KCRW and Josh Fischel present 2017’s Music Taste Good — a two-day music and food festival in the Marina Green Park of Long Beach, CA. This has been the second time Long Beach has held this festival, as Abbie Fischel is continuing her late husband Josh Fischel’s dream of bringing great live music to Long Beach.
Long Beach is certainly making its mark this year in the Los Angeles County music scene with the return of Music Tastes Good and a new festival, Tropicalia, which is scheduled for next month. The location at the Marina Green Park is right around the Shoreline Village area of Downtown Long Beach, and the Convention Center across the street offers enough parking to host everyone. Getting there was a breeze, and the way the park is sloped offers nice views of sailboats right on the shore as well as historic Downtown Long Beach buildings and the Queen Mary. Performers and people take their Long Beach Pride seriously.
Post-punk and psych group Vinyl Williams were finishing up their set to a pretty sparse crowd just after 2:00 p.m. at the New Orleans stage. The next group to take the stage was Ledfloyd. Comprised of hip-hop artists Pigeon John, Awol One and 2Mex, this was the first time they would perform as Ledfloyd. They immediately started hyping up the audience. Once they grabbed the still fairly small crowd’s attention, they dove right into Awol One’s “Rhythm,” which got the crowd head bobbing to the funk-inspired hip-hop beats. After the opening song, they attempted to re-hype the crowd by yelling, “make some noise, Long Beach!” Next they performed Pigeon John’s “So Gangsta.” 2Mex joked with the crowd, sharing “it’s good to be in the sun — my other leg needs to get tan,” making light of his prosthetic leg to which the crowd chuckled. People filtered in a little bit more during the second song as Pigeon John displayed his rapping skills on “So Gangsta.”
After the song, 2Mex, a heavyset guy joked again with the crowd, “I lost a couple pounds, so you may not recognize me.” 2Mex then took the lead with “I Love You, I’m Sorry” off his latest album Lospital, rapping in slow but steady rhythmic fashion. He added an “I love you Long Beach” into the lyric which garnered some cheers from the fans. 2Mex went on to share about his history with Long Beach, joking about how often he would hang out at Que Sera, a local bar/club, and park at the 7-Eleven across the street when parking was taken on lesbian nights. He was really the only artist that day who shared some Long Beach pride with the crowd. Awol One then took the lead on “Sleeping All Day,” a song anyone who works a 9-5 job can probably relate to, 2Mex and Pigeon John joining him in the chorus. But Pigeon John’s “Hey You” got the crowd moving with its fast-paced tempo and melodic style. The audience clapped along to the rock tempo.
At the main Long Beach stage, Argentinian folk/experimental artist Juana Molina was getting ready to start her set. The trio began with “Cosoco,” a soft but upbeat, meter changing song ending in a dissonant jam session over the steady foundation of the rhythm guitar and the bass. She addressed the crowd coyly, saying “hi, how are you?” in a heavy accent. She performed quite a few songs from her latest album Halo, including “Estalacticas,” which features a heavy electronic aspect with strong minor guitar arpeggiation, her voice at a soft yet solid whisper. “Paraguaya” is almost dance-able, but achieves a more eerie ambient style with the stripped drum machine, mysterious triad pings and synth horn and strings taking over the chorus. Molina favors complex rhythms and subtle, expressive build ups landing on soft resolutions. The trio was incredibly in sync and the audience watched intently. Her set was captivating without being flashy — a quality that made this group really stand out.
Heaven 17 took the main stage after Molina and were quick to announce “we are from the ’80s.” Appropriately, the crowd seemed to go gray on the spot, as the new wave group started with “Fascist Groove,” and the fans sang along. They performed a cover of Righteous Bothers’ “Lost That Loving Feeling” and ended their set with their iconic ballad, “Let Me Go.”
The grassy park invited people to sit and catch some shade under a tree. This would be a good time to also check out the art installations, from the larger than life Music Tastes Good statue that lights up at night to the giant cassette tape labeled “Josh’s Mix.” Tents were placed around the perimeters and in the center area of the field with vendors and local restaurant pop-ups like The Attic, Beer Belly, Roe and more. There was even a chance to plant some herbs or berries in support of Stevenson Elementary in Long Beach. There was ample beer and free water refilling stations, and every vendor was hooked up to pay with the official wristband, making it unnecessary to fumble through a bag or pocket. It was quite an impressive set up.
Another cool feature at the Long Beach stage was the rotating sets — literally, the sets were on a swivel, eliminating the need to wait for each act to set up and sound check. Attendees looked at each other in awe when they first witnessed the stage rotate with the next band ready to go.
Broncho took the Long Beach stage next and the older crowd filtered itself out as the younger crowd stayed to come in to rock out. Their shorter tracks have a tendency to blend together in a lo-fi haze, Ryan Lindsey’s unique vocals hardly uttering a legible word, but their set nonetheless was fun to sway and bounce to. Lindsey’s constant bouncing and arm raising was quite endearing to the crowd, as they laughed every time he did his little ’70s inspired finger-pointing jig. Some of the highlights from their set included “Señora Borealis,” which got the crowd nodding to the hard rock beat. The closing song “Class Historian” is probably their most popular and it had the crowd bouncing up and down along with the “da da das.”
The stage swiveled and Alvvays was up next, and their set was a stark contrast from Broncho; singer Molly Rankin’s vocals cut through clearly and the songs were varying in style. They opened with “Saved By a Waif” off their latest album Antisocialites, which got the crowd moving a bit. As the audience grew, Rankin addressed them, “Hey! what’s up?” “Adult Diversion” was next and this popular track had their fans singing along. Rankin pointed to the keyboardist Kerri MacLellan and shared that she was from Long Beach! She then announced that Alvvays had just released a new record and were going to play some new songs, which the audience figured. They then went into “Plimsoll Punks” and then “Lollipop,” which has a retro-pop feel to it. The guitar work on “Plimsoll Punks” and Rankin’s contrasting angry to ethereal vocals were spot on. Another standout track was “Not My Baby,” a song with a strong melody that the crowd really engaged with. Rankin even took a second to engage with an audience member who shouted “I saw you two years ago at FYF!” to which she responded, “…and you’re still here!” “Dreams Tonight” was another synth-forward track with a beautiful melody that had the crowd swaying. They closed their set with “Party Police” and the crowed cheered as they waved while the stage swiveled yet again. This was a perfect setting for Alvvays as the sun was just setting and the swivel gave the crowd a glimpse of the orange and pink hues in the sky.
Bands were coming out of the Long Beach stage just one after the other until Of Montreal’s set, who took just an extra five minutes to make their grand appearance. The crowd cheering when singer Kevin Barnes took the stage, donning a tight green miniskirt with red stockings a loose blouse, black heeled booties and a bold blonde wig. He also wore what looked like Clockwork Orange inspired makeup under his left eye. His appearance certainly matched the theatricality of their set too as their style spans multiple genres but remains epic. They opened with “Suffer for Fashion” and the crowd responded immediately to the high-energy track, hitting a beach ball around and jumping up and down. “Sink the Seine” was next and started slow, then rolled out into a raging headbanger in which the keyboard blared on full blast. Another standout track was “Gronlandic Edit” was another standout, the bass leading this funky, danceable track that really got the crowd moving. “A Sentence of Sorts in Kongsvinger” was a great electro, disco-inspired track. Of Montreal even supplied their own unique visuals, ranging from chili cheese dogs and cats to psychedelic patterns and colors that matched well to each song they played. “Bunny Ain’t No Kind of Rider” was an example of a really theatrical performance. “I need a lover with soul power… and you ain’t got no soul power,” the audience sang along with Barnes. “Faberge Falls for Shuggie” combined hip-hop, dance and electro aspects with seductive lyrics and a beat worth getting on any dance floor for. They ended their set with the catchy “Du Og Meg” complete with a live sax addition and the crowd didn’t want to say goodbye.
The crowd thinned considerable before Ride took the stage, but those that stayed were true fans of the British shoegaze act. They opened with the powerhouse track, “Seagull,” which brought forth the massive wash of sound that rivals My Bloody Valentine. The aggressive sounds had equally aggressive lighting to couple their production, favoring bold reds and blues with white beams. The group was so loud it could be heard nearly across the field where Built to Spill were performing at the New Orleans stage. Andy Bell’s voice was soft yet strong, and almost reminiscent of Morrissey in this song. With the exception of the people in the front and center of the crowd, the audience was pretty subdued throughout Ride’s set. “Cali” from their latest album Weather Diaries had more of an indie influence with a catchy melody. They continued with “Dreams Burn Down,” a dreamy, relaxed track with added distortion bits. People filtered in and out, and one older gentleman with long hair and a Los Lobos shirt danced like no one was watching.
The Ween fans started filtering in as hats and T-shirts donning the band appeared. “We want Ween!” one audience member shouted just to the people around him. Ride was closing with “Leave Them All Behind,” a lengthy track that was no doubt making the Ween fans impatient.
The crowd cheered when headliner Ween took the stage and they dove right into “Take Me Away.” Singer Gene Ween got into character, giving the crowd angsty looks and the song rolled into a lengthy guitar solo from Dean Ween. Right away, the audience was impressed with the skill and musicianship Ween were displaying, and were eager for more. They moved into the headbanging opening of “The Grobe,” and the crowd followed suit. Each time Ween paused between a song, the crowd would start yelling out requests, three of which they actually honored at the end of their set. The funky, stripped song “I’m In The Mood to Move” had people singing along and swaying to the funky beat. But the crowd responded exceptionally well to “Voodoo Lady” and everyone was boogie-ing to the drawn out “boogie-oogie-oogie” Gene was singing. Everyone seemed to know the words to “Piss Up a Rope,” a country-blues style song with crudely comical lyrics. This style change is just another example of Ween’s agility to blend and bounce between genres — they really can do it all without taking themselves too seriously. During bossa nova number “Zoloft,” a woman hoisting a large sequined fish on a stick simulated it swimming across the crowd, which added a bit to the dreamy ambiance from the song and some entertainment for the audience as they pointed. “Don’t Shit Where You Eat” was simple and slow, but another one the crowd seemed to know all the comical lyrics too. Audience members could also be found emulating the guitar shredding on another epic track, “Did You See Me.” An audience member nearby shared with his friend, “best band in the last 20 years!” It was clear that this group has some longtime fans. “This one is for our brothers down south,” keyboardist Glen McClelland shared before diving into “Puerto Rican Power,” which caused some audience members to throw their fists in the air. “That was good!” Gene Ween exclaimed. “Pony?” he asked before heading into the final songs of their set. “Mister, Would You Please Help My Pony?” was a soft and stripped track that had everyone nodding along as Gene pleaded, “please mister will you hold my pony?” “Fluffy” was the final song from Ween for the night, ending their set on probably the lightest note every as the crowd laughed along to the lyrics.
The final set ended promptly at 10:00 p.m. and the Ween crowd started heading out for the night smiling ear to ear. With two days of stacked lineups from Music Tastes Good and plenty to eat and see, it’s safe to say people will be back early tomorrow and certainly to catch the highly anticipated Sleater-Kinney headlining act.
Photo Credit: Owen Ela