The Southern California festival known as BeachLife returned to its roots in beautiful Redondo Beach, filled with three days of sun, music, and thousands in attendance. Throughout the weekend there were four stages set up: the biggest one being the High Tide on artificial grass; a slightly smaller headline stage called the Low Tide, literally on the sand; a smaller side stage called the Riptide; and the Speakeasy stage, which resembled a large cabana or outdoor tavern.
BeachLife is the brainchild of co-founders Allen Sanford and Rob Lissner, who have also worked closely with Jim Lindberg, lead singer of Pennywise. The music curator for the Speakeasy stage was none other than Lindberg, so it only seemed fitting that he kicked off the weekend as the festival’s first performance on the Riptide Stage.
Lindberg is a native of nearby Hermosa Beach where Pennywise formed some 34 years ago. When I first saw he was billed on the lineup as himself without Pennywise, I assumed he would be doing a solo acoustic performance, so I was pleasantly surprised to see he was joined by a five-piece band. Lindberg performed songs mostly off his solo debut album, “Songs from the Elkhorn Trail,” including “The Palm of Your Hand,” “You’re Not Alone,” and “I Feel Like the Sun.” Donning a white western shirt, black fedora, and signature black shades, Lindberg was rocking the acoustic guitar as he was backed by a fully-electric band. A stark contrast to the fast, aggressive music of Pennywise, Lindberg’s set was closer to beautiful folk music.
Cold War Kids took to the Low Tide stage and opened with the groovy “Love is Mystical,” which got the crowd clapping along to the chorus. Lead singer Nathan Willett sat at the piano and led the band into “We Used to Take Vacations.” Cold War Kids played “Mexican Dogs” and “All This Could Be Yours,” and even made time for a cover; a slowed-down, sexy rendition of Rihanna’s “Love on the Brain.” The band decided to play two of their biggest hits towards the end of their set and a large cheer went up as they kicked into “Hang Me Up to Dry,” followed by “First.”
What I liked about the BeachLife lineup is no matter what stage and no matter what time in the schedule, all acts were pretty much allotted at least an hour, which means a lot of smaller acts received considerable playing time. Lagwagon lead singer Joey Cape played the Speakeasy stage and the first half of Cape’s set was mostly songs from his solo albums, such as “Going for the Bronze.” A huge ovation went up as he began playing Lagwagon songs “I Must Be Hateful” and “Alien 8.” As is tradition, Cape paid tribute to one of his best friends, the late great Tony Sly, by playing “International You Day” by Sly’s band, No Use for a Name. Near the end of his set, Cape dedicated “Making Friends” to longtime friends, Jim Lindberg and Pennywise drummer, Byron McMackin, who had both joined side stage to watch.
Although performing as a six-piece act on Friday, Black Pumas is really a culmination of lead singer, Eric Burton and guitarist, Adrian Quesada. Despite only being around a few years, the soul band has already garnered quite a buzz in the indie and alt-rock communities. With just one album under their belt, the duo has already been nominated for six Grammys, including Best New Artist in 2020.
They have been critically acclaimed both for their recorded work, and also for their particularly impressive live performances. Friday was no exception. Black Pumas opened with “Next to You” followed by “Old Man.” Burton is a great front-man, constantly working the crowd to pump them up and get them involved. All this while hitting some insane high notes and sultry, smooth vocals. Rocking a white jean jacket and shades, Quesada showcased quite a few impressive guitar solos.
A large crowd gathered by the Low Tide stage as 311’s lead singer and guitarist Nick Hexum began picking the opening chords to “Beautiful Disaster.”
Three songs in and the crowd was warped back in time to 1995 as the band played ”All Mixed Up,” one of the first songs that helped skyrocket their career. After playing the highly energetic “Come Original,” which saw co-vocalist, S.A. Martinez rapping alongside Hexum, the band took a break to slow things down. Hexum pointed out that the sun was setting, which made for the perfect time to play “Sunset in July,” followed by their popular cover of The Cure’s “Love Song.” Of course 311 played “Amber” to a sea of people singing along, and closed with “Down.”
The largest crowd of the night gathered in front of the High Tide stage to watch the evening’s headliners, Weezer. They played 90 minutes of hit after hit that even the most casual Weezer fan could sing along to throughout their set. Coming out to Van Halen’s “Jump,” they immediately launched into “Hash Pipe” followed by “Beverly Hills.” For the old school fans, they played “My Name is Jonas,” the opening track off their self-titled debut album.
Considering they played only two covers, they chose maybe the most polarizing selections: Metallica’s “Enter Sandman” and Toto’s “Africa.” There was also a nice mix of some of Weezer’s later material, including “All My Favorite Songs” and the aptly titled, “Feels Like Summer.” For years, the band shunned their second release, “Pinkerton,” due to initial poor sales and critical reviews. However, now embraced as one of the best releases of the ‘90s, Weezer played, “El Scorcho” and “The Good Life” off “Pinkerton.” They closed their regular set with “Say It Ain’t So” before coming back on for an encore with the massive hit, “Buddy Holly.”
For reasons still unbeknownst to me, and what I can only assume was their choice, Sugar Ray was slated to perform at 12:30 p.m., one of the first bands to kick off the day on the High Tide. They came off doing a playful mash-up of Sugar Hill Gang’s “Rapper’s Delight” with Chic’s “Good Times.” Lead singer Mark McGrath announced he was going to be taking it back to the ‘90s as the band launched into the lovely and relaxing “Someday,” as well as “Every Morning.” Hailing from just up the 405 in Huntington Beach, Sugar Ray has actually played all three years of BeachLife thus far. McGrath introduced the next song as their last big hit, “When It’s Over.” It was a really fun set that gave me a chance to relive my adolescence as the band closed with the song that started it all, “Fly.”
Everclear’s Art Alexakis played a solo acoustic set at the Speakeasy. Playing mostly Everclear songs, he also mixed in songs from his first debut solo effort, 2019’s “Sun Songs.” Like Lindberg, they have been playing in their own huge bands for nearly four decades but have only recently made the jump into putting out a solo album.
Alexakis’s setlist was a myriad of hits spanning the ‘90s and early 2000s, including “I Will Buy You a New Life,” and the heartbreaking, “Father of Mine.” From his solo album, he played “Sunshine Love Song,” and the aptly titled “Life in the Sand,” which I was literally standing in at the time. He closed his set with three big Everclear hits: “Everything to Everyone,” “Wonderful,” and “Santa Monica.”
I was fortunate enough to catch Stone Temple Pilots (STP) with their original lineup, featuring lead vocalist Scott Weiland, who passed away in 2015. Since 2017, the quartet has moved on with vocalist, Jeff Gutt, who brings a lot of the same high energy and raw emotion as his predecessor. I was a bit hesitant as Weiland was such a legendary lead man; however, part of what makes STP remain an incredible live act is they are still spearheaded by the DeLeo Brothers – Robert on bass, Dean on guitar. While the group was often lumped in with grunge acts at the time, their musical influence was always closer to alternative, and even rock and roll and blues, due to Dean who showcased some tasty licks throughout their set.
They filled 60 minutes with nonstop hits, and honestly could have gone at least another 30-60 minutes more with songs that fans everywhere could sing along to. They opened with “Wicked Garden” off their debut album, “Core.” For “Down,” Gutt actually climbed down off the stage and stood on the guardrail towering above me and the rest of the crowd. He then walked along the rail and finished the song singing into the crowd. They played the road song “Interstate Love Song,” the chaotic “Trippin’ On a Hole in a Paper Heart,” and closed with their breakout single, “Sex Type Thing.”
Saturday’s headliner on the High Tide was Chicago’s own Smashing Pumpkins. After being one of the largest acts in rock music during the ‘90s with iconic albums such as “Siamese Dream” and “Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness,” the band has found a new resurgence the past few years. The band just announced a co-headlining tour with Jane’s Addiction kicking off later this year. Part of what lends to their legitimacy these days is the reformation of three of the original members, when drummer Jimmy Chamberlin re-joined back in 2015, followed by guitarist James Iha in 2018. The one constant is lead singer and guitarist Billy Corgan, who came out dressed in a floor-length black robe and black eye shadow and face paint, resembling Pinhead from “Hellraiser.”
You saw a rare, almost gentle side of Corgan, as the band opened with “The Colour of Love” and he walked out with his two young children, holding each other’s hands. As the band started the next song, Corgan sang, “The world is a vampire…” starting off the epic “Bullet with Butterfly Wings.” The 90-minute set pulled mainly from the two aforementioned albums, while mixing in songs off their latest release, “Cyr” from 2020. The Pumpkins did treat fans to two rarer tracks that were ironically both from movie soundtracks: “Eye” from David Lynch’s “Lost Highway” and “Drown” from Cameron Crowe’s “Singles.” They closed with “1979,” which was basically the soundtrack to anyone’s life who grew up in the ‘90s.
The first band I caught on Sunday was billed as UB40 featuring Ali Campbell. The band first came to prominence in the ‘80s with several top 10 covers. Since then, the band has gone through several line-ups and splits, most notably lead singer Ali Campbell has formed his own band featuring certain original members of UB40, including Astro, the group’s toaster.
Unfortunately, Astro passed away this past November. The band opened their set with two monster hits, “Here I Am (Come and Take Me)” and the Temptations’ “The Way You Do the Things You Do.” The band brought fun reggae vibes that really fit in well with the vibe of the weekend. The biggest ovations of the set came as they brought their set to a close with their number one hit cover of Elvis Presley’s “Can’t Help Falling In Love” and Neil Diamond’s “Red Red Wine.”
Sunday’s co-main headliner on the Low Tide was Sheryl Crow, who drew one of the biggest audiences all weekend. I was very excited to see her play for the first time and while my expectations were high, I can truly say she easily surpassed them. Looking back on it, I might consider it to be in the top 10 best sets I’ve ever seen. Her 75-minute set was filled with 13 songs of hit after hit, and you realized what an icon she has been for the last three decades. She opened with “If It Makes You Happy,” “A Change Would Do You Good,” and then played the breakthrough song that started it all for her career, “All I Wanna Do.”
I was blown away at how good she sounds at recreating the album experience and elevating these songs. A big part of that goes to her wonderful backing band, particularly guitarist Audley Freed, who gives a western vibe to her songs, and drummer Fred Eltringham. I feel like he gives the songs a rock edge that reminded me of Taylor Hawkins when he was backing Alanis Morissette on her first few tours. Crow announced that during the pandemic she released a documentary about her life, and debuted a song entitled “Forever” from that film. She capped a magnificent set by the appropriate “Soak Up the Sun” and “Real Gone.”
The weekend’s festivities came to a close Sunday evening on the High Tide as the crowd welcomed the Steve Miller Band. Miller introduced the second song of the set with, “Songs are like flowers. Sometimes if you sprinkle a little water on them, a new flower goes. This is a little different version of ‘Fly Like an Eagle.’” This amounted to a psychedelic elongated version clocking in just over 11 minutes, allowing the band to showcase their talents. I was shocked to learn later that Miller is now 78, as he looks, sounds, and acts like someone nearly half that, showing no signs of slowing down.
He has established a solid backing jam band that stays with him every step of the way. Two of the biggest highlights of his 90-minute set were “Take the Money and Run” and “Rock’n Me,” which he closed his regular set with. The crowd cheered loudly for the band to return as they took their cue and came back for their encore of the classic “The Joker” to close out the set and the weekend.
All weekend long performers would shout out the people behind BeachLife and deservedly so. Not only was everything professionally run for bands and fans alike, but some of the best music was handpicked for this weekend. It was an eclectic collection of music from multiple genres and age ranges. As a first time patron, I can’t wait to see what next year’s events bring. For those who have been here before, it was just another epic moment in southern California concert history.
FESTIVAL PHOTO GALLERY
Photography by Ken Pagliaro, JP Cordero, Bobby Rivero