Deep in the Heart of Beach Suburbia
Southern California is not lacking in two of the most coveted elements of fun: live music and beaches. Rarely however, shall the two converge. One fresh new exception is the BeachLife Festival in Redondo Beach, CA.
Local digital media entrepreneur Rob Lissner teamed up with local restauranteur and music club owner Allen Sanford to craft and pitch their concept of a 3-day music festival to the City of Redondo Beach. With the support of Redondo Beach Mayor Bill Brand, they were awarded a 10 year festival permit, in Sanford’s words, “to grow a long-term event in a community-centric, slow-growth manner.”
The inaugural festival kicked off in May of 2019. COVID pushed the second one to September, 2021. The 2022 Festival was held on a perfect sunny weekend in May.
The Festival footprint is not exactly on the beach, but it is on the ocean’s edge and there is plenty of sand. Since its opening back in 1961, the Redondo Beach Seaside Lagoon has been a local geographic fixture. During the summer, it is filled with water and offers a very popular and controlled alternative for families who want to take their kids to the beach. Throughout the years, it has hosted a variety of small festivals and even volleyball tournaments. But from Labor Day thru June it sits drained and unused.
BeachLife takes full advantage of the lagoon and connects the festival grounds to a large adjacent parking lot. The end result is expansive. One of the two main stages sits at the south end of the empty sandy lagoon. The other is anchored at the north end of the artificial grass covered parking lot. This provides seamless access to both stages. In addition, there is a small stage set up at the far end of the parking lot near the bar and a more intimate acoustic music lounge tucked away in an open air pavilion at the far end of the lagoon. Set times are staggered with all stages which makes it possible to see all or part of every music act.
Noticeable refinements have been made each year. There are plenty of food and beverage booths as well as optional VIP and private corporate sponsored areas.
Ultimately, this experience is about the music. First year headliners included Bob Weir, Brian Wilson, Willie Nelson and Ziggy Marley. Last September, the top acts included Jane’s Addiction, Counting Crows, Stephen & Ziggy Marley, Gary Clark Jr. and Thievery Corporation. Among this year’s 41 acts, the impressive marquee names were Weezer, 311, Smashing Pumpkins, Sheryl Crow and The Steve Miller Band.
There is a deliberate yet satisfying attempt at broad demographic appeal. The festival sits in the middle of the South Bay – a collection of over a dozen small cities – half of them local beach communities within biking distance to BeachLife.
Many of the second tier acts are remarkably appealing. This year included Cold War Kids, Black Pumas, Matisyahu, The Record Company, Donovan Frankenreiter, Phantom Planet, Feed the Kitty, Cannons and UB40.
It is surreal to be able to walk less than a mile from your own front door to a first class music festival as I did. I have walked further to entry gates from festival parking lots. Smartly, the festival also hosts a large valet bike corral. Hundreds, if not thousands simply hopped on their bikes and rode to the show.
Entry was painless. Total attendance each day was roughly 10,000 but it never felt too crowded and it was very easy to flow to all of the stages and booths. The crowd was a blend of beach locals, families, couples, small groups, pure music fans, partiers and yacht rockers. There was always room to move freely to watch a stage.
The food choices were plenty and reasonably priced. Drinks are just steps away from every stage.
My festival favorites:
– I arrived early and was able to walk right up to both main stages with plenty of personal space for multiple sets.
– Discovering music acts such as Cannons, The Record Company and Milky Chance
– Listening to local acts who served up great sets like Long Beach Dub Allstars and Too Rude
– Enjoying incredible sets from Cold War Kids, Black Pumas, Matisyahu and Weezer.
– The cushy premium turf upgrade to the main stage area
– Excellent video screens for both main stages
– Live music against a backdrop of palm trees, sailboats and the deep blue sea.
– Being able to walk home when it was time to leave.
During the late afternoon set at the main stage, several oversized beach balls bounced into the crowd and were met with universal enthusiasm. This was the perfect accent to the BeachLife vibe: hanging out on a picture perfect sunny SoCal beach day while sipping your beverage of choice and listening to top shelf live music.
BeachLife is a shiny pearl nestled within the heart and soul of Southern California beach suburbia.
It also provides the perfect centerpiece around which to plan a getaway to the South Bay beaches.
Who knows? You might like it so much, you won’t ever want to leave.