New songs from James Blake, Janelle Monáe’s unforgettable performance and a raucous set from New York’s Parquet Courts made for a stacked lineup to close the Franklin stage. Equally worthy of seeing, The Church and Black Angels just across the field at the Gold stage. Sunday of Long Beach’s Music Tastes Good Festival was a second day full of experiences sure to satisfy even the pickiest of palates.
“This place has really good yelp reviews,” James Blake joked sharing that he was full of good food from the Taste tent. This year, it was even more likely that the festival-goers would be full of good food—with plenty of local restaurants represented including Roe seafood and Pizzanista and acclaimed chefs from all over providing samples for as little as $5, as well as a free whiskey cocktail and sample of steak or shrimp from the Knob Creek area, you didn’t need to be VIP to enjoy the “Taste” part of Music Tastes Good.
After a set that hit all sensory levels from Janelle Monáe, closing the night with an entrancing show from James Blake was just what the doctor ordered. Blue and red lights flashed on the otherwise backlit stage during “Timeless.” Blake’s voice was strong, showcasing his incredible vocal range and unique, rhythmic vibrato. For a new song “Can’t Believe the Way We Flow,” he got up from behind the keys and sang soulfully to the audience. “Retrograde” had the crowd nodding along to the beat and vocal arpeggios and synth build up. It was a stunning, mesmerizing set from start to finish.
Janelle Monáe’s set was filled with female empowerment. She sang atop a tiered pedestal and had backup dancers and a band. “Where my queens at?” She projected into the crowd who cheered loudly back. “Some of you may know I like to love… too much,” she said, having recently come out as pansexual. The crowd cheered back and held up their hands, making heart symbols back. The performance was a huge highlight for all of Music Tastes Good, as Monáe’s set was simply electric. She ran through most of her latest album Dirty Computer, opening with “Dirty Computer.” “Electric Lady” elicited a call and response, “ooh/ shock it / break it / baby / electric lady / electric lady.” Seamless costume changes and multiple dance routines made this one the performance of the night, and that’s probably why it was the most crowded set yet.
Before that, New York’s Parquet Courts delivered a high-energy set, performing several songs off their latest release, Wide Awake! They jumped along to “Total Football,” the exceptional opening track from the album. “Sounds good? But how does it taste? Should we start over?” frontman Andrew Savage asked the crowd, joking that the crowd would prefer that they just finish the set already so they could catch Janelle Monáe. But the highlight of their set was a jam session that featured guitarist and singer Austin Brown on the whistle—yes, like a referee whistle. Slower, synth-heavy songs like “Before The Water Gets Too High” had the crowd in a great groove.
“Parquet Courts is next… they sound like a cross between Zappa, Ravel and Jimmy Page,” Mark Kozelek of Sun Kil Moon said, sharing his appreciation for the band with the crowd. His set was a unique addition to the lineup, to say the least, sandwiched between Hollie Cook and Parquet Courts. The speak-singing style came off as poetry, as he sang about Elliott Smith, and performed a new song, “This Is My Town.”
Hollie Cook was simply delightful, and her sparkling personality came through to the crowd. The Londoner said, “this is my first time, what a delightful place!” Nestled right on the Shoreline Aquatic Park, the Marina Green field was certainly that and more, and the bud sounds emanating from her set were just what the crowd ordered on this hot summer day. She performed several songs off her latest album, Vessel of Love, which came out earlier this year.
Additional Sunday highlights included world music features of Ethiopian and Colombian music from Ethiopian Jazz groups Ethio Cali and Hailu Mergia, and a carefree Latin-folk performance from Columbian group Ladama who led a brief demonstration on how to shake your hips to cumbia, as well as make a decent “perreo” shout.
A bright-lipstick-clad Ezra Furman charmed the audience during the day with songs about peeling fruit and transferring rage onto others. Starting the day with local indie-pop outfit De Lux loosened everyone up with their disco-esque beats. Blimes and Gab, aka B.A.G. embraced their intimate crowd as the festival started heating up by getting right into the audience during their set, having them form a circle around them as they sang and rapped.
Overall, Music Tastes Good delivered on showcasing a wide array of acts from pop queen Janelle Monáe to rock legends like The Church and many more up and coming acts. Crowds were not an issue, so catching your favorite performer up close was in the cards. Free sparkling water and snacks ensured everyone stayed hydrated, and the larger than life art installations provided plenty of photo ops. Looking forward to what’s in store for next year!