Last year’s inaugural Music Tastes Good in Long Beach was the first festival I covered for Pass The Aux. I was extremely excited to return, with this Music Tastes Good 2017 taking place at Marina Green Park rather than in the streets of downtown Long Beach.
A festival’s worth isn’t measured by its size. Though small, Music Tastes Good 2017 accomplished a ton in booking a unique festival made up of acts who hardly play the festival circuit, topped by Sleater-Kinney and Ween. The festival also succeeded in bringing a few dozen acts to Long Beach who have never played there before, a victory for all the locals who oftentimes have to drive up to Los Angeles to catch the acts they want to see. If this festival was built by the late Josh Fischel in part to support Long Beach’s music scene, two years in it can be considered a major success.
The festival drew a mature and responsible crowd. There were no teenagers running around on way too much ecstasy passing out (although I did see a lady and her kid pass out at the front of Ween’s crowd early in their set). Everyone was respectful of other people’s space, and there was always room to get close to either stage when there was an act you really wanted to see.
I rode the blue Metro line to Long Beach both days and with a 10 PM wrap-up time, was able to get back to my house in Los Angeles with enough time to spare Sunday to watch both the new episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm and the season finale of Rick & Morty, and it wasn’t even midnight when I finished them. Check out my Best + Worst recap of Music Tastes Good 2017, as well as Tim Aarons’ awesome photos.
BEST: Festival’s diverse lineup one of 2017’s most unique
Music Tastes Good 2017 was my 16th festival of the year. Unsurprisingly, there were tons of acts over I kept seeing pop up at festival after festival as the festival circuit’s booking gets more and more homogenized. Music Tastes Good didn’t book a single act that I saw more than once on my festival travels this year, and many acts I was seeing for the very first time. The festival was partially booked based on what was on Josh Fischel’s iPod — Fischel being the main guy behind bringing Music Tastes Good to Long Beach last year, who tragically passed away the day after the festival wrapped up. Heaven 17 are a British new wave band from the ’80s who had never played LA, let alone Long Beach, for instance.
Even more impressive and important, the vast diversity of the festival’s lineup: people of all colors, sexual orientations, and gender identities graced the stage. Of the 42 acts on the lineup, at least half fit one of those non-white-male categories, and that diversity was also reflected in the crowd. There were a handful of Spanish-language acts that drew Long Beach’s heavy Latino crowd. Sleater-Kinney and tUnE-yArDs were partially responsible for a heavily female crowd at the end of Sunday night. It was pretty cool to look around and see all types of people when music festivals are overwhelmingly white. If Music Tastes Good can continue to establish themselves as a festival of the different, that will continue to help them book better and better acts.
BEST: Stage production top-notch for small fest
Oftentimes with new or small festivals, the organizers get a bit ambitious with what they are trying to do and spread themselves thin. At last year’s inaugural MTG, there were at least three stages (maybe four) with minimal production. This year, they reduced the number of stages to two, with the main stage featuring a rotating stage that meant no break between bands and non-stop music, maximizing the time there. There were two video screens and a bunch of awesome banners on that stage. On the other smaller stage, there was a dope video screen that lit up beautifully at night. It was quite impressive and festival goers were wowed.
WORST: Forced cashless wristband participation
One of the few things I didn’t like about Music Tastes Good 2017 was that in order to purchase things — food, merchandise, alcohol, anything — you had to load your wristband with money. Even worse, you had to do it in increments of five dollars. I bought a couple of posters and one thing of food and had $2 leftover on my wristband that didn’t get used.
I’m pretty convinced the festival is just trying to compile data in order to improve people’s experiences year-to-year, but you should be able to opt out and just pay with cash rather than be forced into participating in the madness. Having to put money on your wristband multiple times because you misjudge how much you are going to spend can be annoying, and even prohibit people from wanting to spend money to begin with.
BEST: The Taste Tent proves valuable, delicious
This year, the Long Beach festival brought a unique experience to their attendees by providing a centralized tent where they had a dozen or so top-notch chefs from both Long Beach and New Orleans sharing some of their excellent cuisine. These kinds of experiences can often run expensive (BottleRock in Napa charges something like $1000 for a pass that offers this) but Music Tastes Good only charged an additional $75 per day to have access.
You were able to interact with the chefs who served up their eats, which was cool. One NOLA cook told me how much fun he had and how it was awesome he got to see Ween, a band he grew up listening to, saying it was a unique experience he enjoyed. Several attendees in the Taste Tent said it’s an experience that would bring them back. My favorite of the bunch had to be the roast beef po’boy from Pops in NOLA couresy of chef Collin Cormier, it was delicious. It would be cool if MTG kept the Taste Tent going by rotating out the second city — this year it was New Orleans, but they could bring in countless other cities year to year to keep things fresh.
WORST: Sound bleed from each stage
Music Tastes Good 2017 wasn’t working with a lot of space, and for the most part it was without issue. But at times, you could hear the main stage bleed over pretty badly into the smaller New Orleans Stage. This was particularly a problem when Peaches performed and Digable Planets was on the Long Beach Stage, and also most noticeable when the quiet Rhye performed on the Long Beach Stagewhile Los Lobos and then tUnE-yArDs were performing on the main stage.
Five Best Songs of Music Tastes Good 2017:
- Ride — “Vapour Trail” — It was awesome seeing this pioneering shoegaze band play to an extremely enthusiastic crowd that couldn’t contain their love. The big hit that first connected me to the band was “Vapour Trail”, and hearing them rock it out was pretty moving. People might sleep on the band for putting out one of 2017’s best albums in Weather Diaries, which they also played a bunch of songs from.
- Alvvays — “In Undertow” — An awesome booking by MTG was getting this power pop band fresh off the release of their amazing sophomore record Antisocialites, also one of the year’s best in my opinion. This is one of the most beautiful songs among many from the record, and the haziness of Molly Rankin’s vocals washed over the crowd like the nearby surf.
- Rhye — “Open” — Rhye lead singer Milosh may not agree with me on this one, as he seemed bothered by the continued circling of a helicopter overhead. Outdoor festivals must embrace all of the elements, and I thought it was cool how Milosh used his sensual voice to address the helicopter, singing “I’m hoping he goes away….fuck, he’s coming back around,” to the laughter and delight of the crowd.
- BRONCHO — “Class Historian” — Few had the crowd in smiles as much as BRONCHO lead man Ryan Lindsey, who had a look on his face like he had no idea where the hell he was. I could hardly understand a word he was saying all day, but the dreamy guitars were so pretty I didn’t even care. In between strumming his guitar, Lindsey would hoist his right hand above his head like he was doing the dice-throw dance move, and he chewed gum through the whole set.
- Ween — “I’m in the Mood to Move” — I had never seen Ween until this weekend, and holy shit they have quite a cult following. Guitarist Michael Melchiondo Jr. aka Dean Ween sang lead vocals on this track and everyone around me knew every word of this brief but hilarious song, chanting along with him like we were about to drink some magical Kool-Aid together.
I had a blast at Music Tastes Good 2017 and look forward to seeing the festival continue to grow and help build the Long Beach music scene. All the bands seemed to really enjoy themselves, and I noticed many of the festival’s premier acts walking around the festival once they had finished playing their sets, taking in Long Beach a bit themselves. There was a lot to enjoy, so who could blame them?
Photos courtesy of Tim Aarons
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