It was another beautiful day at the Marina Green Park for the second day of Music Tastes good. Around 2:00 p.m. the field was bustling but the audiences at both the Long Beach and New Orleans stages were pretty sparse.
Indie-folk artist Y La Bamba was just finishing up their set and had the crowd at the Long Beach stage grooving to the reggaeton beat and hazy guitars. Bay-area native Jay Som then took the stage starting with “One More Time, Please” a dreamy indie pop track that drew the listeners in. Her vocals were a bit sharp and they took a moment to adjust their monitors and sounds after their first song. “I’m a little dizzy from the rotating,” Melina Duterte aka Jay Som shared, speaking of the rotating stage in which the bands entered and exited the stage on. They played a softer song next, “Our Red Door” which rolled into a dreamy jam session that had the crowd rocking their bodies as the bass player full-on headbanged. The vocals were much more pronounced for “Baybee,” a song from their most recent album Everybody Works. The group was so cool and laid back on stage, just having fun which put the audience at ease. They were positioned without any one person before another. The singer, lead guitar and bass player were standing in a row on the stage. “We haven’t been in CA in like two weeks so it’s good to be back,” Duterte shared. “We had burritos, went to the beach, and smoked weed.” They also played “The Bus Song,” a song in the vein of Alex G. For “Turn Into,” they unfolded an extended jam in the middle of the track as a pleasant surprise. They closed with the distortion filled “1 Billion Dogs” and posed humorously as the stage swiveled after their set was over.
Dengue Fever was one of the most unique acts of Music Tastes Good. Their Cambodian rock style nonetheless had this family-friendly audience moving and grooving to the funky beats. Singer Chhom Nimol sang the first few songs in Khmer, singing Eastern inspired melodies to the funk rock background. These were all extremely talented musicians blending genres like world music, funk, jazz and rock to achieve their unique sound. There was an instrumental doubler equally versed on the trumpet, sax and flute adding some impressive improvisations to the songs. “What’s up Long Beach? I’m so happy to be back. Last night I couldn’t sleep — my cat woke me up at 6:00 a.m. Also I was excited to be here back in my hometown.” Nimol shared with the audience. The last half of their set included some songs in English including “Tiger Phone Card,” a rock song with a ’60s vibe that could easily appear on the soundtrack of a Quentin Tarantino film.
!!! (pronounced Chk Chk Chk) took the New Orleans stage and delivered the most energetic set of the day. Singer Nic Offer come out donning a shorts suit and the second vocalist wore a shiny silver dress. They did an incredible job of getting the crowd moving by moving themselves on the stage. They never stopped dancing, Offer joining the crowd multiple times to get them dancing even harder. Their dance music of course helped. They opened with the atmospheric funk dance track “NRGQ” and right off the bat people were full-on dancing.” “Every time I’m in SoCal I have no idea where the fuck I am” the Sacramento native shared. During “Better Than This,” the slapping bass and funky beat had the crowd moving, and when Offer jumped into the audience they started jumping up and down. “Pardon My Freedom” was an aggressive song with a punk attitude. Offer put the mic in his pants and slowly, eerily caressed his face. But the audience couldn’t hep but feel good during “Freedom ’15” as they danced to the groovy beat and inspiring words. They finished up their set with “One Girl / One Boy” and said “Long Beach, I wanna se y’all moving right now!” and Offer got into the audience yet again. They closed by saying “Thanks very much, we’re !!! and always have been!”
Back at the Long Beach stage, Digable Planets were delivering a funk and hip-hop set. Rapper/singers Ladybug Mecca, Doodlebug and Ishmael Butler hyped the crowd during “It’s Good To Be Here,” saying “If you feel good, put your hands in the air. Let me hear you say ‘it’s good to be here'” to which the crowd followed suit. They rhythm section offered synth jazz instruments, congas and hand drums. “This one’s for all the die hard fans,” Butler said as they went into “Graffiti,” singing “noise noise always noise” along to a slinky bass line. The crowd cheered during a drum solo in “What Cool Breezes Do,” and nodded at the artists impressed them with their flow skills. As Peaches’ set ended at the New Orleans stage, the audience started to fill in. But the crowd really got moving as they closed with their popular song, “Rebirth of Slick (Cool Like Dat),” continuing on as the stage began to swivel and started revealing Los Lobos, who were clapping for Digable Planets as their sound faded.
The legendary rock and blues group Los Lobos started their set by diving right into “Dreaming Blue,” a blues inspired track with a killer tenor sax solo after which the crowd cheered. “We’re supposed to be doing the Kiko album for you tonight,” David Hidalgo shared before diving to “Wake Up Dolores,” another track off Kiko with a more straightforward rock feel. “Should we turn it up a little bit?” Louie Perez asked before playing a mellower-than-expected song, “Angels With Dirty Faces,” which led into a sax solo. But “That Train Don’t Stop Here” got the crowd dancing to its rockabilly feel. The audience skewed slightly older as the dad rock act is more favorable to, well, dads, but that didn’t stop those less familiar with the group from getting into them. Plus, the impressive guitar and drum solos let the audience cheering for more. Hidalgo picked up the accordion for a cumbia based song “Kiko and the Lavender Moon.”
“We’re celebrating 37 years since coming out with this album,” Perez shared as they brought out a harp player for “Stained Behind the Glass,” another Latin-rhythmic forward song. “That was it? Easy gig!” Perez said as the harp player walked off the stage, inducing a laugh from the audience. They favored George Lopez humor as they bantered between songs with one-liners like “‘member? you ‘member” and “is it edited-ed?” For their final song, “Rio de Tenampa,” they brought out a group of musicians — a clarinet player, trombone and sousaphone. They seemed pretty young and were stoked to be on the stage with such a legendary group because they kept taking Snapchats and selfies on the stage. And the first blaring mistake occurred when the over-enthused clarinet player continued to blast on after his part, the keyboardist waving him off. It was a bit endearing though. They continued to play the banda-inspired song as the stage turned again in preparation for tUnE-yArDs.
What tUnE-yArDs lacked in hype and appearance, they made up for in sound and ability. The project of frontwoman Merrill Garbus, this trio plays electronic art music by layering vocal and drum loops and adding bass and drums. One of their more popular songs, “Gangsta” had the crowd entranced as Garbus set up her loops live on the stage and blasted sounds from the speakers. “Heart Attack” was another standout from their set. Although Garbus had the ease of playing in a small studio, performing in pretty causal attire and without shoes, her presence and voice were clear and powerful. “Bizness” was particularly interesting to watch as they set up the loops and the drummer dropped right into the beat. The trio were so in tune with one another, making something very challenging appear just effortless. In their final moments on stage, Garbus talked to the audience, “close your eyes, prepare yourself for the sounds of Sleater-Kinney…get in touch with any sensations you’re feeling in your body.”
When the stage rotated for the final act of the festival, Sleater-Kinney drummer Janet Weiss was on stage and Carrie Brownstein and Corin Tucker joined her shortly after to cheers from the audience. This was the most packed the Long Beach stage had been through the whole festival and it became clear that some die hard fans were in the front… also that some very drunk people were in the front! They opened with “One Beat,” an upbeat riot grrrl inspired track. Brownstein was the most theatrical on stage, performing leg kicks, twisting her feet and making all kinds of facial expressions. The Portlandia star brought a lot of recent attention to the band who were formed in the ’90s. But it’s clear that their sound is just as relevant today as ever as alt-noise-rock is still a popular genre. “Bury Your Friends” fuzzy sound and angsty vocals had the crowd engaged fully. The guitars were so loud the vocals were swallowed quite a bit, but in some songs like “Oh!” Tucker’s shrieks and wavering belt came through loud and clear.
“Price Tag” was distorted and screeching and played with much intensity. In the fast-paced “A New Wave” Brownstein led the verses, joined by Tucker for the chorus. The crowd headbanged once again to the screeching guitars and fast drum beat. “Surface Envy” was another standout with Brownstein on the guitar blaring a downward chromatic scale and Tucker’s rock n’ roll vocals yelling, “we win, we lose, only together do we break the rules” as the crowd sang along. It was pretty epic. Brownstein shared, “I like how rowdy you guys are, there’s really no other way to be!” “Good Things” slowed things down a bit and had a more straightforward rock beat. Nearing the end of their set they played “Modern Girl,” as the drummer picked up the harmonica and the song started off gently with several members of the audience singing along with Brownstein, “my whole life looked like a picture on a sunny day.” The crowd lingered for a bit, but when the stage turned so did they.
Overall, the second ever Music Tastes Good Festival went off without a hitch. Set times were honored pretty well and everyone seemed to be having a good time. Hopefully events like this put Long Beach on the map as another vibrant destination for great live music for years to come because the hassle-free, relaxed environment by the water is, let’s face it, more ideal that going anywhere near Downtown Los Angeles.
Photo Credit: Owen Ela