Just Like Heaven Fest lets fans bask in the afterglow of nostalgia-dripping bands, songs, and moments

Just Like Heaven Fest photos
Just Like Heaven — Photo: Steven Ward

Descending upon the Long Beach shoreline for what in retrospect feels like a cruelly brief moment, Just Like Heaven Fest was true to its name in delivering the sublime in blissful fashion into the ears of its attendees. Boasting all the benefits that have made mini-one-day festivals so vogue in recent years—from tight-lineups comprised of heavy-hitting bands that could themselves headline such an event, to not having to hike miles between four stages to catch five minutes of each band before having to trek back—Just Like Heaven reveled in a simplicity that was no doubt appreciated by fans.

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Just Like Heaven was a pure music festival in its own right, one that stripped away all the excess of and distraction that comes with tacking on art installations, culinary attractions, and other photo-opp worthy pieces onto the event—and instead opting for round-the-clock musical entertainment. Sure there was a pink photo-booth with a picturesque view of the Long Beach skyline and waterfront that Instagram-hungry fans could sink their teeth into; but ultimately Just Like Heaven kept its focus on its stacked lineup of nostalgia-dripping artists and bands—many of which were celebrating some sort of milestone or anniversary.

Just Like Heaven Fest photos
Just Like Heaven — Photo: Steven Ward

And that focus was probably for the best, given the fact that Just Like Heaven’s two stages were in near constant rotation with its loaded lineup (one of them quite literally a rotating stage). One minute you were sipping a Mai Tai from a pineapple while watching STRFKR paint the summer heat all shades of psychedelic with their blistering synth-pop extravagance—astronauts atop inflatable pool-ducks riding a surf of hands and phone screens—and the next you were in a crowd of decade-spanning faces catching The Rapture in a reunion stint, still pummeling away to their post-punk, dance-hall crumbling tunes. In some form or another, Just Like Heaven graced fans with the songs and bands that had at one time delivered something poignant to the adolescence of every face their crowds. And for that reason, Just Like Heaven was also a reunion of longtime fans. As we walked (ran) from stage-to-stage, old faces from shows past were a common occurrence.

The rapture Just Like Heaven Fest photos
The Rapture at Just Like Heaven — Photo: Steven Ward

From the pattering-percussion intro and clarion whistling of Peter Bjorn and John’s hit “Young Folks” to pretty much every indie-pop classic on Phoenix’s now ten-year-old baby Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix, the inherent draw for Just Like Heaven was the promise to relive those first goosebump-inducing moments that came with hearing those songs for the first time.

Passion Pit, fronted by the ever spastic and helium-crooning Michael Angelakos celebrated the blown-out, manic synth-pop of their debut Manners on the Dreams stage—dressing-up all the potent angst and melancholy in their decadent melodies. Fans happily flailed to anthems like “Sleepyhead,” with its heady streaks of inane electronica. These are the kind of indie songs that struck a chord of something nameless in the murky wells of memory that are your youth.

Neon Indian Just Like Heaven Fest photos
Neon Indian at Just Like Heaven — Photo: Steven Ward

Riveting surges of synth-finesse weaved into MGMT‘s cutting pining for the past with songs like “Kids” and “Time To Pretend.” Or even in just those stark tones that—when played—unravel a memory or feeling in time that was momentarily forgotten; Neon Indian, the moniker upheld by electro-psych-wizard Alan Palomo, might be most recognizable for those streaks of synth on “Polish Girl,” but the man has an endless vault of hits he was more than happy to share Saturday night with fans.

And even if your youth wasn’t decorated by the synth sounds of revival from a decade ago—like the crowd of 30-somethings who discovered Australian electronic act Miami Horror on that hot Saturday afternoon, but were more than delightfully eager to dance to the band’s disco-tinted tracks—Just Like Heaven was more than happy to stretch out across the genre divide.

Just Like Heaven Fest photos miami's horror
Miami Horror at Just Like Heaven — Photo: Steven Ward
Just Like Heaven Fest photos
Just Like Heaven — Photo: Steven Ward

Grizzly Bear has long been an indie-rock staple and the elusive band made their appearance at Just Like Heaven a worthwhile one—”Two Weeks” and “Yet Again” the instant crowd pleasers because for many they were that first introduction to Edward Droste and company. And there was just something so sublime about Droste’s deep croon delivered in the blinding yellow light of a Californian sunset.

But not every act at Just Like Heaven was a throwback—Tennis, a somewhat of a newcomer that has grown rightfully-so in recent years, thrilled fans with their dreamy-pop antics. Surrounded by a lineup of classic acts, Tennis was a standout piece with Moore’s swooning cries cementing the duo in the hearts and minds of those present.

Tennis Just Like Heaven Fest photos
Tennis at Just Like Heaven — Photo: Steven Ward

Just Like Heaven was filled with moments like this—moments that saw a band or artist in that niche, that groove that another ten-years from now would see others looking back in allure and fondness.

Nowhere else was that glossy-eyed dream present than during Beach House’s set. An ethereal space fantasy of colossal sonic size of which Victoria Legrand—an angel-voiced wraith in the night—was the mouthpiece for. There’s a cinematic quality that always engulfs the band’s massive soundscapes and as a result, their discography has no doubt soundtracked a wide-breadth of emotional experiences across the lives of the crowd that stood wide-eyed and floating in front of them this past weekend.

Phoenix Just Like Heaven Fest photos
Phoenix at Just Like Heaven — Photo: Steven Ward

In a phenomenal, one-two punch of thrilling bombast, Just Like Heaven then shoved its attendees out of that stupor with a back-to-back showing of Karen O howling into the night with the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Thomas Mars leading Phoenix into a body-shaking carnival of the best of indie-rock and indie-pop.

Long and far into the night, Just Like Heaven touched on—and in some ways became apart of—the preciousness of memory its bands had affirmed for their fans over the years.

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