Music Tastes Good
Marina Green Park
September 30 – October 1, 2017
In just two short years, Music Tastes Good has clearly and loudly declared itself Long Beach’s signature festival. Although it’s nowhere near as big as some of the weekend-long events that go on in LA — or even certain festivals held by the folks behind the Observatory — there’s no festival in Southern California that does a better job of representing its location.
Having a handful of acts from the South Bay and dozens of food and goods vendors from all over Long Beach would be enough for most other festivals to stake their claim as the city’s top “local” event, but there’s one thing about Music Tastes Good that connects it to the LBC more than anything else: genuine weirdness.
While cities like Portland and Austin love to boast about how “weird” they are, you’ll rarely — if ever — hear that word used in an even semi-official statement regarding Long Beach. Yet if you ask any resident who’s lived in the city for more than a couple of years, they’ll tell you just how pleasantly (and sometimes unpleasantly) bizarre Long Beach and its residents are.
In many ways, that strangeness is exactly what Music Tastes Good nails about the soul of its city. From the bands on stage (and the Sea Funk Brass Band walking around the festival dressed as mermaids, fish, and other aquatic creatures) to the staff and vendors to the crowd, the sophomore edition of the seaside festival was full of interesting folks. But it wasn’t the usual festival faux-weirdos who like to dress up and paint their faces for FYF or Coachella before going back to sipping pumpkin spice lattes the next week, Music Tastes Good brought out the actual freaks and geeks who proudly wear their offbeat hearts on their sleeves and care more about being themselves than getting the most likes on Instagram.
To put things into perspective, when of Montreal frontman Kevin Barnes hit the stage sporting a massive blonde wig and tight miniskirt on Saturday evening, he didn’t seem out of place in the least. When Peaches performed on Sunday afternoon wearing what looked like a beheaded Sesame Street character with a pair of mostly-nude dancers wearing massive vagina masks, a lot of people shared smiles and laughs but no one even thought about leaving or feigning outrage. Even some of the workers wiping down tables and picking up trash looked like they might actually be magical hobos rather than college kids who wanted to go to the festival for free.
Aside from the music — which featured highlights like ‘80s British synth-pop band Heaven 17 playing a rare American show, Slaves leading a “fuck the hi-hat” chant in the midst of sharing elaborate and lengthy punk rock stories, and a headlining 90-minute set from Ween complete with cowboy hats and dozens of hilariously immature songs — the main draw of Music Tastes Good had to be the culinary delights.
Whether it was from the beloved local restaurants (like The Attic, Lola’s Mexican Cuisine, and Beer Belly) that had their own booths or the 16 high-end tasting dishes from Long Beach and New Orleans available in the VIP food area over the course of the two days, the festival did in fact taste just as good as the name would imply. Although the price could certainly be an issue for some, this was one of the few times a deluxe wristband including food would actually be worth the extra cash — even if it’s just for the duck hot wing confit and spicy cabbage salad with crumbled pig ear.
If there’s one area where the festival could improve going forward, it would likely be to include more current young bands on the lineup. Although acts like Furcast, Joyce Manor, and Alvvays injected some much-needed youth into the festival for a handful of sets each day, the bulk of the bigger artists fell more into the nostalgia category — as evidenced by fans having to decide between Ride and Built to Spill on Saturday night.
Considering that Music Tastes Good’s two stages fit perfectly into the comfortably full marina greenbelt, there’s definitely no need for the event to expand size-wise within the next few years. Conversely, adding a few young local acts like the Interrupters or Plague Vendor would bring the next generation of punks to the festival as well — and introduce a whole new group of kids to classics like Ween and Sleater-Kinney.