Review: Music Tastes Good Festival, September 29-30, 2018
This year’s two-day Music Tastes Good festival, now in its third year, held again on long, narrow, comfortably laid out, slice of the Marina Green park alongside Shoreline Village in Downtown Long Beach, would appeared to have to been a success by most visible measures. While the Saturday and Sunday lineups were ostensibly headlined by closing sets by New Order and James Blake respectively, it was the daytime undercards of both days that made the a big impression–an eclectic, incredibly well curated mix of wide range of the possibilities of guitar-based songwriting.
Saturday’s 4-piece indie outfits Neighbor Lady, out of Atlanta, and Brooklyn’s Big Thief, brought uptempo folk-adjacent rock with honeyed female vocals and bright, occasionally loud scratchy guitar work. Big Thief in particular impressed; frontwoman Adrianne Lenker (who just released her first solo LP under her own name, abysskiss) must be included in mentions of today’s best singer-songwriters, with her uncanny knack for hooks. Her “Masterpiece” and “Shark Smile” might be the most memorable tunes of the weekend.
L.A. was represented with strong showings from gals FEELS channeling some vintage Doors jamming and X’s melodic punk, and all-around indie pop from Cherry Glazerr. Both are ready for the next level. Clementine Creevy of Cherry Glazerr in particular has honed her act–rock star shredding on guitar along with a very accessible pop sound in this year’s new tune “Juicy Socks.”
Broken Social Scene ushered in the sunset with an energetic-as-usual full run through of their fantastic 2002 LP You Forgot it in People. (There’s an alternate universe where this record becomes our Funeral and they are in Arcade Fire’s shoes today.) It’s testament to the massive range of that record that it doesn’t feel like the common full album performance, but like an actual rock show setlist with peaks and valleys, ebbs and flows. Amidst the usual crowded BSS stage, Emily Haines reprised her original performance of “Anthems For A Seventeen Year-Old Girl,” and took Feist’s part in “Almost Crimes” for two peaks of the set. Sadly time did not allow for any other songs beyond that album; a performance of “7/4 (Shoreline)” on, er, Shoreline Drive might have been memorable.
New Order, in their West Coast exclusive performance for the year, closed out the main stage Saturday with a full on disco dance party and brilliant light show. The original 3 members, Barney and the Other Two, augmented by newer blokes on bass and guitar/keys, only subjected us to a couple newer songs (which aren’t half bad). The set list hopscotched across hits from their enviable back catalog. Their closing salvo of “Blue Monday,” “Temptation,” and Joy Division’s “Love Will Tear Us Apart” might be as classic a group of songs in a row that one could hope to hear live at any concert this year. (NB: Sadly, Barney did not gesture to point out the ships in the Long Beach harbor at the “I see a ship in the harbor” line of “Blue Monday,” apparently he’s not a fan of obvious, dumb puns.)
Sunday brought even more perfect weather to the shoreline, if that was possible. An angsty Ezra Furman brought some vintage New York 70’s street attitude (think Lou Reed, Richard Hell–despite being from Chicago) and some timely woke between song banter. Bill Callahan mellowed things out in the sun of the second stage with a two-man acoustic country-ish/folk-ish set of half Smog songs, half from his Apocalypse LP, dusted off from its 2011 release. His poetry can be elusive but timely mixed feelings about our country are in there. Sun Kil Moon and Mark Kozelek brought whatever genre they are – part indie rock, part folk, part jazz, part jam band, all Kozelek dark wit, to the mainstage in a compelling performance. Lyric sheets flying in a mild breeze, Kozelek charmed the crowd with his black comedy autobiographical tales (“it’s not bullshit, this is my life, so don’t make fun of it”), including a preview from his upcoming LP, This Is My Dinner. The gentlemen of Parquet Courts are in fit and muscular, in fighting shape, ranting and rocking, jamming. They get a small mosh pit going with the kids down front They’ve come a long way from a rickety garage band and are poised to make a leap.
To boil Sunday down to a single performance, Janelle Monáe may have stolen the day with her set. With a arena-sized production of props and dancers and her all-around performance of her uptempo funky R&B/hip-hop—be it singing, rapping, dancing, playing guitar, hosting a damn dance off–her show(wo)manship at her relatively young age is formidable, right up there with some of today’s biggest one-named acts–look out, she’s coming for the throne (and she has one literally in her set). It was clear Monáe was the people’s headliner as the crowd thinned a bit for James Blake’s closing comedown coda. Now an L.A. resident, he’s become quite at ease on stage, a quietly confident performer of his signature down tempo chilled out, head-bobbing beats and keys sound. Unfortunately, there was no appearance from collaborator (and Long Beach native) Vince Staples.
As might be gleaned from the name, food is a focus of Music Tastes Good. This year access to the “tasting tent” was democratized, no longer a VIP exclusive. (Honestly without the tent, the remaining food options are largely fairly standard festival fare.) The available tent bites sold in $5 price increments from eight featured chefs from scattered West Coast cities each day were fairly tasty and good festival pricing value. The demand was particularly high on Saturday with options running out in the afternoon. Memorable bites included tacos from Tacos Sincero(Oakland), Galaxy Taco (San Diego) and a pork belly rice bowl from Pidgin (Vancouver) on Saturday. As for as alcoholic options, the beer and wine selections were unremarkable. However, sponsor Knob Creek provided a free daily drink and appetizer bite to those of age for the price of a driver’s license scan. (We’re all in some database now…)
Now in its third incarnation, Music Tastes Great festival, founded by the late John Fiskel and carried on by wife and friends, has established itself as a mature, unusually tastefully booked mid-sized food-forward family-friendly niche festival–a welcome anecdote to the sweaty, massive festivals packed with image obsessed kids with shuffled lineups largely of the same mainstream acts. Here’s to many more years of it to come.
Photos by Sung. Much more here:
Saturday – http://www.losanjealous.com/2018/10/02/photos-music-tastes-good-2018-saturday/
Sunday – http://www.losanjealous.com/2018/10/04/photos-music-tastes-good-2018-sunday/