snarled at the audience and swung the microphone like a medieval mace while guitarists Mark Bowen and Lee Kiernan took turns crowd-surfing with their instruments in hand. In between all that mayhem, the rockers from Bristol busted their way through sonic bursts like “Grounds”, “Mother”, and “Meds”, along with a cacophonous cover of Mariah Carey’s “All I Want For Christmas Is You”.
Jamie xx did his part to bring things down just a notch with a scintillating DJ set in Sunday’s penultimate slot. The English producer dropped in dribs and drabs of drum and bass, house, techno, and more as his troupe of dancers dallied throughout the crowd.
For the main event, LCD Soundsystem did their duty (and them some) of keeping attendees moving and grooving right up until that Pasadena curfew. Frontman James Murphy sounded as spot-on as ever, trilling every high note as he switched outfits and occasionally percussed alongside drummer Pat Mahoney. There wasn’t a quiet foot in the house as these Brooklyn-based indie rock pioneers plowed through banger after banger, from “Get Innocuous!”, “I Can Change”, and “Daft Punk is Playing at My House” to “You Wanted a Hit”, “Tribulations”, “Tonite”, “Home”, and “All My Friends”. Even more tender tracks like “Someone Great” and “New York, I Love You But You’re Bringing Me Down” combined just enough rhythm with a heavy dose of nostalgia to keep the crowd swaying.
All of this amazing music, mind you, took place on a single stage. No need to traipse across vast expanses. No concerns about artists overlapping (and having to choose between sets). Just pure music in a chill atmosphere, with ready access to local vendors like Monty’s Good Burger, Broad Street Oyster Company, HomeState, and McConnell’s Ice Cream, among many others.
And for those seeking shelter from the sun between sets, there was the DFA tent off to the side, where DJs spun tunes atop a shaded dance floor.
The amenities will shift from city to city, but this same pack of performers will continue making their rounds across America. Next up, Re:SET will stake down for a weekend rotation in Dallas, New Orleans, and Atlanta. Come mid-June, the series will land in New York, Baltimore, and Boston before wrapping up this groundbreaking tour with a round-robin between Chicago, Nashville, and Columbus. Tickets and full tour mapping are available here.
James Blake – “Hummingbird” – 6/2/23
Steve Lacy, Foushee – “Sunshine” – 6/2/23
Bartees Strange – “Heavy Heart” – 6/3/23
Clairo – “Bitter With The Sweet” (Carole King) – 6/3/23
boygenius – “Anti-Curse” – 6/3/23
boygenius – “True Blue” – 6/3/23
IDLES – “Crawl!” – 6/4/23
LCD Soundsystem – “You Wanted A Hit” – 6/4/23