Just a few days after he saw his latest dream come to life, Long Beach resident and music industry vet Josh Fischel died, leaving a legacy of inspirational city music events and musical collaborations.
He was a resident of the city for nearly 20 years, an innovator with a talented ear for music, a past collaborator with bands like Sublime. He possessed a network that spanned the globe—something he brought to Long Beach, perhaps most notably, through the diverse lineup at last weekend’s three-day Music Tastes Good festival.
Fischel died at a local hospital of liver complications, according to close friend and business partner Jon Halperin. He was with his family and is survived by his wife, brother and mother, who flew in from Europe to see him.
According to Halperin, Fischel saw Music Tastes Good through to the last day. He went to bed Sunday night and woke up at 2:30AM Monday morning in pain. His wife rushed him straight to the hospital, where he stayed in an induced coma through early Thursday evening.
Halperin spoke to the Post while leaving the hospital Thursday, in disbelief. Fischel’s passion and drive had fueled the creation and operation of Music Tastes Good, and Halperin said he and Fischel had discussed organizing the 2017 festival the week prior.
Halperin said Fischel loved everything about the festival, saying it had been everything he hoped it would be.
“I mean, I got a text Sunday morning saying, ‘Wow. What a night,’” said Halperin.
As the Live After 5 curator, the founder and art director of RIOTstage and a 2015 Go Long Beach Award winner, Fischel was well-established in the Long Beach music and art scene before Music Tastes Good. His influences could be felt in the free events he put together for the city at Live After 5.
“These were huge productions that he did for the city that were free for everybody,” said Halperin.
Mayor Robert Garcia described Fischel's impact on the city and his positive interactions with those around him.
"Long Beach lost a true visionary in Joshua Fischel. His contributions to music, the arts, and to building a creative community will not be forgotten," said Garcia in a statement today. "He was so kind, and it was an honor to know him and enjoy the art he created. What a sad day for Long Beach and for all those that loved and knew him."
Brian Addison of the Downtown Long Beach Associates (DLBA), who worked alongside Fischel to bring Live After 5 to fruition, wrote about working with a man with a vision, to make Long Beach a music city again.
He was known for pushing the envelope, undertaking musical endeavors that might make even the most practiced musician shy away. In February of 2014, former Long Beach Post editor Sarah Bennett wrote of Fischel’s social experiment to busk in Long Beach, where every day for a month you could find him singing and playing his guitar on a street corner in the city.
Although originally Fischel did it “just to play,” according to the article, it became a way to soften the city to more public acoustic performances, a way to make Long Beach a little more open to public displays of talent and artistry and resulted in meeting like-minded people wanting to step up the city’s entertainment game. He ended his month-long experiment with 20 friends in front of Fingerprints with a grand busking finale.
Fischel also founded and directed RIOTstage, which was “a new kind of musical theater,” wrote Sander Roscoe Wolff for the Post last year. Fischel worked with the Bixby Knolls Business Improvement Association to put together sold-out shows at the Expo Arts Center on Atlantic Avenue. Executive Director Blair Cohn posted today regarding Fischel’s passing, admiring his ambition to raise the bar for both music and arts in Long Beach.
Before RIOTstage, Fischel fronted local band Bargain Music and his passion project Josh Fischel & The Fiction. And while he grew up in Southern California, he moved to New York at age 21, immersing himself in the indie and foreign film scene there, only to move back to Long Beach where he’s been a resident for nearly 20 years. The energy he’s given to creating spaces and opportunities for Long Beach’s musicians and creatives to perform has served to create a unique sense of community, his friends said.
But Music Tastes Good was meant to be his ultimate gift to Long Beach; a labor of love to push the vision even further, after dealing with illness for a number of years. Halperin said there will be a second festival.
The Post spotted Fischel taking the stage with the Friday performers the Sound of Urchin, and later watching experimental hip hop group Clipping. take the Elm Avenue stage on Saturday. As entertained as he seemed by the actual performance, he was more so watching the crowd’s enthusiastic enjoyment of the set, smiling subtly with his hands clasped in front of him, only to stroll away with a look of satisfaction on his face.
“This wouldn’t have been anything if it weren’t for Josh,” said Halperin. “It’s his legacy.”
Music Tastes Good curator Josh Fischel honored by early act #SoundsofUrchin on night one of the three-day music fest. Later tonight: LB-based RIVAL SONS to perform.Posted by Long Beach Post on Friday, September 23, 2016
Josh Fischel was honored by The Sound of Urchin on day one of the three-day Music Tastes Good festival, when they invited him onstage to perform "Tom Sawyer" by Rush.
Above, left: File photo.