We’ve reached peak music festival. Every city, lifestyle, and musical genre has an outlet for fans to gather and celebrate. And while Orange County, Los Angeles, and the rest of Southern California has reigned supreme with FYF Fest, Coachella, and more, Long Beach tried in 2016 to plant their flag in the ground. Music Tastes Good was the culmination of hard work and organization from creator Josh Fischel and his supporters that put a party literally on the streets of Long Beach for three ambitious nights. Sadly, Fischel passed away only days after that inaugural gathering, but his friends and family carried on his dream this year, putting together another stellar lineup of both food and music to bring the city together for one autumn weekend.
This year, MTG upgraded in many vital ways. A rotating main stage meant you always had something to watch from sunup to sundown and made losing your schedule more forgiving. It also made for regular hilarity as one band would play off while being rotated away from the crowd just as the next band was figuring out exactly when they should start playing as they were being rotated on. The smaller second stage was still big enough for (most) of the bands playing while giving that intimate vibe needed to make a festival feeling too audacious for its own good. A plethora of food choices for just about any appetite kept the crowd energized while the short trek from stage to stage ensured they weren't tired before the night was over. Loading up your wristband with funds may have confused some, but the systems in place to help pay for food and drinks seemed to work all weekend without a hitch. Security, although there was little need for it, was attentive and respectful, as was the entire vibe.
This was the kind of festival that was about the music without being only about the music. While some certainly traveled to catch the guitar sideshow that is Ween or the return of Kool Keith, Dan the Automator, and DJ Qbert’s Dr. Octagon project, this was also the place for neighbors to catch up. Most festivals have vinyl pop-ups, but you were more than likely buying a record that belonged to someone you might know rather than a complete stranger. The food you ate came from local restaurants you probably drove by or Yelped one time but never actually checked out yourself. Conversations were being struck up around the grounds as friends and cohorts were running into each other all weekend.
But what about the bands themselves? The biggest names from last year certainly topped the biggest from this year, but not the boldest. The Eve to Iggy Pop’s Adam, Canadian blitzkrieg Peaches stunned during her daytime set. Initially wearing what seemed like all of the clothes, she was headbanging and spinning thick gold chains around her neck while topless within twenty minutes. Wardrobe changes continued on stage, as did the theatrics. “Jesus walked on water, Peaches walks on you!” she told the crowd before living up to her word, but she saved the biggest moment for “Dick in the Air.” She topped any lame hamster ball Flaming Lips might possess by entering a 30-foot penis that was inflated and laid across the crowd before shooting silly string out of the end.
The New Orleans stage seemed built for those types of antics, be it Slaves insane thrashing and stomping, even through a power outage, or !!!’s danceapalooza that seemingly never stopped. They were quieter moments too, like from Rhye, whose elaborate setup in such a compact environment did cause singer Mike Milosh to physically go to the sound engineer to request his mic be raised a decibel or two as he was completely blocked off from the back of the stage. The main stage provided more of a light show, be it from Ride’s gloomy and driving shoegaze or Los Lobos’ smooth operation. A wide open area with plenty of tables and spots for relaxing meant no feelings of claustrophobia while trying to enjoy the show.
Ultimately, Music Tastes Good was a success because of its location. Long Beach has always been a hub of culture, both in its creation and curation. This festival showed that when you inject the passion of multiple communities all living within a few zip codes, you can make something special. In only its second year, Music Tastes Good proved that it could hang with the corporate-backed big boys. The art, the music, the food, and the vibes were all homegrown and uniquely Long Beach. If the festival plans on continuing beyond 2017, it will need to lean into this even more and deliver something the rest of SoCal will travel to see. After two days of fun in the sun, we’re confident they can pull it off.