This weekend's Music Tastes Good festival in Long Beach brings with it some top-notch headliners spanning several generations of rock, pop, Latin and hip-hop artists, from veteran acts such as The Specials, Squeeze, Living Colour and De La Soul to exciting recent arrivals like Warpaint, Sylvan Esso, Gallant and Rival Sons. But part of why we declared MTG to have arguably the fall's best festival lineup is its equally stacked undercard, which includes such rising local and international stars as LGBTQ rap provocateur Le1f, soul seducer Nick Waterhouse and East L.A. Latin folk fusionists Las Cafeteras.
You're probably familiar with most of the acts we've mentioned so far — but even in the earliest time slots on all three days of Music Tastes Good (Sept. 23-25), there are some semi-hidden gems worth seeking out. Here are five MTG acts you might not have heard of who are well worth showing up early for.
Son Little (LB BLVD Stage, Friday, 7:15-7:50 p.m.)
Philly native Aaron “Son Little” Livingston's music evokes classic blues and R&B, but filtered through a decidedly modern sensibility; he lists Grizzly Bear and Kendrick Lamar as major inspirations, alongside more obvious touchstones like Mavis Staples and Howlin' Wolf. His self-titled 2015 debut on Anti- Records is filled with timeless grooves, swampy guitar and soulful vocals. Fans of Gary Clark Jr. and Alabama Shakes won't want to miss his Friday night set.
Rudy de Anda (LB BLVD Stage, Saturday, 1:35-2:05 p.m.)
It will be worth getting to MTG early on Saturday to catch the self-described “prog-pop” excursions of Long Beach's own Rudy de Anda, who is fresh off the release of his debut album, Delay, Cadaver of a Day, earlier this summer. Filled with inventive guitar hooks and rollicking rhythms, Delay recalls the far-out psych-rock excursions of Connan Mockasin, but roots them in a laid-back, surf-pop vibe that is pure Southern California. De Anda doesn't yet have the profile of other local heroes like Ty Segall and Wavves' Nathan Williams, but he's got enough talent to get there soon.
Los Master Plus (Solar Stage, Saturday, 2:45-3:15 p.m.)
This Guadalajara duo calls their funky, frisky, occasionally ridiculous sound “cumbiatrónica.” Like their fellow Mexican electro-rockers Kinky, they freely mix elements of rock, hip-hop, funk, cumbia, samba, norteño and pretty much anything else that comes to hand, layering everything like a long-simmered mole for maximum party-starting deliciousness. If their live set is half as entertaining in their tongue-in-cheek videos, they should be one of the highlights of the weekend.
The Dead Ships (Linden Stage, Saturday, 3:45-4:15 p.m.)
This L.A. trio plays straightforward, throwback rock & roll anchored by big hooks, tight songwriting and the just-this-side-of-unhinged vocals of frontman Devlin McCluskey, who howls the choruses of propulsive songs like “Company Line” and “The Big Quiet” like a less bro'd-out version of Cage the Elephant's Matt Shultz. No wonder they booked a spot on the Coachella lineup earlier this year before they were even signed.
Christian Scott (LB BLVD Stage, Sunday, 3:15-4:00 p.m.)
If you had to pick an East Coast counterpart to L.A. jazz gatecrasher Kamasi Washington, you might have to go with New Orleans-bred trumpeter Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah, who at 33 has already racked up over a decade's worth of groundbreaking material, including a Grammy-nominated 2006 debut album, Rewind That, that Billboard called “arguably the most remarkable premiere the genre has seen in the last decade” and a 2010 album, Yesterday You Said Tomorrow, that might be one of the most fully realized jazz albums of the past decade. Scott calls his restless, adventurous sound “stretch music” (also the name of his most recent album), and you can bet many of L.A.'s top jazz artists will be in attendance at this rare West Coast appearance getting their minds stretched.