Subtitle: Josh Fischel’s Music Taste Good…even without Josh

Long Beach tastes awfully good this weekend. Beautiful, but for some of us a bit bittersweet, too. Thanks, Josh (and everyone at @musictastesgood).

Dude, Ween just played my festival!

That is exactly what Josh Fischel would say the next time I saw him. If only there were a next time. I know just how his voice would sound, just how his eyes would look, just how he’d smile as soon as he finished the last syllable.

The emphasis would have been on his pleasure, not on the “my.” He would never try to take all the credit. It would never have been called “Josh Fischel’s Music Tastes Good” were he living. But he’s not, and so it is. As it should be. It’s his baby. Josh Fischel is survived by family, a whole helluva lot of friends, a grateful city, and a music festival.

He’d be so stoked (a totally Josh phrase, so stoked) with what his friends and family just did to keep his baby alive and thriving, and not just because Ween played his festival. (Although, dude, Ween. All you need to know about how epic that was is that Josh made space in his music-crammed life for a Ween cover band named Stallion among his ongoing projects during his last years.) Compile a playlist of the artists on the lineup, and you’ll immediately hear that the diversity Josh championed at last year’s festival returned this go-round in full effect, diversity showcased on a pair stages serving up fantastic sound all day(s) and diggable lighting by night.

There’s no getting around that the setting for the inaugural Music Tastes Good was magical. Transforming a chunk of the East Village Arts District into a tiny music town with full-size performances happening every which way you turned was truly inspired. But undoubtedly there were plenty of pragmatic reasons to move it somewhere a little more readymade for such an event. That somewhere was Marina Green Park (the green swath on the south side of Shoreline as it curves up toward Ocean Boulevard), and the Music Tastes Good team smartly played to the park’s advantages. The most obvious is the topography. The two stages were located at opposite ends of the long, grassy stretch, with the large variety of vendors placed so that there were both wide thoroughfares and always plenty of room to lie down, dance, or do whatever else you felt however near to or far from each stage that was in your comfort zone. They call it flow. This festival had flow.

Then there was the art (i.e., in addition to the music). Last year’s Music Tastes Good had some nice pieces, but this year’s arts component benefited by lesser and more unified acreage featuring slightly more installations (all of them excellent in their own ways), thereby producing more of ambiance (including the Garage Theatre’s parade, a New Orleans-style second line (courtesy of Sea Funk Brass Band) hybridized with a bit of Burning Man meets a dragon dance with an undersea theme and aerial silks) than mere decoration.

And maybe even more so than last year, there was this vibe. It’s not just a Long Beach thing, but it’s definitely a Long Beach thing. In this town it always seems not just okay to do your own thing, but right. I imagine that vibe wasn’t lost on the people who came from elsewhere (I know it wasn’t lost on the ones I talked with), and it’s the kind of thing that makes people want to come back.

For those of us who live here, of course, it’s the kind of thing that makes us want to stay (and that makes so many people who’ve left but not strayed too far fall in love with Long Beach again every time they return). For us, Music Tastes Good—this year’s, especially—typifies in bigger-than-life fashion that Long Beach thing where the cool event you go to is made so much cooler by the people who are there. We connect, we reconnect, we celebrate our community—a celebration that makes our community better still.

There was never a better catalyst for that beautiful feedback loop than Josh, and nothing about Josh Fischel’s Music Tastes Good would have made him more stoked than that. That’s the one simply sucky thing about this year’s festival: Josh’s absence. He isn’t here to enjoy how his labors keep bearing fruit. He doesn’t get to see how much he’s still doing for us. And Ween played his festival. Dude!

“I’m leaving the party […] much earlier than I’d like,” terminally ill Christopher Hutchins remarked about a year before his death from esophageal cancer in 2011. “[…] And not only that, but the party will go on without me—an even more horrible thought!” There’s a complementary feeling for those of us remaining at the party after a loved one has left. It’s as if the party’s continuation is unjust and we’re doing our dear departed a disservice by lingering. But continue it does. So we can sit in a corner and mope, or we can get up and enjoy it as much as we can. That’s not forgetting; if we do it right, it’s honoring the memory and the life.

Josh knew that. He honored it in “The Ballad of Bargain Music”, a song that’s more than a little about loss. We go on and on and on, yeah, we go on. It’s a simple statement of that profound truth. We go on. That’s Josh Fischel’s Music Tastes Good. We’re going on—exactly as he would have wanted. And the party’s better for his having been here a while. He may have left much too early, but you damn well know he was here.

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