Despite the death of its founder, Josh Fischel, Long Beach's Music Tastes Good festival is back this weekend for a second year, and once again its lineup is as diverse and top-to-bottom solid as any other festival in Southern California. We don't have to tell you not to miss headliners Ween and Sleater-Kinney, but who else among MTG's 40-plus acts are must-sees? Glad you asked! Here are 10 Music Tastes Good performers worth packing into your two days at Marina Green Park.
Canadian singer and performance artist Peaches turned heads in the early 2000s electroclash scene with filthy-minded, provocative tracks like “Lovertits” and “Fuck the Pain Away” that were as much about sexual politics as they were about actual sex. In 2015, she released her first album in six years, Rub, on which she remains as fantastically profane as ever (sample track titles: “Dick in the Air,” “Dumb Fuck”). Expect wild costumes, non-stop dirty dance beats and a big, sweaty sing-along for “Boys Wanna Be Her,” her glam-punk anthem that has become the theme song for Full Frontal With Samantha Bee.
Back in the early '90s, when the “no depression” alt-country scene was taking off, few would have guessed that twangy Texas bar band Old 97's would become the sound's most reliable standard-bearers. Over the course of 11 albums, all varying degrees of excellent, the quartet have continued to find new rumples in their sound, and new booze-soaked tales to tell of love, loss, heartache and salvation. Frontman Rhett Miller is one of the genre's most charismatic frontmen, and he has an excellent foil in fan favorite bassist Murry Hammond, who provides tasty harmony vocals and the occasional crowd-pleasing lead. Their latest, this year's Graveyard Whistling, is full of country-fried rockers like “Good With God” and “Irish Whiskey Pretty Girls” that should be live set highlights.
Los Masters Plus
This Guadalajara duo played Music Tastes Good last year, but their set got a late start and was cut absurdly short. So it's nice to see them get a do-over this year. Like their countrymen Kinky (whose Gil Cerezo guests of Los Masters' latest album, Adelante), their sound is a mix of rock, dance-pop, hip-hop, electronic music and traditional Mexican sounds — but it's all served up with a wink that gives the sonic mishmash a humorous spin, sort of like a south-of-the-border answer to this year's Music Tastes Good headliners, Ween. A proper set should give Los Masters Plus plenty of room to showcase their offbeat charm and full mezcla of sounds.
Argentina's Juana Molina has made a career out of building delicate, eerie soundscapes out of shards of guitar, synthesizers and her own whispery (often looped) vocals. Watching her construct her tracks live can be mesmerizing; lots of artists employ loop pedals nowadays, but few do it to such haunting effect, as her ever-denser soundscapes seem to flit around the stage like restless ghosts. She just released her seventh album, Halo, on which she frequently juxtaposes emotive strings against harsher electronic textures. Her music can be vulnerable to sound bleed in a festival setting, but if she's given enough space and silence, she should leave old fans and newcomers alike spellbound.
Led by Long Beach's own Chhom Nimol, Dengue Fever have been grafting Cambodian pop onto psychedelic rock for over a decade to enchanting effect. Nimol's plaintive vocals are what immediately draw you in, but the grooves of bassist Senon Williams and drummer Paul Smith are equally seductive, and Zac Holtzman's surf/spy guitar combines with his brother Ethan's whirring Farfisa organ to give the band's music an exotic vibe that stretches far beyond Nimol's home country. Add David Ralicke's menacing sax to the mix and Dengue Fever have a sound unlike any other band in L.A. or anywhere else.
Hailing from Rialto, Brainstory deliver a fresh spin on classic California psych-rock by adding lots of jazzy chord progressions and digressions into funk, soul and '70s-style fusion. Their self-titled EP released earlier this year is probably what Chicano Batman would sound like if they listened to less Art Laboe oldies and more Steely Dan and Bitches Brew-era Miles Davis.
New Orleans' Big Freedia is the queen of bounce, that infectious style of dance music that bestowed twerking upon the world. She's been a big draw on the club circuit for over a decade, where her wildly energetic shows have become the stuff of legend, and now that she has her own reality show on Fuse TV, Big Freedia Bounces Back, she's pulling major crowds on the festival circuit, as well. Come ready to twerk or invent your own ass-shaking dance moves.
By now, East L.A.'s Los Lobos have nothing left to prove — they're simply the most lauded Chicano rock band of their generation, period. So they've earned the right to drink deep from the nostalgia well, which they'll do at MTG by performing their 1992 album Kiko in its entirety. Working with producer Mitchell Froom on Kiko, the band blew up their rootsy rock sound by adding layers of percussion and studio atmospherics, creating an instant classic whose echoes can be heard in everything from Lila Downs to Beck. This will be a rare chance to hear the quintet perform the album's intricate rhythms and moody lyrics, which touch on everything from homelessness to child abuse, in a live setting — typically, only two or three of Kiko's 16 tracks make it into a Los Lobos set these days.
Mike Milosh's silky, androgynous voice glides across Robin Hannibal's sparse yet soulful arrangements like fingertips brushing over bedsheets. Woman, the duo's debut album under the name Rhye, was one of the sexiest albums of 2013, or any year for that matter. They resurfaced recently with their first new music since then — a melodic, seductive slow-burner called “Please” and the uncharacteristically bright, upbeat “Summer Days,” which got an even sunnier remix earlier this month from German producer Roosevelt. Hopefully they'll break out more new music this weekend.
It's been three years since Nikki Nack, the last album from Tune-Yards mastermind Merrill Garbus, but word is she's debuting new music on the brief fall run of shows that includes a stop at Music Tastes Good. Live, Garbus and her bassist-boyfriend, Nate Brenner, construct clattering, percussive tracks like “Water Fountain” and “Bizness” on the fly, using lots of looped drums and vocals to create Tune-Yards' quirky, Afro-pop-tinged sound. That will likely still be the formula at MTG — but if you've never seen them live, be prepared to be blow away by Garbus' powerful, soulful pipes on more melody-driven songs like “Wait for a Minute” and “Powa,” the sexiest song ever built around a ukulele riff.
Music Tastes Good takes place Saturday, Sept. 30 and Sunday, Oct. 1 at Marina Green Park in Long Beach. Tickets and more info at mtglb.co.