Beyond the Lineup: Just Like Heaven

There’s just something magical about standing in a sprawling crowd, humming with anticipation, as the sun dips below the horizon and your favorite act takes the stage. It’s a shared experience you won’t get from a Spotify playlist or a YouTube clip—a moment where thousands of individual stories converge, and people from all walks of life connect through their shared love of music. That’s the enchanting allure of music festivals, and they don’t get any better than Just Like Heaven. 

Last year’s edition of Just Like Heaven was… well, you guessed it, just like heaven! Bursting with an eclectic blend of music, art, and youthful energy, the festival truly was a wholesome sensory overload. The lineup was like a snapshot of our collective memory of good times, featuring an irresistible mix of indie favorites and emerging talents, all nestled within a backdrop of vibrant, multi-colored stages dotting the scenic seaside venue. 

“Those who were lucky enough to attend will remember the spark of connection, the sense of community that radiated through the crowd as we swayed, jumped, and sang along in harmony. It was, in short, a little slice of paradise.” I reminisced, still wrapped up in that sublime feeling.

I can still breathe in the electrifying air when MGMT (Management) hit the stage, fully immersed in their legendary performance of ‘Oracular Spectacular’ in its entirety. A wave of collective euphoria swept over the crowd as the familiar, enchanting beats of ‘Time to Pretend’ and ‘Electric Feel’ reverberated through the festival grounds. I found myself overcome with awe, awash in a sea of radiant smiles and hypnotic lights. The heart-stirring poetry was not just sung—it was felt, a tangible thread connecting every festival-goer. MGMT, in that magic-laden night, successfully painted an aural picture as vivid as any masterpiece. They had ascended to more than musicians—they had become visual artists of sound. 

Empire of the Sun—who with their trademark interstellar aesthetics and pulsating synth lines, took the audience on an uncharted journey across the galaxy. The electronic duo, famed for their fantastic theatricality, offered up an immersive spectacle, surpassing the mundane confines of a typical festival performance. Their ethereal hits, such as ‘Walking on a Dream’, metamorphosed the sea of bodies into a swirling cosmos, each fan a star, twinkling and dancing with unbridled joy. Standing there, I couldn’t help but marvel at the majestic panorama – a sensory tableau of sound, vision, and shared human connection. 

Finally, in a crescendo of raw, untamed energy, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs stormed the stage for the headlining performance. Karen O, indomitable and resplendent in her signature fiery style, led a performance that was a riotous celebration of indie rock. The wild pulse of ‘Maps’, the frenetic verve of ‘Heads Will Roll’—each track was a thunderous anthem that set the heart racing and the blood pumping. As their set concluded in a medley of lights, confetti, and roaring applause, I—at once drained and exhilarated—realized that this was more than a festival; it was a venture into the most jubilant crevices of the human experience, a celebration of life told in a rhythm that continues to echo in my veins even now.

As the echoes of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs subsided into the night, I couldn’t help but stand there in awe, eagerly imagining the delights of 2024’s lineup. (Hint: it’s sensational.) Like a siren’s song, the tantalizing prospect of seeing Postal Service, Phoenix, and Death Cab for Cutie perform on this hallowed ground sent shivers down my spine. 

First up – the Postal Service. Known for their whispering synths and gagged drums, they are sonic poets, threading emotional narratives through biting beats. When their signature ‘Such Great Heights’ rolls through the speakers next year, it will be a testament to the transcendental power of music, uniting thousands of strangers in a shared euphoria. 

But let’s not forget Phoenix—the indie pop band that, just like its mythical namesake, always brings a resounding resurgence of energy in their dynamic performances. Sweltering guitar riffs, infectious rhythms, and catchy choruses (‘Lisztomania’ anyone?)—Phoenix’s set is guaranteed to set hearts aflame and the festival grounds vibrating with palpable electricity. 

And then, there’s Death Cab for Cutie, the mavericks of indie rock, with their deeply emotive lyrics and resonant melodies etching indelible memories into our hearts. Their songs like ‘I Will Follow You into the Dark’ and ‘Transatlanticism’ hold a mirror to our innermost feelings, creating intimate connections within the crowd—a silent, collective understanding steeped in the reverie of shared experiences. 

The 2024 lineup beckons with so much promise, each band marking a different, thrilling chapter in our shared festival story. As I ponder these future celebrations, I can feel the vibrant, pulsating heartbeat of tomorrow’s headliners, the rhythmic force of anticipation itself, reverberating through the still night air. Rest assured, my friends, the joy of the festival lies not only in the past or the present, but also the glorious future waiting patiently on the horizon.

As we together envision our jubilant return to the beloved festival grounds, let’s not overlook the unique charm that our host city, Pasadena, so generously infuses into our collective experience. Tucked away in the sun-soaked vista of Southern California, Pasadena has a character – a soul if you prefer – and it emerges in quiet, stirring whispers, demanding our heightened attention. 

Imagine strolling down the vibrant streets of Old Pasadena, where historic architecture coalesces with a plethora of contemporary delights – charming boutiques, tantalizing eateries, and pulsating dance floors. Feel the energy, the soundtrack of laughter and music echoing off the city’s brick façades, nurturing our communal crescendo. 

Yet, the beauty of Pasadena lies not solely in its bustling urban vitality, but also in the serene pockets of nature waiting to embrace us (like an old friend) with outstretched arms. The dazzling emerald tapestry of The Huntington Library’s botanical gardens offers the perfect respite before the electrifying evenings. And then there’s the stunning Arroyo Seco (literally ‘dry stream’ in Spanish), a tranquil haven that bears witness to our transient reverie each year, a silent audience cheering on our collective dreams. 

Indeed, the fun of our festival doesn’t begin with the first act on stage, and it certainly doesn’t end with the last note of the closing anthem. Instead, it is born of the joy we find in exploring Pasadena’s urban charm, heightened by the shared camaraderie as we weave in and out of local attractions, and lives on in the tranquil parks and scenic trails that paint our beloved host city. So, as we eagerly anticipate our festival return, let’s not forget to celebrate the understated magic of Pasadena, another beautiful chapter in our shared story of exploration and discovery.

– Cory Watson

Instagram: @thecorywatson


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