“Love will tear us apart… again,” was the last thing heard all across the Marina Green Park in Long Beach. Highly anticipated headliner New Order closed the first night of Music Tastes Good with a bang, ending with a cover of Joy Division’s, “Love Will Tear Us Apart.” The festival-goers were packed around the Franklin stage, transfixed by the laser beam lights as they sang and danced along to their favorites. Both closing acts were packed, giving the crowd the option to also catch the equally-anticipated hip hip act, Joey Bada$$. But those who caught New Order’s set in its entirety were treated to a time warp of the ’80s including “Your Silent Face,” “Bizarre Love Triangle” and “Blue Monday,” making the first day of the festival the best place to be on a Saturday night.
Before that, a number of must-see acts graced the Franklin stage at Music Tastes Good, named after the queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin, including Santigold, Broken Social Scene and Princess Nokia. And while the headliners for the festival, New Order and James Blake are white males, women, especially those of color, are being celebrated heavily at this year’s festival, which features Janelle Monae, Princess Nokia and Santigold among several others.
Broken Social Scene performed songs off their 2002 album, You Forgot It In People. The power ensemble entranced the audience with songs including, “Anthems for a 17-Year Old,” featuring a soft, stunning vocal harmony from Emily Haines and Amy Millan, and dedicated to all the women in the audience. “This record was made in Toronto,” they shared as the audience cheered. “We are your frustrated neighbors,” they continued, expressing solidarity with the Americans who are not too pleased with how this country is being run. “This next one can be played at weddings, funerals, bat mitzvahs,” they shared before going into the equally romantic “Lover’s Spit.”
Santigold blew everyone away at the Franklin stage away, inviting the crowd to join her on stage and dance, which many of them took her up on. She played some of her indie-pop hits including “Unstoppable” and a crowd favorite, “Disparate Youth,” in addition to her more recent pop hits. She encouraged everyone to put their cameras and phones away and live in the moment, so the crowd danced while keeping afloat several balloons, a pizza, watermelon and donut floaty.
Princess Nokia was incredibly vulnerable with the audience, sharing about her brother’s recent passing and bringing awareness to suicide prevention, “If there’s any queer people dealing with suicidal thoughts, you are loved and you are special,” she said. Her set was full of powerful feminine energy, the first half hip-hop dominant with songs like “Tomboy.” She encouraged young women of color to come to the front, as she engaged with the audience by extending her hand. “Please be an ally, please make space,” she spoke to the privileged folks in the audience. Panic! At the Disco’s, “I Write Sins Not Tragedies,” played while her band joined, shifting gears into emo territory with songs like “Little Angel” and “Your Eyes Are Bleeding,” which she even sang in a nasal tone.
“Festivals are like being in some weird dimension… it’s nice to all be here together,” Big Thief’s Adrianne Lenker said shyly. The group played a set ranging from soft and enchanting to full of sound and distortion. Songs like “Real Love” and “Mythological Beauty” had the crowd swaying.
There was a nice long streak of badass female-fronted performances on the Franklin Stage, starting with Neighbor Lady, Feels and Cherry Glazerr, all of whom were exceptional. Cherry Glazerr absolutely shredded on stage and had the crowd headbanging to songs like “Told You I’d Be With The Guys” and grooving to the psych hit “Had Ten Dollaz.” She charmed the audience with her guitar prowess and sparse intros, “This next one’s about a sandwich,” before playing the charming “Grilled Cheese.” Feels were also a must-see, as the L.A. garage rock outfit played heavy hits including “Close My Eyes” and fuzzier songs like “Tell Me” that showcased frontwomen Laena Geronimo and Shannon Lay’s vocals. They later performed out of the heat and in the “band in a van” showcase before stopping by local record store Fingerprints Music’s booth for a signing.
London-based post-punk group Shame was full of angst and energy. While no moshing broke out during any of the Music Tastes Good sets, whose audience skews perhaps a bit older than many festivals, Shame’s set would be the one to mosh to. Vocalist Charlie Steen was unencumbered by a guitar and was highly engaging, moving around the stage constantly and singing with his entire body into the mic. “It’s our first time in Long Beach and first American festival,” he shared to cheers from the crowd. “It’s fucking hot in the states… we’re gonna play the best song we wrote,” Steen said before playing “One Rizla.” It was indeed a hot day on the Long Beach shore, so it was understood when Steen’s shirt eventually came off. The bass player was incredible to watch, as he jumped and kicked around on stage, never missing a beat. Steen got into the audience for “Gold Hole,” walking around as he shouted, “shake me up” into the mic.
Another notable performance was a bizarre puppet show from Quintron and Miss Pussycat, featuring a Christmas bear and goblin cake that had the intimate crowd laughing.
This year’s Music Tastes Good is an endless array of entertainment, as set times ran smoothly at the rotating Franklin Stage, the Taste Tent offered an array of gourmet food, and the Kids Be Good section provided family-friendly entertainment. Sunday will feature performances from James Blake, Janelle Monae, Parquet Courts and more.
Photo Credit: Marv Watson