Although Long Beach is closer than other SoCal music festival hotspots like Indio or San Bernardino, the inaugural Music Tastes Good festival on September 23, 24, and 25th felt intimate to its location.
The sprawl of the Southern California music scene extended its reach to Long Beach but the typical festival-goer stayed behind, making way for a more intimate vibe of families with strollers, young adults, and dogs on leashes. The festival’s founders — music booker Jon Halperin and promoter Josh Fischel — kept the festival independent with no outside promoters, possibly the reason it felt that much more intimate.
The organizers decided to host the festival across three days by running one stage, the LB BLVD stage, Friday through Sunday, and adding three additional stages on Saturday. With food vendors, retail shops, art installations, and the additional stages flanking either side of Broadway there was no shortage of ways to spend the afternoon. Although Friday and Sunday incorporated only the LB BLVD stage, on Saturday it played second fiddle to the dizzying array of musical acts on the other stages.
Upon arrival entry was a breeze with virtually no line. Throughout the night there were never more than 30 people or so waiting for will call, guestlist, and security was even faster. For Saturday the amount of space meant the food vendors were never too busy and neither were the beverage lines, with wait times never going beyond the 5 minute mark. Although there were a few options that did run out of food, there was still enough of a selection to find something in the later hours of the festival. As far as beer selection, which was provided by Lagunitas, there were choices of lager, IPA and pilsener to satiate even the most discerning of beer drinkers.
An interesting thing about the festival is that most of the retail shops and restaurants stayed open to serve the festival goers. This was a nice option to get out of the heat and possibly have food or drinks at a place that offered sit down service. It certainly helped keep the communal vibe I think the festival was striving for. While walking around beer in hand, people were coming out of their apartments with families and dogs, and they seemed almost invited into the festival. This was a very nice sight to see and everyone you talked to wanted to have a conversation with you.
Although with 4 stages there were bound to be scheduling conflicts, this wasn’t too much of a problem as you could make it to see the acts on each stage in a 15 minute lap. Having no plan and no schedule helps in finding something that might feel right for the mood and atmosphere. What was a problem though was showing up to a stage and having a set end and turning to the person next to you and saying, “Boy Hippo Campus was pretty cool,” only to have them tell you, “No, that was The Dead Ships.” I didn’t mind because it allowed me to find some new artists I never would have heard outside of the festival, but I could see it being a problem for someone who wanted to catch a full set of an artist whose performance was delayed or moved to a different stage.
Although the scheduling problems that did occur meant people were scrambling find the show they wanted, the layout was very conducive to going from one stage to another and made things easier. The setup allowed for very little sound bleed because each stage, besides the LB BLVD stage, was around the corner, down the block, with buildings on either side to contain the sound. Bathrooms were aplenty, with some in corners off the street in locations you would never expect. There were food and beer vendors right in the middle of the festival and on either end which made it easy to find either whenever needed.
After hearing the soothing vocals and wonderful crowd-play Cody Chestnut brought to his performance and Girlpool with their additional drummer, I realized that schedule conflicts and stage management problems may force you to see an amazing performance you hadn’t originally intended to catch. We made our way to the stage we thought Warpaint was at, and instead came across Clipping. Their performance was almost theatrical, which explains why Daveed Diggs himself was at the helm of the show as the MC. Fresh off winning a Tony award this summer for his dual role of Thomas Jefferson and Marquis de Lafayette, Diggs, William Hutson, and Jonathan Snipes literally turned the stage into their own production studio. While Hutson was busy mashing microphones into crushed glass, Snipes played with synths and incorporated acid techno into the rapper’s set into a truly unique performance I would recommend to anyone. The smaller crowd was no deterrent for Minnesota rapper P.O.S., who decided to do the majority of his set in the middle of a crowd of fans and observers. What ensued was a frenzied circle with the crowd surrounding him like he was battle rapping himself. Hippo Campus was a joy on stage and got the crowd dancing more than any other artist throughout the weekend besides perhaps for The Specials. Their energy was infectious and they looked like they were having the best time during their show.
In between bites of chicken gumbo and Hippo Campus, we made our way to the chilled rhythms of the Easy Star All Stars. They serenaded the crowd with cuts off their Dub Side of the Moon album. According to the scheduled times Iron and Wine was supposed to playing while The Specials set their gear up. I wasn’t concerned about missing either so it was a treat to hear The Specials start off with “Ghost Town” as we made our way to the next and final stop: Deltron 3030. I had heard many good things about their live show and came out from the experience pleasantly impressed. They are a major force to be reckoned with in the world of live rap shows with instrumentation. Coupled with a DJ, orchestra, and even a conductor, Del Tha Funky Homosapien let’s the group as a whole shine: bringing the orchestra into the performance truly adds a whole new element to hearing the group’s songs. There is no doubt that this performance could have gone on through the whole night to exhibit their whole catalogue, but sadly it had to end. The live rendition of Gorillaz’s “Clint Eastwood” was the icing on a cake to an unusually sublime day.
The fact that Music Tastes Good provided ear plugs is in and of itself a testament to the festival’s mission to deliver a safe and fun weekend experience to its attendees.
Besides a few hiccups with stage times and performances running late the festival was a general success. The stage production does need to be punctual, something organizers will surely work on or the next edition. Although Friday and Sunday were smaller days in scope, there is no doubt that Music Tastes Good had a great inaugural year with room to grow in 2017. Next year it would be amazing to see how much the festival could grow with an additional full day of programming and improved stage production.