It felt like the gods were smiling on Music Tastes Good this weekend. While we’re accustomed to great weather here in SoCal, the conditions couldn’t have been more perfect for the third installment of this awesome Long Beach festival. And the people responded: Music fans and foodies from all walks of life turned up to soak up the sun, the sounds, and those tastes.
Over its three years, Music Tastes Good has evolved intelligently. In 2016, it was a three-day affair, starting on Friday, but the organizers wisely dialed it back. The following year, Ween and Sleater-Kinney headlined the streamlined but ultimately punchier mini-fest.
So here we are in 2018, and the bar has been raised considerably. Brit synth-pop vets New Order and celebrated singer-songwriter James Blake were the high-profile headliners on Saturday and Sunday, respectively, with the likes of Broken Social Scene, Joey Bada$$, Santigold, Janelle Monae and The Black Angels sittin in lofty positions in what are two super-impressive lineups spread across two stages.
On Saturday, Santigold put in an intense and spellbinding set of reggae-fused, synth-y pop-rock, while Broken Social Scene’s hypnotic alt-rock proved to be perfect festival fodder, each song seemingly more layered than the last. New Order were simply superb. Our original intention was to dash away midway through the set to catch a bit of Joey Bada$$, but we couldn’t tear ourselves away — sorry, Joey.
New Order have been around for 38 years now, having formed out of the ashes of Joy Division (a JD T-shirt for sale at the merch stand reminded everyone exactly where this band came from, for anyone that needed it). But they rolled back the years in Long Beach.
“What a great festival,” New Order frontman Bernard Sumner said midway through the set. “It’s got a really nice vibe.” He’s right, too. New Order blended newer tunes with crowd faves, resulting in a cohesive, energetic set. So we got “Regret,” “True Faith,” “Blue Monday,” and a closing “Temptation,” before a surprise encore of Joy Division’s “Love Will Tear Us Apart.” Magnificent.
Earlier in the day, highlights included Quintron & Miss Pussycat’s oddball experimental synth-pop/puppet show and British band Shame’s no-nonsense, snotty mod-punk. Day one was an unmitigated success.
There were few sights more iconic or impressive than that of Janelle Monáe sat on a throne, belting out killer tune “Django Jane,” and the powerful R&B star was thrilling on Sunday evening. The lines, “Let the vagina have a monologue, Mansplaining, I fold em like origami, What's a wave, baby? This a tsunami,” perhaps hit home even harder this week than usual, as Monáe put in a vitally important performance.
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There was plenty to enjoy earlier in the day too, with local two-piece The Blow, Ethiopian jazz artists Ethio Cali and Hailu Mergia, female Latin powerhouse group Ladama and British reggae singer Hollie Cook all contributing wonderful performances. Ezra Furman and his band The Visions, meanwhile, cut through the chill Sunday vibes with an uncompromising raw garage-punk set that shook away some afternoon cobwebs.
All in all, MTG was a wonderful two-day experience. The food was indeed fantastic, while the art that was dotted around the site brightened up a scene that was already gleaming.
Roll on next year.