In its first year of existence, Goldenvoice’s newborn festival, Just Like Heaven, showcases mid-2000s nostalgia at its finest.
The fest, named after the 1987 single by The Cure, was held at the scenic Queen Mary Events Park in Long Beach. The towering Queen Mary ship, crystal blue skies, stunning seascapes and city views established a picture-perfect aesthetic for the festival site.
A two-day affair on May 3 rd and May 4th (with the same lineup both days), the festival producers added an additional day due to Saturday’s rapid 15,000 ticket sell out.
Day one began with a bit of a delay with an over half-hour wait for the shuttle, but on the festival grounds, things ran pretty seamlessly. There was easy access into the festival, and once inside, it was simple to navigate your way around. The festival had two stages, Like a Dream and Strange as Angels, and two ways of getting back and forth from each. A tunnel with space-themed paintings, similar to those off of the festival poster, was one route and another, with stairs leading up to a smaller passageway, whimsically lit with neon clouds. Whichever mode you chose, it was fairly efficient.
The festival attracted a diverse range of ages with many reminiscing on the bands they first loved from their 20s and teens. No matter what age, they united in a common love for indie and alternative rock music.
Arriving Friday afternoon the first band I had the pleasure of watching at the Like a Dream Stage, Portland band, STRFKR. The name STRFKR started off as a joke by Sam Norris, an early supporter of the band, and they quickly rose under that title. Dressed in astronaut suits performing their high-powered mix of danceable rock/electro-pop, the collective really knew how to have a good time and get the crowd going. From their infectious originals to their cover of “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun,” the exhilarating performance was met with an equally excited audience. One member was even crowd surfing on a golden swan. It was pretty memorable, to say the least.
At the Strange as Angels Stage was chillwave band Washed Out, playing their first show in seven months. With trippy backdrops such as static TVs and a sea of eyes, the watchers grooved out to a laxed set as they let the soothing sounds wash over them. Washed Out displayed their signature blend of relaxing psych rock and electro-pop.
Following Washed Out, was baroque-pop outfit Ra Ra Riot. I was lucky enough to be attending both days, but many festivalgoers had the arduous task of choosing between their set and the other awaited favorite, Passion Pit. Ra Ra Riot performed songs across their thirteen-year plus catalog, including older hits such as “Can You Tell.” and their most recent hit, “Water”. It was a dynamic performance filled with soaring violin, glossy, smooth vocals and spirited indie-pop soundscapes.
Making my way back to the Like a Dream Stage, I caught Miike Snow’s magnetic performance. A performance filled with pulsing drums, roaring bass, striking synths and even xylophone, the Swedish band resonated with the crowd. Headed by Andrew Wyatt, Oscar winner for co-writing Lady Gaga’s “Shallow” from “A Star Is Born,” the group delivered a jazzy horn section, adding a layer of swing to their indie-pop sound. Proudly announcing, “we can make up our own rules because this is Just Like Heaven,” blowing the audience away with their 10-year-old hit, “Animal,” as the pumped-up crowd jumped in the air.
Over at the Strange as Angels Stage, Brooklyn rock band, Grizzly Bear, brought their ethereal and tender yet vastly layered harmonies. Playing hits like “Yet Again” and their highly admired track, “Two Weeks,” the audience was left in awe of their powerful melodic vocals and deep moody tones.
Lighting up the Like a Dream Stage was the definite standout of the day, MGMT. Highlighting their electrifying psychedelic sound, MGMT performed all the hits you know and love against trippy visuals (i.e. creepy haunted faces, weird stick figures). Their second song of the set, “Time to Pretend,” was an undeniable crowd pleaser as well as the danceable “Electric Feel” that had everyone going wild. The shimmering, Bowiesque track “Me and Michael” complete with a disco ball
backdrop, was a flashback to 80s prom vibes. They ended on a high note with “Kids,” off their 2007 album, ‘Oracular Spectacular’—it was a true showstopper that blasted all the way to the back.
Later that night at Like a Dream, the extremely explosive and hard-hitting Yeah Yeah Yeahs took the stage. Emitting powerful stage presence soaked in self-confidence, Karen O’s masterfully spellbinding performance was pure magic. From deep raspy screams to giant eyeballs bobbing across the crowd, the whole performance was high intensity from start to finish. The band performed their up-tempo classics like “Shellshock,” “Gold Lion,” “Heads Will Roll” and “Sacrilege” while also slowing it down with “Skeletons,” during which Karen O changed into a stunning punk rock flapper attire.
With a heartfelt dedication to her husband and son as well as all the lovers in the crowd, she sang, “Maps” with so much strength and fire it compelled the entire audience to sing along. Nearing the end of her set she belted out “Cheated Hearts” singing “Well, I think that I’m bigger than the sound,” which is only fitting for a larger than life performance like hers.
I arrived catching the tail end of She Wants Revenge on the Like a Dream Stage as they performed their massive 2006 single, “Tear You Apart” with the crowd singing the last line all in unison. After that, I caught indie-pop husband and wife duo, Tennis, who showcased their distinctive electro-funk sound. The duo performed, “I Miss That Feeling,” a breezy 70s studio pop inspired anthem about anxiety.
Directly following their performance on the same stage was French producer, DJ Breakbot. The set narrated the history of disco, taking house music back to its roots. Within a crowd of dancers, the audience went crazy for Daft Punk’s “One More Time”. To quote the song, “don’t stop the dancing”—with all hands in the air, they definitely didn’t.
I moved to the Like a Dream Stage for a fun-filled performance from Passion Pit. They opened the show with some quirky carnival music leading into a set bursting with their signature shimmering sound and effortless falsetto. In a set including “Carried Away” and “1985,” Passion Pit interacted with the crowds saying, “You look amazing. All the way to the back.” They ended on a major high with their hugely successful single “Take a Walk,” which ignited a frenzy of jumpers. Celebrating the 10th anniversary of Manners on Tour, the set was certainly a noteworthy act of the day.
On the Strange as Angels Stage, Orange County natives, Greer, started off with a fairly small crowd due to the Miike Snow fans all crowding to the other stage for his adjacent performance. Displaying a unique style of grungy surf rock, they’ve only released two singles. Showing off their witty sense of humor they said things like “It’s our last song, yay” and “Thank you for coming out…to see Grizzly Bear.”
In the early evening on the same stage was a band that formed back in 2002, Shiny Toy Guns. Exhibiting a heavier alternative rock sound than some of the other acts, they shook things up with their powerful punk vocals, dark intense sound and pounding drums. Performing originals like their hit “Le Disko” and others, they also got the crowd working with an edgy cover of Peter Shilling’s “Major Tom.”
Back for only their second show since reuniting, was New York post-punk band, The Rapture. Utilizing a dynamic array of instruments such as sax, keyboard and bass, the set may have started off slow, but it didn’t take long for the dance party to erupt. With songs “Whoo Alright Yeah Uh Huh,” the rhythmically revved up “House of Jealous Lovers” and ending with “How Deep is Your Love,” the set was one of epic proportions. To quote a passerby as I walked to the other stage, “I don’t even care that I missed the beginning of Yeah Yeah Yeahs. That was amazing.”
It was a first for me to see Phoenix live and they definitely did not disappoint. With crisp electric guitars and heart throbbing drums, the indie-pop band from Versailles, France exploded across the stage. Their constant elevated energy set the tone from the get-go with “Lisztomania,” injecting spectators with a state of bliss as they wildly danced and whaled to every note. With each danceable track exceeding the last, it was a theatrical performance that was out of this world. When the band said, “show me your hands” there was not an arm in the audience that wasn’t raised in appreciation.
Concluding the night with their 2009 smash “1901” to a sea of flailing watchers, it was a glittering display topped off with a massive lit up heart with the words Ti Amo (I love you) written inside. They took the words right out of my mouth.
Festivalgoers reveled in a nostalgic lineup, insane fashion (Pikachu costume, American flag cape, giant wings) and a wide range of flavorsome food vendors. Goldenvoice, who also produces famed festival Coachella, knows how to do festivals right.
Other than a few minor hitches, such as long shuttle waits entering and leaving the festival, for the most part, it was a very smooth and well-oiled machine considering it was in its first year running.
With talks of a return in 2020, I look forward to the possible future comeback.