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JUST LIKE HEAVEN: A CURE FOR NOSTALGIA

I woke up at 6am on Sunday morning unable to breathe, or even get myself out of bed (my hip was locked, I quickly discovered). In the ’80s, this would’ve signified the aftermath of an imprudent night out, rather than the price of spending eight hours at Goldenvoice’s Just Like Heaven festival at Queen Mary Park in Long Beach.

You gotta hand it to Goldenvoice—they’ve locked in the L.A. concert market from puberty (Coachella) to grave (Desert Trip), with this past weekend’s launch of Just Like Heaven (named after a song of the same title by The Cure) targeting those of us who think that Coachella years 2011-2014 are the ne plus ultra of the festival’s tenure. Where we are with respect to the grave is an open question.

After selling out the 5/4 show in a heartbeat, Goldenvoice added another show on 5/3 with the same lineup (with one exception: Louis XIV replacing Shiny Toy Guns on Friday), which also sold out with walk-up. The main “Like a Dream” stage hosted headliners Phoenix (who headlined Coachella 2013), along with Yeah Yeah Yeahs, MGMT, Miike Snow (who is always a revelation), Passion Pit (currently on tour with superheroines The Beaches), Strfkr, She Wants Revenge, Peter Bjorn and John and Tokyo Police Club, all of whom have played Coachella in festivals past.

The “Strange As Angels” stage, named for another line in The Cure song “Just Like Heaven,” occupied the real estate closest to the Queen Mary, accessible from the main stage by a metal bridge (no thanks) or a tunnel (painted with Insta-worthy angel wings, clouds and ascending spaceships.)  “Just Like Heaven” was released in 1987, years before most of the namesake festival’s attendees were born. We arrived as Washed Out was finishing and caught most of Greer (whose singer, Josiah Greer, is the fourth most popular Josiah on Instagram), a promising young band booked by Robby Fraser at WME.

While waiting for Grizzly Bear to start, I asked the people standing closest to me why they were at this particular festival. The blogger (as she self-identified) said the lineup was, in her words, “nostalgia,” reminding her of college. The woman with her, likely within a few decades of my own age (old), said that she “used” to be involved in the music scene in San Francisco, and this was a way to reconnect with indie rock, minus the “ridiculousness” (sic) of Coachella.

The crowd of many thousands sang along to Grizzly Bear’s “Two Weeks,” which had a good run on KBZT San Diego in 2009. (I remember getting that add—any add on an indie band is still a victory for me.) By the time my plus-one/“mom” friend Amie and I ventured back to the main stage for MGMT, the crowd was shoulder-to-shoulder. The one upside of being a veteran of the 1979 Who show in Cincinnati (yep, I was there) is that I’m fearless when it comes to pushing my way forward (or sideways, as was the case here) through thousands of concert-goers.

Finally, we found the VIP entrance and we were then pulled towards the soundboard by manager Dave Gottleib. I hadn’t seen MGMT in a few years, and the 10k fans (according to Goldenvoice’s Elliott Lefko, although it looked like twice as many to me) started freaking out from the first note. I turned to the band’s co-manager Mark Kates, a friend since 1983, and yelled above the music, “This band will be fine if they never have another song on the radio again.” Then again, “Kids” has had 12,000 cumulative spins between KROQ and ALT98.7, not to mention another 5,000 spins on “Electric Feel.” After some thought, the word “nostalgia,” used earlier, made me rethink what I had said. “The band needs another hit,” I now shouted in Dave’s ear, unaware that I was poking a hornet’s nest about whether or not “Me and Michael,” which peaked at #45, had been given its due. A Tame Impala/MGMT tour would be a simpatico (and massive) presentation of two sides of the same coin. How great would that be?

One of the many things I admired about Just Like Heaven was the absence of Insta-celebrities backstage. The only “influencers” present were the musicians, as it should be. I was backstage only long enough to say hello to Thomas Mars from Phoenix, my musical crush since I first heard “If I Ever Feel Better” circa 2000.

Amie wanted to make sure we had a decent viewing spot for Yeah Yeah Yeahs (whose “Bang” I worked at radio for Touch & Go in 2001), so we again elbowed our way through the crowd until we found KROQ’s Gene Sandbloom and his daughter Elle in VIP. The crowd ERUPTED when Karen O. took the stage, responding to her arrival with the fervor reserved for true musical royalty. From Baby Boomers to Gen-Z kids—with an even mix of male and female fans—the Yeah Yeah Yeahs electrified us all.

En masse, we ventured to the Strange as Angels stage for Beach House—their Depression Cherry album on Sub Pop is my favorite record of the past few years.  My 18-year-old niece just asked me for tickets for their Baltimore show—as with most of the artists on the festival, Beach House’s appeal is multi-generational.I left believing that Just Like Heaven was the furthest thing from “nostalgia” because each band’s performance was the best I’d ever seen from them, and I believe unequivocally that their best work is still ahead of them. Show me how you do that trick.

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