Picture this: the year is 2009 and all your favorite artists who just dropped new releases are playing a festival together. That’s what heaven might feel like…
Just Like Heaven Fest pulled on the nostalgia of last decade’s indie rock playlist favorites. Several of the performers mentioned their latest or notable albums that came out 10 years ago, including Grizzly Bear’s Veckatimest and the Yeah Yeah Yeah’s It’s Blitz. “We came up with all these guys,” Karen O said during her set, dropping a few names including Phoenix, Grizzly Bear and The Rapture. Ed Droste of Grizzly Bear also took note of the “throwback” aspect of the festival, saying “it’s been so fun playing with all these bands we know.”
Demand for this type of “throwback” lineup was clearly there as the Saturday lineup sold out in less than a day after tickets were posted. Goldenvoice added a second day of the same lineup, which also sold out of General Admission tickets.
One thing that was clear right off the bat was that the attendees at this fest were true fans, as they watched each act with intent and sang along to the songs they knew. While acts like the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, The Rapture and MGMT really “wowed,” each act from Tokyo Police Club to Phoenix was worth catching. Attending both days was about the only way to catch all of the acts.
While the Angel stage didn’t have a “main stage” feel, it turned around bands with little to no wait with the rotating stage which proved very effective. And with bands like Grizzly Bear, Beach House and The Rapture scheduled on the Angel stage, it was equally worthy as the “Dream” stage.
“If you’re here with us tonight, you’re cool! You guys rule, own that shit!” Karen O said to the crowd during their set. The Yeah Yeah Yeahs were the stars of the Dream stage. Their hour-long set seemed to fly by as they played crowd favorites ranging from softer songs like “Soft Shock” to fuzzy and screeching like “Black Tongue.” The stage was completely packed with fans who were singing and dancing along, as Karen Os voice screeched across the audience, fuzzy distorted guitars in the background. During “Cold Night,” she flung her jacket around during the headbang-worthy part. She invited guitarist Imaad Wasif to the stage on acoustic guitar for “Gold Lion,” which had the crowd joining in for the “ooh oohs.”
The band took a pause for her leather jacket costume change and another grand entrance before “Zero.” Large eyeball beach balls made their way into the crowd and the crowd tossed them around, squealing in delight as they came near. “It’s Blitz is 10 years old this year,” she noted before going into the slow, moody, “Skeletons.” The transitions were seamless during the set, and “Skeletons” went right into “Maps,” a “Yeah Yeah Yeahs love song,” Karen O said as she took a moment to dedicate the song to her friend’s family and child names Bear who was attending his first concert, no doubt backstage. “Dedicate this song to someone you love the most,” she said encouragingly to the crowd before including everyone in attendance in her “Maps” dedication. Just when we thought it couldn’t get any better, the dance anthem “Heads Will Roll” came on and had the whole crowd moving and singing along.
MGMT also played an impressive set at the Dream Stage, coming hot off last year’s solid release Little Dark Age. Their set played all the fan favorites, old and new, including “Little Dark Age” and “Time to Pretend.” Bonuses from their set included a “penis” screaming contest between the singer and the crowd. “This is a comedy show!” Ben Goldwasser said jokingly to the crowd. Their stage set had a large yellow blown up devil-like doll and trippy images on the screens. For “When You Die,” fans had a good time singing along “go fuck yourself, don’t call me nice.”
The tempo changes in “Weekend Wars” had the crowd holding on to every move, before building up to “Electric Feel” which left not one still body in sight. Fans enjoyed a dazzling keys solo intro to “TSLAMP,” a not to how much time we spend on our phones.“Me and Michael” went right into “Kids” and the sea of a crowd lost it, screaming and jumping up and down all through when the song veered into a dance beat.
Phoenix headlined the Dream stage, and by nightfall were able to dazzle the crowd with colorful backdrops. The most epic moment of their set would have to be “Love Like A Sunset Pt. 1 and 2” which started with beeping sounds and low electronics that really come to life when performed live. Colors took over the screen and gradually quickened their flashing. The mostly instrumental song when into a dance beat before going back to the original mellow sound, an orange backdrop appearing for the lyrics, “Love Like a Sunset.” “Lasso” and “Lizstomaniza” had everyone singing and dancing along. “If you know the lyrics sing along,” singer Thomas Mars said, inviting the crowd to join them in the funky, “If I Ever Feel Better.” “This is the end of our tour, we have like 5 shows left,” he said, asking the crowd to wave their hands back and forth for the new song, “Pure Delight.” Towards the end of their set, crowds starting heading for the exit trying to beat the shuttle lines, but those who stayed were treated to “1901” which had some of the exiting crowd running back. A “Phoenix Ti Amo” heart image flashed to the crowd and the singer crowd surfed for the rest of the instrumental portion of the set.
Additional highlights included a sparkling, backlit set from Baltimore duo Beach House, who played a nice mix of old favorites including “10 Mile Stereo” and “Lemon Glow” off their latest album 7. The crowd let their dreamy sound wash over them, and couples danced and embraced.
The Rapture played a dance-worthy set at the Angel Stage, mixing punk singing and funky beats the crowd appreciated. “Gonna Get Myself Into It” provided their sax player with an opportunity to be appreciated by the crowd as they cheered for his solos. “Whoo! Alright Yeah… Uh huh,” was dedicated to the bouncer who was apparently a big fan. The song closed the set with plenty of cowbell and dancing.
“We all know it’s a throwback moment,” singer Ed Droste said, referring to the lineup. “It has been so fun playing with all these bands we know.” Grizzly Bear wowed the audience with their impressive harmonies. Each member was given a mic and contributed to the lushness of each song, particularly “While You Wait For the Others.” “This month Veckatimest is 10 years old!” Droste said before going into the song. With a recent release, Painted Ruins the band continues to make incredible music. They just played maybe a couple of songs off that album including, “Losing All Sense.” A fun moment was when the Queen Mary blew its horn around 6:00 p.m. in the same key as “Sleeping Ute.”
The crowd had plenty of opportunities to join in the chorus during Passion Pit’s set. The Dream stage standing area was transformed to a dance floor as singer Michael Angelakos moved about the stage. The crowd sang back, “oh no” for “The Reeling.” “Long Beach I’ve been asleep for like a year and a half… thanks for waking me up!” he said before “Sleepyhead.” “I Get Carried Away” had everyone jumping up and down, and they closed their set with the pop-forward number, “Take a Walk.”
Miike Snow also had the crowd reminiscing with plenty of songs off his 2009 self-titled album. Songs like “Cult Logic” and “Black and Blue” had everyone singing along. During “Sylvia” grad caps flew in the air, most likely from the audience. They shared a new song, “I Was A Sailor” which was quite theatrical and didn’t do much for the crowd. They ended the set with “Animal” by prefacing, “this song came out 10 years ago this weekend today!”
Washed Out delivered a chill and dreamy set back at the Angel stage. They, too performed plenty of songs off their 2009 release Feel it All Around including “New Theory” and of course the Portlandia-made-famous “Feel It All Around.”
STRFKR provided a visual spectacle on stage with astronauts dancing, blow up dolls for the audience and crowd surfing on large pool bird-like floaties. Fans took turns grabbing and dancing with the dolls as others around them cheered on.
Tennis reminded us why they were on our playlists with an inspired afternoon set. “Ladies Don’t Play Guitar” had everyone dancing to the funk bass line. She slowed it down with a “song about anxiety,” “I Miss That Feeling.” On Friday, she shared “This is the first show we’ve played in 7 months. Also, I’m turning 34 this week which officially means I’m in my mid-thirties so I’m dead…this is the last time you’ll see me” showing a bit of personality and getting the crowd to laugh.
She Wants Revenge seemed a bit out of place in the beating sun on the Dream stage, especially after headlining Cloak and Dagger past midnight in the Los Angeles theater. But the fans came out for them, singing along to “These Things” and “Tear You Apart,” which was in desperate need of some heavy bass.
The kick drum was on full blast for Peter Bjorn and John as they opened their set at the Dream stage. Their latest album Darker Days came out six months ago, and they played “Gut Feeling,” a pop forward number off the album. They sang “Happy Birthday” to a crowd member named Victoria before going into “Young Folks.” A woman joined on stage but had mic issues and came in early on the chorus once. They closed their set with “Objects Of My Affection.”
The Faint, who released an album just a couple months ago titled Egowork played songs in the vein of The Rapture, including “I Disappear.”
Early acts like Miami Horror, who brought out Neon Indian’s Alan Palomo for a funky song and DJ sets from RAC and Breakbot got everyone warmed up and dancing. “For us the winner yesterday was the Rapture..and Miami Horror” the Miami Horror frontman shared with the crowd during his Saturday set.
Tokyo Police Club and Shiny Toy Guns started the days at noon sharp and were equally worthy of catching. “Your English Is Good” was a fast rock number that got some energized for the day. Shiny Toy Guns “Le Disko” had the same effect.
Overall, this fest was about as close to feeling like heaven as one could get. The crowd was truly these for the music and less fashion and photo-obsessed, the stages and sound were managed well and the weather was beautiful on the water by the Queen Mary. Here’s hoping Just Like Heaven returns next year for a second throwback festival.
Photo Credit: Raymond Flotat