The best festivals on the annual calendar do more than congregate great bands, delicious food, and eye-popping art. Like the palm trees and desert winds at Coachella, and the fountains and landscaping of Chicago’s Grant Park at Lollapalooza, the events that grow into massive phenomena are grounded in the way they integrate, connect with, and embody the spirit of their surroundings.
Which is to say, if Saint Rocke owner Allen Sanford, Pennywise singer Jim Lindberg, and LiveList founder Rob Lissner play their cards right in the years to come, they should have a long-lasting hit on their hands in the BeachLife Festival. The inaugural gathering on Redondo Beach proved to be the perfect combination of timeless music, tasty local eats, coastal vibes, and a wide variety of accommodations to fit just about any budget. Better yet, seemingly every decision made by the organizers—up to and including the use of falcons on site to scare away seagulls, pigeons, and other pesky birds—showed a respect for and understanding of this spectacular setting.
The 8.6-acre site across from the Crowne Plaza Hotel tidily contained the entire three-day festival and made for quick trekking for the all-age, easygoing crowd. Whether swaying to Bruce Hornsby’s classics on the turf at the HighTide Stage, skipping to Donavon Frankenreiter in the sand at the LowTide Stage, or rocking out to Lost Beach between food vendors at the smaller RipTide Stage, BeachLife offered a sampling of comfortable settings in which to enjoy a slate of artists well-suited to the clientele native to Los Angeles’ South Bay.
Even in that small space, the festival managed to pack in plenty of creature comforts, from free arcade games for kids and VIP viewing areas at both of the main stages, to celebrity chef-curated eats at the SideStage Experience and living room-like accouterments in (and stunning sunset views from) the Captains Cabanas. Festival-goers hardly had to pay top dollar for access to gourmet food familiar to LA locals, be it an acai delight at Amaze Bowls, a lobster roll from Captain Kidd’s Fish Market, a beachside burger at Ruby’s Diner, a slice of classic festival pizza courtesy of Spicy Pie or a perfectly singed pie cooked up by Roberta’s.
All of this would’ve been little more than window dressing, though, without great music. To that end, BeachLife delivered with offerings that, while spectacular on their own, fit the overall Southern California vibe to a tee while hitting on every subset therein.
For those keen on plant-based reggae grooves, there was Steel Pulse pulling from a song catalogue spanning more than four decades and Ziggy Marley mixing his own songs with those of his legendary father. For lovers of breezier tunes, there were the strums of Jason Mraz and the uplifting harmonies of Dawes. For folks pining for the care-free nostalgia of ‘90s alt-rock, Sugar Ray, Everclear, and Violent Femmes offered their respective blasts from the past—all on Saturday, no less, after Chris Robinson revived the Black Crowes’ repertoire with As the Crow Flies on Friday.
If you were a little bit country and a little bit rock n’ roll, you could’ve caught Grace Potter on one stage, Big Head Todd and the Monsters on another, and stuck around to see Willie Nelson and Family close down the festivities on Sunday. If you were a retired hippie in search of some favorite jams, you were probably in heaven, whether starting Day 3 with a bit of worship to Keller Williams’ Grateful Gospel, rekindling a love for live music to Blues Traveler or basking in the spryest performance in some time from the great Bob Weir—be it spearheading his own set with the Wolf Bros or dropping into Slightly Stoopid’s “Acoustic Roots” show (also featuring Chali 2na of Jurassic 5).
Best of all, a diligent attendee could’ve seen all of the acts on the HighTide and LowTide stages (and checked out all the other offerings) without extraordinary effort. The set times were arranged to allow for performers to take turns between stages and the audience to migrate accordingly.
Granted, much of that scheduling was likely an invention of necessity. After all, in such close quarters, having two full-sized stages rocking at once would’ve created a bit too much sonic dissonance for this tranquil coastal community to abide.
Odds are, though, that the BeachLife Festival won’t always be so cozy. The founders have made no secret of their desire to upgrade the facilities, including a small park of water slides near the LowTide Stage that remained off-limits for the time being. With a 10-year lease on the site, the organizers should have ample opportunity to experiment with the space and (perhaps) expand to accommodate more stages, more kiosks and, of course, more customers.
In truth, BeachLife has already situated itself to reach countless music lovers who couldn’t bring themselves to Redondo Beach for Cinco De Mayo weekend. The festival was practically designed to be broadcast to the world, with LiveList involved from the jump and cameras of all kinds spanning the grounds.
Clearly, BeachLife is equipped to grow far beyond the bounds of the sands and the marina that constituted much of the festival’s borders. With that may come an even more eclectic lineup to suit the tastes of a more global audience.
For now, though, BeachLife is a fitting complement to the ever-multiplying slate of modern mega-festivals—one that felt far more like a long-running staple of a vibrant community than a first-year upstart on a crowded concert calendar.