“Put your hands up because how many times does a festival like this happen?” shouted Passion Pit frontman Michael Angelakos. Well, music festivals? Pretty often. But something like the iPod-era lineup at this weekend’s Just Like Heaven? Surprisingly rarely.
Phoenix, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, MGMT and Beach House headlined the inaugural Long Beach event, which seemed to answer the question, “Where were all the indie rock bands in the Coachella lineup?” But Just Like Heaven took an even deeper dive into the “nostalgic early aughts fun,” as Grizzly Bear’s Ed Droste described it, dredging up rarely-seen bands like the Faint and the Rapture.
The Rapture’s sunset shakedown set a clear high-energy standard for Friday’s fest (which reprised an identical schedule on Saturday). But it was also, as the cowbell solo kicked off “House of Jealous Lovers,” the moment that elicited the most introspective “This song came out how long ago??” moment. (Seriously, watch this video of the Rapture playing the track on Letterman in 2003—the early aughts look ancient).
There’s always a risk with throwback-heavy lineups: Just because a band gives you the warm and fuzzies doesn’t mean they’re the best fit for a festival setting anymore. But Just Like Heaven eluded that pitfall with a sharp slate of acts and a well-paced day of snappy, back-to-back sets spread across two stages. The crowd actually skewed slightly younger than we were expecting (if you exclude headphone-protected toddlers), but there’s no doubt the primary audience was a cohort who never gave up American Spirits and came of age at a time when the world also kind of sucked and the musical response was to alternatingly mope and dance it off.
The old-school conceit—a single-day, genre-focused concert—seems so obvious, but in the face of multi-day, experience-driven destinations, Just Like Heaven feels oddly novel. It’s not the only concert of its kind, though: Promoter Goldenvoice has a bunch of similarly narrow-focused festivals (including the R&B-heavy Smokin’ Grooves and West Coast hip-hop–filled Once Upon a Time in the LBC) set to take over the grounds in front of the Queen Mary, as part of a deal that kicked off in 2018. L.A.’s summer concert scene has been in search of a fitting festival spot for years now, and the industrial blank canvas on the waterfront seems the current locale to call out to promoters. But the bigger deal is the type of fests landing in Long Beach, ones that—particularly with the death of FYF—fend off festival fatigue by letting Goldenvoice’s own Coachella reign supreme as the catch-all escape for teens and twentysomethings, while divvying up the music-first events into tight, genre-focused concerts that still allow you to sleep in your own bed at night.
That’s not to say Just Like Heaven was totally devoid of made-for-Insta moments: There were bold murals, a painted pair of angel wings or two, adorable tiki cocktails from Beer Belly and so-hot-right-now smashburgers from Love Hour. But the focus here was instead on all of the indie dads and moms on stage.
Check out more of our best photos from Just Like Heaven below.