Music Tastes Good Festival Returns to Long Beach One Year After Founder's Death

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Sean Laughlin
Abbie Fischel

The rechristened Josh Fischel’s Music Tastes Good Festival will feature headliners Ween and Sleater-Kinney.

It was always Josh Fischel’s dream to create a musical homage to the bustling port city of Long Beach, California, a mini-metropolis of a half-million residents on the southern edge of Los Angeles County. Now, one year after his death, Fischel's wife Abbie and his friends are keeping his memory alive by staging the second musical tribute to Long Beach with some of Fischel's favorite bands performing.

In 2016, Fischel, a longtime touring musician and documentary filmmaker, joined forces with SoCal talent-buyer Jon Halperin to create the Music Tastes Good festival, an independent showcase of the city’s vibrant music scene with national artists like Gallant, Warpaint, Living Colour and The Specials attracting fans to SoCal’s second-most diverse city behind Los Angeles. Music Tastes Good was created as an homage to a town that gave the world the music of Snoop Dogg, Warren G and Sublime but rarely gets world-class concerts because of its proximity to Los Angeles and Orange County and a radius-clause system that makes major concerts in the city nearly impossible.

Despite a few minor hiccups in their inaugural year, Halperin and Fischel’s first major festival was a success, applauded by the media and Long Beach locals. But as crews began to deconstruct the festival site, Fischel became gravely ill and was rushed to the hospital. Complications from a liver disease had caught up with the 47-year-old performer and that night, hours after his vision for Long Beach had finally come together, he passed away.

Despite the loss of their founder, the hometown crew that built the festival is reconvening for 2017, rechristening the two-day event as Josh Fischel’s Music Tastes Good with Ween and Sleater-Kinney headlining and performances by Ride, Charles Bradley & His Extraordinaires, Alvvays, Los Lobos, of Montreal, Dr. Octagon, local favorites Dengue Fever and many more.

“Ween was Josh’s favorite band,” Halperin says of the iconic and iconoclastic rock duo that is Gene and Dean Ween. "Having Ween lead the lineup is a testament to Josh's legacy and we're really lucky to have them. They're not a band who goes and tours 200 dates a year. They play very few selected shows. My eyes welled up when they confirmed. It was really special for everybody involved.”

Unlike other major festivals, Music Tastes Good was always intended to serve as a live playlist created by Halperin and Fischel for Long Beach, with music curated to Long Beach’s diverse musical tastes

“This isn't us going out there and fishing for bands,” Halperin tells Billboard. “We book the festival with very specific ideas of what we want and what we think makes sense. Many of these bands were on Josh’s list last year."

Music Tastes Good is also a chance to showcase the city's budding food scene, explains Fischel’s wife Abbie Fischel, and introduce the artistic world to downtown Long Beach’s many restaurants, bars and hidden gems.

 “Josh was very passionate about bringing musicians to Long Beach to see what a great town it is,” she tells Billboard. "He loved everything about this city."

Fischel, a therapist and multi-generation Long Beach native, first met Josh at one of his acoustic shows and the couple eventually married in 2011. She said this year’s festival location — moving from Pine Avenue to Marina Green Park in Long Beach — holds a special place in her heart.

"The week before last year's Music Tastes Good, Josh and I had gone down to the Folk Festival at Rainbow Harbor and we had to park in Marina Green,” she said. "As we were walking in, for whatever reason, Josh grabbed me and just kissed me and said, 'You're my best friend and I love you.’ A week and a half later, he passed away.”

Besides music and art, Music Tastes Good includes an interactive food element with a culinary experience that includes chefs from the city's top restaurants as well as Long Beach's sister city New Orleans. 

Music Tastes Good Festival is scheduled for Sept. 30 & Oct. 1 at Marina Green Park in Long Beach. Tickets go on sale Friday. For more information, visit mtglb.co.