Creating a music festival fit for the snobs might sound like a disparaging way to categorize Long Beach's Music Tastes Good (MTG), but that's exactly what its late architect, Josh Fischel, always hoped for. After all, one of the primary definitions of the word snob is someone with a passionate belief in his or her choices, whether it involves discerning the ingredients of a godly guitar solo or the right flavors required for bouillabaisse. In other words, MTG's target audience is people with taste.
"That was [Josh's] greatest love: to affect people and have people enjoy that special feeling when they enjoy some new music that they're overly passionate about or this food that they freak out about," his brother Zach Fischel says. "He loved to share those experiences. He loved the art of sharing the experiences with people."
Though the two brothers spent most of their youth growing up in the San Fernando Valley and Huntington Beach, both found their creative stride in Long Beach. Josh moved to the city in 2000 and quickly became entrenched in its music scene, starting several bands, including Bargain Music and Josh Fischel & the Fiction, and working with his brother on music videos for Sublime and Skunk Records.
The lineup for the inaugural MTG, presented by 89.9 KCRW, was very much a musical triumph. Bringing together a host of bands that included the Specials, De La Soul, Iron and Wine, and Deltron 3030 set it apart from the cookie-cutter format that shackles the same acts together over and over around the country. The festival felt like something hand-picked and special. Though he was suffering from a long-standing battle with cirrhosis at the time, it was clear Josh was proud to see MTG come to fruition. "We sat and watched Deltron 3030 perform on Saturday night with the orchestra and the choir—it was mind blowing," recalls Zach. "I think that was the peak for [Josh]."
Sadly, Josh passed away just days after the festival, at the age of 47. The loss of such a creative force in the Long Beach music scene is still greatly felt throughout the city. But Zach and his family will always be proud of the fact that Josh brought something to Long Beach that embodied his passion for curating culture for the people who were always searching for it. "The fact that Josh found a way to meld his passions of music, food and Long Beach into Music Tastes Good is still a bit miraculous to me," says his mother, Maurine. "[He was] a person with vision and intense conviction, and this one event is a wonderful celebration of his lifetime's work."
Music Tastes Good makes its return to Long Beach this weekend, with some key changes to the format, including moving from the downtown area to Marina Green Park and incorporating a different twist on its culinary component. For those who knew him, Josh's presence resonates in the headlining acts (Ween, the band that inspired his first tattoo, and Sleater-Kinney) and the local bands chosen as supporting acts, as well as in the new shared "Taste Tent" experience, featuring food from top-flight chefs from Long Beach and New Orleans.
Though he wasn't as involved in MTG last year, the death of his brother compelled Zach to make sure Josh's legacy lived on by joining the production team, which includes creative directors Chris Watson, Meagan Blome, Jon Halperin, production coordinator Vince Gutierrez and the executive producer John Molina. "Josh and I shared a passion for amazing music, terrific food and a sense of community," Molina says. "Music Tastes Good is Josh's vision to bring these together. The MTG team is honoring his spirit by continuing to move forward."
Josh's wife, Abbie, was also tapped as an adviser. "It's very therapeutic for all of us," Zach says. "All of us are putting all of our hearts in it. The whole thing is just a big tribute to Josh."
This year, MTG's creative team took their mission of promoting Long Beach to a new level, spreading the word about the festival beyond the city limits by hosting a showcase at SXSW and throwing a host of secret shows featuring national artists at venues around Long Beach. Each show featured performances by Jesus and Mary Chain and Best Coast and Los Straightjackets to name a few, at venues such as Alex's Bar and the Packard. "The hope is not only to bring out people from Long Beach, but also to hopefully introduce people from all over to this city. That was Josh's vision all along," Halperin says. "That's why we did it in the streets last year. I can't tell you how often I talk with people from the 323, 818, 213 [area codes] who have never been to Long Beach. There are music venues, a half-dozen record stores, and a ton of bands from here . . . and yet, we aren't quite the destination city for most. . . . We hope to help change this."
That's what inspired the Taste Tent, featuring more than a dozen chefs from both Long Beach and New Orleans providing an array of small-plate items for guests to enjoy. The organizers wanted to highlight Long Beach cuisine alongside that of another well-established port city, a concept they hope will become a tradition for MTG. "Each year, it will be Long Beach and then another port city," Zach says.
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They are also trying something new with regard to the way you spend money at the fest. The only form of payment accepted at all vendor locations will be via RFID wristbands, which are shipped to festival-goers upon purchase of their tickets. The wristband doubles as a digital wallet: You just double-tap to pay for food, drinks and merch.
All the advances are done in an effort to create a more immersive experience for those passionate snobs who want to continue being a part of something hand-crafted and special, the way MTG's founder always intended it to be.
"For me and Josh, working together all the years that we did, we always stood by the concept that developing a real brand and identity is gonna last, and that is what Music Tastes Good is doing and will continue to do," Zach says. "That's why Josh put this festival on, and everything he did for the city of Long Beach was to give Long Beach a shoutout."
Music Tastes Good, featuring Ween, Sleater-Kinney, Los Lobos, Tune-Yards, Ride and more, at Marina Green Park, 386 E. Shoreline Dr., Long Beach, (562) 570-3236; mtglb.co. Sat.-Sun., 11 a.m.-10 p.m. $75-$270. All ages.