I had a lot of questions heading into Long Beach’s inaugural Music Tastes Good Festival on Saturday.
You never know what to expect from a first-year festival. This is especially hard to prognosticate when the festival isn’t put on by one of the handful of concert promotion juggernauts with years and sometimes decades of experience in the field. It’s even harder when the festival takes place in town not conventionally known for having a vibrant music scene.
To be honest, I’d never really hung out in Long Beach in my two-plus years of living in LA. I only ever see concert listings for a handful of venues in the area. So I really wondered what kind of turnout we were going to see. The booking of the lineup told me that they did a great job at keeping costs down while also booking an eclectic mix of talent that appeals to a wide range of people.
I couldn’t make it out Friday but turned up for Saturday, the heaviest day in terms of bands performing. Saturday cost $75 but also had a larger amount of ground covered, not restricted to just the main stage area. The festival certainly had an awesome amount of art and culture. There was a lot of stuff to take in between sets and it was never difficult to get up close for any of the bands that were playing.
We got in around 2:30 PM, in time for Jessica Hernandez & The Deltas. I had previously seen them at The Echo a few years back and really dug their blend of soul and pop music. She has a certain early Gwen Stefani vibe to her if Stefani had Mexican and Cuban roots. It was hot but as her set wore on more people braved the heat and got up close to watch. The recently-married Hernandez prefaced her song “Don’t Take My Man to Idaho” as the first love song she wrote to her new beau. That song, along with “Dead Brains” and “Sorry I Stole Your Man” got some of the biggest pops as she broke a sweat running and dancing all over the stage.
Next, we caught some of Los Angeles rockers The Dead Ships. The stage they were on had been running late and had all sorts of difficulties. But they took the things a festival can throw at you in stride. Singer and guitarist Devlin McCluskey didn’t look uncomfortable rocking out in a suit and bass player Alex Moore had tons of stage presence especially. The track “Big Quiet” was especially gripping and the crowd were really glued into their 30-minute set.
I only got to see a few songs, but R&B / jazz / soul musician Nick Waterhouse really impressed me with his tunes. New songs from his upcoming album Never Twice due out September 30 sounded exquisite and has me excited to check it out.
Chicago garage punk band Twin Peaks had a pretty solid crowd on the main stage right before the sun began to set. Dozens of people right at the front seemed there mostly to see them as they sung along to all the songs. Standout track “Making Breakfast” was my favorite from the set, but their entire performance had be banging my head forward.
Warpaint’s hour-long set was what tipped me towards Music Tastes Good versus Life is Beautiful
I’ll admit — it was a tough choice to decide between Music Tastes Good and Las Vegas festival Life is Beautiful. I saw Warpaint had an hour in Long Beach versus 40 minutes in Vegas, which tipped me towards LBC. I was lucky enough to get an copy of their new record Heads Up a week or so early and had been listening to it nonstop. It was awesome they played a handful of songs off the record, all of my favorite ones in fact.
I was especially stoked that the sun was all the way down by the time they took the stage. Sunset or later is the only time Warpaint should play. After kicking things off with old favorite “Bees,” the band rifled through their new material. The groovy bass lines from “Whiteout” and “Heads Up” tingled up my spine and one led beautifully into the other. “The Stall” is one of my other favorites and Emily Kokal’s vocals really shine. I got goosebumps when she sang the part “I get high when I’m low / I get wrong when I know” into the final verse.
My favorite song from the new record is “So Good” — it’s got this almost “Blue Monday” melody to it. The layering of vocals were especially mesmerizing live. When “New Song” began, it felt like everybody had brought their dancing shoes just for that moment. Everywhere I looked, people were getting down. This is absolutely one of my favorite bands to see live for multiple reasons. One of them is their ability to transform songs from their records to a live setting. Parts get added, jams get beefier, it’s always a joy to see the way a song grows over time. Seeing one of their early shows on this album cycle was a dream. I can’t wait to see how these songs evolve even more over time. They have a sold-out show in October at the Fonda and I can’t wait to hear even more of the new tunes live.
Warpaint was my personal favorite moment of the evening, but there was still a lot of good music to come. Dr. Dog jammed out pretty hard on the main stage after Warpaint finished up. I was in the middle of the crowd and it felt like the high point as far as getting high was concerned. Everybody around me was sparking up their last joints of the night.
I caught bits of Iron & Wine‘s set and he had a pretty solid turnout at one of the smaller stages. He even lived up to the moniker with a glass of red wine sitting nearby at all times during his performance. Legendary ska band The Specials finished up at the main stage. I caught a few songs before taking the long trek back to LA on the Blue Line Metro.
Overall, I thought the festival was run pretty smoothly. My major issue with it was I couldn’t find a water fill station anywhere. When it’s that hot outside, you shouldn’t be charging four bucks every time someone needs it. Also, security needs to tighten up. I spoke to at least a dozen different people who just walked into the festival at various points without a wristband. That’s money out of the pockets of the promoter and that hinders their ability to do something like this again.
I really dug the vibe of the festival, the people all seemed really cool and not the typical festival crowd. It felt like a very good block party, and I think that’s what they were going for. I’m hopeful that we see this come around again next year.
All photos by Tim Aarons.