Music Tastes Good By the Minute

Music Tastes Good (Day 2)
Downtown Long Beach

11:48 a.m. While the venue is still finishing final setup, suddenly I catch a trumpet hook from the Long Beach Blvd Stage (the main stage of the festival) for sound-check—The Specials “Ghost Town,” which is followed by a trombone doing the same. Perks of coming early! (Kim Conlan)

12:37 p.m. As I wandered around getting the layout of the festival, Pokey LaFarge and crew are on the Solar Stage sound-checking, singing “Gonna be a riot in the street tonight!” in full harmony, just as attendees start spilling in the front gates nearby. (KC)

1:32 Long Beach locals, Sister Crowley, kick things off at the Solar Stage, and this four-piece are representing their city well with an energetic and tight performance. (KC)

1:45 Overheard from the guitar player of Golden Drugs while playing on the Long Beach Blvd Stage, “This song goes out to my grandmother!” Someone walking by the crowd yells, “I love your grandmother!” After the set, I actually saw him greet his grandmother in the VIP section and say, “Grandma, I dedicated a song to you!” (KC)

2:18 Rudy de Anda on the Long Beach Blvd Stage is fantastic and wild. He notices the defunct bookstore over in the corner of the venue and says, “I remember when I used to go to Bertrand’s…actually I got arrested there one time…” (KC)

3:12 Thank you MTG for having your festival nextdoor to my local B of A branch. Hitting that up before I go in. No ATM surcharges for me, bitches! (Nate Jackson)

3:07 Wow, Jessica Hernandez of Detroit’s Jessica Hernandez & The Deltas rocks. She owns the stage with her strutting, shimmying, and sweet soulful voice. I want to meet her. (Marc Ballon)

3:31 I do. I flash my press pass to a backstage security guard and make my way to her. Since I’m new to her music, I don’t really have anything to say. So I fake it. “How did it feel to be up there in front of an adoring audience?” I ask. “Hot and awesome,” she says with a laugh. Hernandez tells me her next album, “Telephone,” will come out early next year in both English and Spanish. I can’t wait to hear it. I hand my iPhone to her friend, who snaps a picture of us. (MB)

3:50 Overheard from a pack of Silverlake hipsters about what makes Long Beach great: “It’s got the city vibe of LA and the beaches of OC.” Graciously, I withhold my groans. Welcome, tourists…enjoy your stay. (NJ)

3:48 On the Long Beach Blvd Stage, Nick Waterhouse is getting the crowd moving and dancing with songs from his new album, Never Twice, especially during the track “Tracy.” After the set he gets invited to Jam in the Van, the live performance video shoot literally set up in an RV in the middle of the festival. (KC)

3:55 It's hot as fuck out here. The sun bounces off the asphalt on Broadway, bitch slapping me in the face. Luckily, the large MTG program makes a great visor/fan. (NJ)

4:03 I wander over to the Solar Stage to catch the last few songs of Lemolo, a dreamy dream-pop twosome from Seattle that reminds me of Portishead. I make my way to the front row and listen to this mesmerizing group with my elbows resting comfortably on a huge vibrating speaker. (MB)

4:30 Watching LE1F on the Long Beach Blvd Stage. The flamboyant, NYC rapper is going hard with sassy dance moves and salacious bars in a mesh shirt and stretchy bell bottoms. Tracks like “Wut” and “Spa Day” bring a mix of oversexed trap and twerk-inducing club music that breaks the ice among the early comers. Until…the sound of his laptop beats start cutting out in the speakers in the middle of his set. The sound crew finally fixes the problem, but LE1F is told he’s got to end his set early. WTF?! I can sense the shade about to come out of his mouth before he says anything to the crowd. Then he does: “It’s okay, come see me at the next festival when there’s more black people on the lineup.”  (NJ)

4:30:02 Every black person at LE1F's set:

4:34 I interview Meagan Grandall, Lemolo’s lead singer, guitarist and keyboardist, and drummer Adrian Centoni. They are two of the nicest people you could ever meet. And smart, too. Grandall was high school and college valedictorian, joining her first band only after graduating. “My professors weren’t too happy with my career choice,” Grandall says. (MB)

5:10 We’re on to you, Crispy M&Ms. We know your secret plot to take over the hipster universe by showing up at every cool festival, using your Millennial foot soldiers to hand out free candy to us hooked on your brand. Saw you do the same thing at FYF this year. This grassroots marketing campaign is starting to feel a little diabolical. However, my sweet tooth says keep up the good work. (NJ)

5:29 With the exception of AA meetings and university film studies departments, rock festivals might be the only place left in America where smokers can proudly light up. I see a group of three 20-something blondes nursing beers and chain-smoking like Hollywood A-listers. A group of tattooed young smokers passes by and smiles. Smokers of the world unite! (MB)

6:06 Nice to walk by stages at a festival and see people you know on stage. Shout out to Long Beach-bred bassist Eugene Owens and a few of his local pals ripping it up as the backing band for Cody ChesnuTT at the Linden Stage. You guys sounded great! (NJ)

6:27 The organizers of the “Music Tastes Good” promised “some of the best food and restaurants Long Beach has to offer.” For the first time in history, music promoters delivered. This was no corn-dog-and-Coke festival. For $10, I had a meat-falling-off-the-bone barbeque chicken dinner from Robert Earl’s. Delicious. I’ve spent more on a crappy hot dog and soda at a baseball game. (MB)

6:30 Overheard during dinner, “How do you skank? Like what’s your style of skanking?” Obviously getting prepared for The Specials and their headlining performance. (KC)

7:02 Big, middle-aged shirtless guy sitting in a Lazy Boy watching Vintage Trouble from his apartment window. Congratulations sir, you the real MVP(NJ)

7:15 Vintage Trouble’s musical stew of Led Zeppelin riffs and Otis Reading vocals has won the band opening slots with The Rolling Stones, The Who and AC/DC. It’s easy to see why. Lead singer Ty Taylor drips with charisma and confidence. Bassist Rick Barrio Dill and drummer Richard Danielson form a rock-solid rhythm section, while guitarist Nalle Colt colors their sound with searing solos. The audience loves them. (MB)

7:19 As Ty Taylor delivers a mini-sermon on the need for racial harmony and love, a woman holding a child’s hand sprints through the crowd. She briefly stops near me and punches a bewildered young woman in the face. Can you say irony? (MB)

7:42 Warpaint at the Long Beach Blvd Stage. Superb driving, early Cure guitar licks and powerful drum backing. Delicious to watch lead singer and guitarist both try to keep their attitude faces on, when you could tell they mostly wanted to bust out smiling and laughing at their excellent good fortune to be on stage, doing what they love in front of people who love them. (Why did I quit guitar lessons in 5th grade again?) (Jeff Swimmer)

8:05 People lured to the Easy Star All-Stars set at the Solar Stage with one of their many fabulous Radiohead covers. This time it’s “Lucky.” Even if you’re not a Radiohead fan, you can appreciate this version—shimmering, glorious and stoned. (NJ)

8:10 How tight is the security of the parameter at this festival? About as tight as a partially open fence that anyone can walk through. (NJ)

8:15 As I’m waiting for Squeeze’s set at the JetBlue Stage, I pull out my reporter’s notebook. A cute 50-something woman suddenly appears and asks what I’m doing. When I tell her that I’m writing a piece for “OC Weekly,” she hugs me. “I used to be a journalist, too,” she says. Turns out we have a lot in common: We both worked for years as business reporters at national publications, consider the printed word sacrosanct and have kids. We’re also both married. The alcohol seems to make her forget that fact. (MB)

8:21 With a few choice nods to Burning Man (Ferris wheel made out of umbrellas, copper and prayer-inscribed wood gazebo), and Coachella too (glowstick dancers, thinly-veiled corporate ambush), Long Beach was trying really hard to turn itself into…not Long Beach. And mostly, it pulled it off with a buoyant, lively, hedonistic energy that warrants an MTG repeat. (JS)

8:33 Waiting in men's room, restaurant on Broadway.

Older man waiting for urinal, to no one in particular:
“Hey, why didn't Ken and Barbie have any kids of their own?”

No answer.

“Because Ken always came in a different box.”

Awkward grins all around. (JS)

8:37 Martha tells me I’m adorable and pulls me close, her boozy breath hot with passion. She kisses my neck and then presses her lips against mine. It feels good, but I quickly pull away and show her my wedding ring for the second time. “Sorry, I forgot,” she slurs. (MB)

9:14 After disappearing and reappearing several times, Martha gives me a final good-bye hug. “You are so amazing,” she says, staring intently into my eyes. To paraphrase Squeeze: I was tempted by the fruit of another. But I didn’t bite. Still, quite an ego-boost for this graying 53-year-old suburbanite. (MB)

9:20 Squeeze’s set disappoints. A distorted, bass-heavy mix, predictable set list – basically everything from “Singles 45’s And Under” – and a surprising lack of onstage chemistry. (MB)

9:21 As I watch Dr. Dog slog through the most precious, predictable and flat-lined set of the whole night, I can only wonder—is this the music that the CIA used to smoke Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega out of his Vatican City embassy hideout all those years back? Personally, I would confess to almost anything to avoid even one more round of these bleached white frat boys pretending to rock. (JS)

9:37 The Melvins, Linden Stage. I hear they influenced Nirvana. They moved me too – to a migraine. A perfect blend of ornery musicians playing music as angry and dissonant as the looks on their faces. Cheers for symmetry. (JS)

9:38 Disregard the previous statement. The Melvins fucking ruled! #rebuttal. (NJ)

10:20 Pokey LaFarge is setup for his real performance this time over at the Solar Stage. After his hit, “Something In the Water,” he takes a moment to talk to the crowd and let us know that new music is on its way soon, and he’s going to play us one of those tracks right now! (KC)

10:46 Lynval Golding, guitarist for The Specials, yells in the microphone, “It’s skankin’ time! Let’s skank!” Right then they break into “Rat Race” and the audience completely lets loose. (KC)

11:01 This:

11:05 No Doubt's drummer Adrian Young in the house skanking to the Specials. This seems like an obvious show for him to be at, but still cool to witness. He hangs back in the crowd after the set and takes photos with fans before disappearing. (NJ)

11:11 The Specials on the Long Beach Blvd Stage. A late 70s-style mosh pit is kicking into high gear – physical, acrobatic and just this side of menace. The masters of ska are throwing down a devastating full-throttle set, setting alight the boomers who first skanked to them on vinyl in their dorm rooms, and stunning younger fans who looked like they didn't think the old geezers could still kill it like that. (JS)

11:19 Oddly discordant note in a Specials sermon-like set brimming with odes to racial harmony and the setting aside of pitchforks….lead singer Terry Hall's incongruous, out-of-the-blue pleas to “kill Mel Gibson!” Made no sense, that's all I'm gonna say. (JS)

11:25 The Specials finish their torrid set with “Enjoy Yourself.” Dozens in the crowd circle in a giant mosh pit. White, black and brown, male and female join in, with elbows flying and shoulders banging. A guy holding an acoustic guitar aloft even jumps in. Smiles abound. The Specials show the power of music to break down barriers and unite in transcendence. Great show. Great day. (MB)

11:48 Ears still ringing in the car driving home, but fighting (successfully!) for the urge to turn on and yell “1, 2!!” to the Specials indelible, screeching “Little Bitch”… (JS)

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