One of the benefits of living within walking distance of the Redondo Beach Pier is the free weekly sunset concert summer series. The acts are all cover bands that embrace and project the sounds and stage looks of classic rock acts like Fleetwood Mac, David Bowie or the Eagles. Plop your beach chair down, unpack your drink and snacks, sit back in an idyllic ocean setting and if you close your eyes you can easily imagine that you are listening to your favorite band playing right in your own backyard.
Well, last weekend you could listen to your ‘real’ favorite band playing just steps from your South Bay front door. That’s right. BeachLife Festival was in full bloom right down the street at Seaside Lagoon.
The man-made sandy lagoon pit has been drained and the cushy turf has been rolled out on the accompanying parking lot. I pass this footprint on my bike at least three times a week. Load-in commences two weeks out and it is impressive to see it come to life – rising from nothingness like a beach suburban Burning Man.
By the time the doors open on Friday, the area is completely transformed and hidden behind a two story wall. “Redondochella” is ready to rock the ‘hood again. Three days of full throttle music. There are two main stages, a smaller one by the booze and food and an acoustic stage tucked away back in the northwest pocket. 18 acts play Friday, another 18 play on Saturday and another 15 on Sunday.
Four years on from inception, promoter Allen Sanford has been very effective at tweaking and refining his BeachLife concept. I am impressed with the music set efficiency. Bands stick to their time sets and encores are eschewed save for the night ending headliners.
Sanford has been strategic and effective at including local businesses in his prosperous pier party. All of the food vendors are familiar names to any local attendee. He has also looped in South Bay corporate sponsors whose signage features prominently along the open air second story VIP suites that skirt the main stage viewing area. The mayor, police department and fire department are also present and prominent. If you want to build this festival to last then you better weave it into the local beach blanket fabric.
So what about the experience?
There are several options available to tackle this swell:
1. You could hard-charge this all day every day from the time the gates open until the last notes from the main stage. But, you better be under 40, pace your alcohol consumption, apply sunscreen regularly and take off Monday to recover from your 3 day hangover.
2. You could spring for the VIP upsell boogie board experience and then have options to take some breathers in the shade away from the masses and the sand crabs.
3. Or you could wait for the big sets later in the day and paddle into the takeoff section fully rested and ready to drop into the sweet spot just for the A level music acts.
Your option will depend on your own particular style, how much you drink and also your threshold for tolerating well-lubricated crowds that have abandoned the concept of respecting personal space.
What about the music?
I loved the Pixies. I loved the Black Keys. I only heard two songs by the Beaches, but I also loved them. The sound was muddled but I was super thrilled to hear Sublime with Rome play the whole ’40oz. to Freedom’ album. Gwen Stefani delivered a first class concert performance with costumes, video screens, dancers, crowd engagement and music. I also now know all about Anaheim Hillbillies (look it up). Band of Horses, Kurt Vile and Modest Mouse all had great sets. I didn’t get to see Mavis Staples, but I wish I had. John Fogerty is a living legend with the voice of a god. Black Crowes can still rock your socks off even though I was wearing sandals.
Takeaways: Beach balls were made to be bounced in front of the Hightide stage. Nothing beats palm trees and sunsets to the Pixies playing “Bone Machine”. A flyover of vintage planes while John Fogerty played ‘Fortunate Son’ will give you chills.
My music cup is now full and I have plenty of time to recharge before I walk down to the Redondo Beach Pier on July 7th with my beach chair to listen to the scheduled cover band ‘Like Zeppelin’. I might even close my eyes and pretend that I’m listening to the real Led Zeppelin playing on the BeachLife stage next year.