Arts & Life, Events, Music

Who Is Just Like Heaven For?

This May, a new festival from Goldenvoice called Just Like Heaven will grace the Queen Mary in Long Beach for two days on May 3 and 4. Indie music fans have good reason to be excited, with acts such as Phoenix, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, MGMT and Beach House attending the festival.

But looking further down the roster, a pattern seems prevalent. from Peter Bjorn and John and  Passion Pit to Neon Indian and Washed Out.

A couple bands who broke out in the turn-of-the-2010s indie circuit playing a festival together in 2019 is cool. Three to five is a coincidence, but an entire 20+ band lineup? That’s intentional.

Take a look at music news in 2019 and you will notice a gradual shift in the nostalgic spotlight. In the mainstream, you have the much-hyped Jonas Brothers comeback, which immediately resulted in a number one hit. Goldenvoice may just see an equivalent for the indie crowd.

Just Like Heaven has centered itself on throwing back to a time from roughly 2007 to 2012. So, what does that nostalgia look like, and how does one feel nostalgia for a decade that hasn’t ended yet?

The answer can be summed up in one catchy term of the time: “blogosphere.” Some, including those reporting on the action, recall a simpler time of being a music nerd on the internet.

“There seemed to be a sort of camaraderie between the blogs,” former music blogger Sami Jarroush said.

In his earlier years hosting the now-defunct Rock It Out! Blog on YouTube from 2008 to 2015, Jarroush remembers the general approach in how websites broke stories. If he, Consequence of Sound, Antiquiet, Some Kind of Awesome or TwentyFourBit had first dibs, the other four would be glad to cross-promote.

“Others would celebrate their accomplishment,” he said. “It felt a bit more loose and not as stringent as it is today.”

That sentiment comes through when speaking to artists of the time too. When Memoryhouse first got swept up in the blogosphere hype cycle off their 2010 EP “The Years,” the indie pop duo found support early on. Frontwoman Denise Nouvion cited Pitchfork appearing at their first show, as well as Sub Pop signing them early on, as examples of the indie music industry’s willingness to take risks.

“It wasn’t a top-down system,” she explained. “We would be sending MP3s directly to blogs and the tracks would just have their own legs.”

Yes, Memoryhouse did fit into a sound of the time. Beyond the overlap in their names, the Beach House comparisons were apt, if somewhat oversold. (By 2012’s “The Slideshow Effect,” Memoryhouse had separated themselves from the dream-pop crowd by throwing in more peppy grooves and immediate hooks.) But for Nouvion, what caught the attention of an institution among indie labels like Sub Pop didn’t require the extra layer of studio polish one may need today.

“You were truly getting bedroom pop,” she said.

For Nouvion, this is the main collective appeal of a lineup like Just Like Heaven.

“They’re as big as you get without being commercial,” she said. “It’s melodic without being trite. There’s no exhibitionism.”

If any sentiment runs through all three sides of the music scene a decade ago – artist, media and fan – it remains that attitude. DIY scenes still thrive today, but in most cases, an “alternative” act looking to cross over needs to brush up on how to play the industry game.

Fans have noticed this change in the landscape as well. Lifelong music nerd Johnny Goens, he refered to a 2017 observation by pop music reviewer Todd in the Shadows on how commercially viable indie music now is tied to, well, commercials. To paraphrase, while not a detriment to “Feel It Still,” the fact that Portugal. The Man’s hit was a suitable fit for a Vitaminwater commercial likely played a major role in helping it cross over.

“Since a lot of the subgenres within indie have blown up this decade, there’s been a lot more overlap with the popular scene,” Goens said.

Granted, Memoryhouse’s chart ambitions were never as lofty as Portugal. the Man’s. Nouvion characterized herself and bandmate Evan Abeele early on as “two introverted kids from Canada [who] had never played any shows or nurtured dreams of becoming professional musicians.” Still, she lamented that indie acts in her position today have more filters to put their expression through.

“There’s no referential subtext. It’s just music that’s good,” she explained. “It’s not like, ‘We’re throwing back to the 80s! That’s all we’ve got though!’ They’re just playing music, not selling a brand or trying to compete with Taylor Swift.”

Nouvion tackled the heart of what some miss about this scene’s vibe, aesthetic and work ethic. But what pushes that reminiscing into festival-theming less than a decade later?

Even fans of the lineup attending raise an eyebrow at the concept.

“Not much has changed within the time span from then to now versus if the festival were held in another 10 years,” LBSU sophomore Nicole Tayag said. “So yeah, I think it’s a little soon.”

Goens – while certainly okay with hearing hits from landmark indie pop records like MGMT’s “Oracular Spectacular,” Beach House’s “Teen Dream” and Phoenix’s “Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix” in the same day – echoes that sentiment.

“I don’t think this is the time for it,” he said. “I still think, by the by, the general media populace still sticks to 15 years or older before they start to capitalize on nostalgia.”

Music blogger Jarroush suspects this can be explained by looking beyond the scope of music altogether.

“I think it’s more of the feeling that was in the air when these bands first came on the scene,” he said. “Things seemed a bit more carefree and we weren’t living in a world where it seems like every day there’s a new crisis coming out of the White House. I think people are clamoring for times when they might have felt happier. This music and these bands were the soundtrack to those times.”

Some may attend Just Like Heaven for this reason. Others may just see a solid lineup and have a couple hundred bucks to spare. Maybe it’s some blurry combination of the two. Other mixed thoughts aside, Tayag still feels some attachment for those early high school years when she first got into some of these bands.

“I do miss the simple bass and guitar riffs every once in a while,” she said. “That’s actually the main reason why I decided to buy tickets… Plus the lineup consists of bands I haven’t had the chance to see, so it’s nice to see them in one day.”

Either way, 2010s nostalgia is an admittedly premature idea compared to the countless revivals coming from the ‘90s and first half of the ‘00s. Whether it will make the same cultural impact is difficult to call now. But as Jarroush has pointed out, that time already gives us good reason to look back.

“All of this is just my perspective,” he admitted. “But I fondly look back on the late-‘00s and early-‘10s. It felt special and it felt different.

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