BeachLife 2023

Electrifies SoCal

May 12, 2023 Review by Kevin Gomez
After some light sprinkles, the weather gods decided to smile upon music fans for a beautiful and sunny weekend as BeachLife once again descended upon Redondo Beach. My first thought as I entered the festival grounds was how lush and full the sound was, even from the very back of High Tide, one of the main stages.

Photo by Ron Vasquez
On Friday afternoon, I was pleasantly greeted by the wonderful sounds of The Airborne Toxic Event. They opened with “All at Once,” followed by “Hollywood Park,” the title track off of their last album.

The Airborne Toxic Event | Photo by Ron Vasquez
They would go on to play a slew of hits from that album including, “Wishing Well,” “Happiness is Overrated” and “Missy,” although they took a break mid-song to have some fun playing covers. The first was The Jesus and Mary Chain’s “Head On” (also a nod to the Pixies who famously covered that song and would be playing that evening); followed by The Crickets’ “I Fought the Law.” They ended their set with their first breakout hit, “Sometime Around Midnight.”

The Airborne Toxic Event | Photo by Ron Vasquez
Tegan and Sara were up next on Low Tide, the other main stage. They opened with “You Wouldn’t Like Me” followed by “I Can’t Grow Up.” After “Smoking Weed Alone,” the pixie-haired twins played favorites “Boyfriend” and “Where Does the Good Go?” The pair closed with their two biggest hit singles, “Walking With a Ghost” and “Closer.”

Tegan and Sara | Photo by Fabien Castro
Perhaps the band I was most excited to see play is one of the most influential, genre-bending legendary acts known as the Pixies. The band opened with “Gouge Away” and “Wave of Mutilation.”

PIXIES | Photo by Ron Vasquez
A large crowd had amassed for this epic performance and a huge ovation went up as lead singer Frank Black played the opening riffs of “Monkey Gone to Heaven.” Black, a true enigma both in his music and lyrics – for example, “Isla de Encanta,” a song entirely in Spanish – is truly a genius whose songs were just too ahead of its time for the ‘80s, and even in some ways now. Drummer Dave Lovering keeping a steady beat on “Isla,” while still leading the frenetic pace of “Planet of Sound.”

PIXIES | Photo by Ron Vasquez
Bassist Paz Lenchantin provided not only rocking bass grooves, but haunting backing vocals on songs like “Tame” and “Vamos.” For the latter, lead guitarist Joey Santiago used his military cap to play his guitar. Santiago remains one of the most talented and underappreciated guitarists of his generation. Watching him play live you can see the influence he had on bands like Nirvana, Pearl Jam, and The Strokes. The band ended their day with “Where Is My Mind,” and the pop hit “Here Comes Your Man.”

As Modest Mouse took to the Low Tide stage, lead guitarist Simon O’Connor began plucking the familiar intro to “The World at Large.” They then played the bizarre and beautiful, nearly-seven minute “Cowboy Dan.” The band’s set was not flooded with radio hits, but the indie rock band never really had too many pop singles to begin with; they were always a bit too eccentric for mainstream radio, instead finding great success on college and indie radio.
They did play “Dashboard,” which received heavy radio play when it was released. Rather than saving their big hit for the end as many lesser talented bands would do, just a few songs later Modest Mouse treated fans to “Float On,” a song so popular that it eventually went gold on its own. They ended with the eight-and-a-half-minute jam session that is “Night on the Sun.”

The Black Keys | Photo by Ron Vasquez
Friday’s headlining slot belonged to The Black Keys. The band came out guns-blazing with “I Got Mine” and “Your Touch.” They played “Gold on the Ceiling,” which became a big single for them off their hit album, “El Camino.” Although they employ an official backing band on touring and recording, The Black Keys have always been the heart and soul of just two people – lead singer and guitarist, Dan Auerbach, and drummer, Patrick Carney. When they play live, no matter who else is onstage, the playing of Auerbach and Carney is that much more heightened and obvious.

The Black Keys | Photo by Ron Vasquez
Switching to an acoustic guitar, Auerbach led the rest of the band in a slowed-down, moody cover of The Box Top’s “The Letter.” They played the synth-heavy “Fever,” which got the crowd dancing along. After their biggest hits including, “Howlin’ for You” and “Tighten Up,” they left the crowd with “Lonely Boy.” Their live shows have often created buzz and when you experience it for yourself, you understand the hype. This fast-paced, high-energy was the only way to cap a night like Friday.
Saturday was a lovely, sunny day for the beach, and a perfect setting for the High Tide stage to catch Sugar Ray’s set. The band started off early with “Every Morning” and “Someday.” The band played “Falls Apart,” followed by a fun ‘90s medley – OMC’s “How Bizarre,” Len’s “Steal My Sunshine,” and Backstreet Boys’ “I Want It That Way.” They finished with their biggest hit, the double-platinum, “Fly.”

Sugar Ray | Photo by Ron Vasquez
I traveled to the farthest part of the festival grounds to the Speakeasy Stage, where I found Stacey Dee and Linh Le of Bad Cop/Bad Cop doing an acoustic set. Le said they decided to have a “Blunt and Brunch,” setting up chocolate croissants, prosecco, and joints to people who happily stepped up and grabbed some of each. They took turns singing each other’s Bad Cop songs, and even threw in a couple of unreleased solo tracks. Their incredibly fun set was capped with a cover of Lizzo’s “Truth Hurts” and an unplanned jam of “Retrograde” that had Dee jumping into the crowd and having audience members (including me) sing along.
Band of Horses took to the High Tide stage and immediately went into “Is There a Ghost?” followed by “Lights” and “Crutch.” This was my first time seeing the band and I was pleasantly surprised. Despite being from the Pacific Northwest, Band of Horses has always had a Southern rock vibe, including lead singer and guitarist, Ben Bridwell. The guitar riffs and Bridwell’s vocals on “Laredo” hit just right. The band played the somber “No One’s Gonna Love You” before closing with their haunting, platinum-selling single, “The Funeral.”

Band of Horses | Photo by Ron Vazquez
Always a special treat to see Sublime with Rome play live, this was particularly memorable as they were playing the iconic album, “40oz. to Freedom.” The crowd went truly insane and started lighting up as soon as the band kicked into their cover of The Toyes’ “Smoke Two Joints,” a song that became a ‘90s anthem. Lead singer Rome Ramirez expressed his love for the next song, “Live at E’s.” “This is my favorite Sublime song and I just had to tell y’all about it. It’s not a hit, it’s not the biggest song in the world, but this song is just special to me because it’s so fucking Sublime style.”

Sublime with Rome | Photo by Ron Vasquez
Part of why Sublime with Rome works is that the band found in Ramirez not only someone who could play and sound like Bradley Nowell, but a kid who truly loved and worshipped Sublime. He’s been living the dream scenario of a mega fan who got the call to become lead singer of his favorite band, and he has not taken a single second for granted. After they finished playing “40oz.” they played a few songs off of their self-titled album, ending with “What I Got” and “Santeria.”
The biggest crowd I’ve ever seen at BeachLife packed in tight Saturday night for the one and only Gwen Stefani. Stefani has established herself as one of the greatest music icons, transcending ska music, the ‘90s, and Anaheim to a phenomenon bigger than all of that. She came out to “The Sweet Escape” followed by a trio of No Doubt hits – “Sunday Morning,” “It’s My Life,” and “Bathwater.” Stefani looked fabulous in her first of three outfit changes, rocking a black and yellow striped dress, boots, and jacket. She took a short break to switch outfits as her dancers came out and performed while “Let Me Blow Ya Mind” played on the PA, a song by Eve that Stefani provided vocals for the chorus.

Gwen Stefani | Photo by JP Cordero
Stefani came back out in denim and fishnet-inspired outfit and played possibly her most personal song, “Used to Love You,” about the dissolution of her first marriage. She played “Rich Girl” and “Luxurious” before ending her regular set with the No Doubt classic, “Spiderwebs.” I love that she came back out and ended with an encore that featured both No Doubt (“Just a Girl”) and her solo work (“Hollaback Girl”), showcasing where she came from and where she is now.
I started off Sunday at the Low Tide stage where the Head and the Heart was just coming out. Their laidback folk music seemed to fit right in with the vibe for BeachLife. The band opened with “Every Shade of Blue,” then went into “Don’t Show Your Weakness” with vocals by Josiah Johnson, before playing, “All We Ever Knew.” Lead singer and guitarist Jonathan Russell introduced “Tiebreaker” by saying this was a song about discovering your apartment is just too small for two people. They closed with a lovely rendition of “Rivers and Roads.”

Pennywise lead singer Jim Lindberg is a man of many talents – musician, author, and as of a few years ago, music curator for the BeachLife Festival. Sunday afternoon he played the Speakeasy Stage and opened with “Good Enough,” which he dedicated to Madtwins, the talented twin artists who did the animation for the music video and were there in attendance. He did a beautiful cover of Bob Marley’s “Three Little Birds.” He did a very cool medley of Willie Nelson’s “On the Road Again” followed by of all things, the Misfits’ “Astro Zombies.” He closed his set with the gorgeous “Don’t Lay Me Down,” a song he wrote when he dad passed away.

John Fogerty | Photo by JP Cordero
I think several years from now I’m still going to remember fondly having the opportunity to witness John Fogerty play live. What made this performance particularly special is earlier this year Fogerty had FINALLY won back the rights to his Creedence Clearwater Revival catalogue. He began with “Bad Moon Rising,” “Up Around the Bend,” “Green River,” “Born on the Bayou,” and “Who’ll Stop the Rain.” It was a beautiful thing to see Fogerty so happy and rejoicing as much as his fans were.

John Fogerty | Photo by JP Cordero
Adding to his joy and excitement were getting to share the stage with his two backup guitarists, sons Shane and Tyler Fogerty. You can see they have inherited their dad’s playing style, as Shane had a smoking guitar solo during “The Old Man Down the Road” that eventually wound up with father and son dueling guitar riffs. John Fogerty is such a musical prodigy as evidenced in “Keep on Chooglin,’” where he not only played lead guitar, he played harmonica and had a killer solo culminating with him and his sons finishing off to a rocking outro. The crowd chanted for more as Fogerty came back out for an encore of “Down on the Corner” and “Proud Mary.”

The Black Crowes | Photo by JP Cordero

Closing out the weekend was Southern rock legends, The Black Crowes. This was really a performance to showcase their first two albums, “Shake Your Money Maker” and “The Southern Harmony and Musical Companion.” They had so much success and hit songs off of the former, it’s hard to remember that it was their debut album as it seemed like they already had so much steam and experience. You tend to forget that these now rock superstars were just kids in their early 20s when this monumental album was released. It was immediately clear that the boys came to rock BeachLife out opening with “No Speak No Slave,” “Sting Me,” and “Twice as Hard.”
They decided to pair together two of their biggest songs that are musically so diametrically opposed – the bluesy rock, “Hard to Handle” followed by the somber, “She Talks to Angels” – and yet it worked perfectly and received huge reactions from the crowd. The Black Crowes ended their set and a glorious weekend with “Jealous Again” and “The Remedy.”

The Black Crowes | Photo by JP Cordero
Once again one of the best-run and most fun musical festivals had come to an end with many already wondering: how will BeachLife top this next year?