Redondo Beach’s BeachLife Festival Highlights: Jane’s Addiction, Gary Clark Jr., Ziggy Marley & More (FESTIVAL RECAP/PHOTOS)

The BeachLife Festival returned with gusto to Redondo Beach, California, after a two-year hiatus on the weekend of September 10-12, 2021. After canceling in 2020 and getting rescheduled from the spring to the September dates, the festival drew a sellout crowd for three days of music and fun in the sun at the Seaside Lagoon.

The inaugural fest was held in May 2019 with headliners that included Brian Wilson, Bob Weir and Willie Nelson. This year the crowd capacity was reduced to about 9000 daily due to COVID -19 restrictions, but the fully vaccinated or negative-tested attendees enjoyed beautifully sunny days with lots of room to spread out on the completely outdoor, expansive grounds. 

The festival features two main stage areas – one with artificial turf and the other with natural sand. Two smaller stages are used as well and the scheduled shows are staggered to allow the attendees to move to the stages and see nearly every performance. Everyone could bring blankets and towels, but no chairs or umbrellas, so shade and comfortable seating was scarce. However, the beach vibe was everywhere as people chilled on their blankets listening as the mostly reggae, blues and surfer rock music blasted from the stages.

Gary Clark Jr.

There were several wonderful performances and unexpected sit-ins over the weekend. Highlights included:

  • Jane’s Addiction closed the first night of the festival with a wild show. Perry Farrell was full of energy as he pranced around the stage and crooned to the adoring fans on classic songs like “Been Caught Stealing,” “Superhero” and “Ocean Size.” Dave Navarro blasted sophisticated guitar solos while Stephen Perkins’ thundering drum work created a huge wall of sound. The band played great versions of “Stop!” and “Summertime Rolls.” For “Whores,” two scantily clad females gyrated while hanging from ropes on either side of the vast stage. The obvious closer, “Jane Says” drew huge applause. 
  • Ziggy & Stephen Marley performed a phenomenal set of their father Bob Marley’s (and the Wailers) music to close the festival. Their large band covered the classic catalog with great expertise as Ziggy and Stephen took turns on vocals. Whenever either brother pointed his microphone to the audience, the crowd joyously sang along on songs like “Rastaman Vibration,” “Stir It Up,” “No Woman, No Cry” and “Get Up, Stand Up.”  Both brothers played guitar while Stephen also played a bongo during the set. The harmonies from the female backup singers were excellent and Ziggy joined them for a few dance steps. They closed the show with heartfelt versions of “One Love,” “Iron Lion Zion,” “Is This Love” and “Exodus.”
  • Gary Clark, Jr. performed a passionate set of blues, soul and rock. His incredibly melodic guitar playing seems to magically improve with each performance as he seems to know when to slow things down or accelerate into a rapid-fire solo. The show included sizzling versions of “Bright Lights, Big City,” “Gotta Get Into Something” and “When My Train Pulls In.” His beautiful voice and amazing range were showcased on “I Don’t Want to Be Alone,” “Teach The Babies” and “Got My Eyes On You.”
  • The Revivalists know how to grab an audience and refuse to let go. Vocalist David Shaw plays to the crowd as well as anyone touring. He sings with great emotion and frequently goes down into the photo pit and crowd to croon for the fans in the front rows. At BeachLife, guitarist Zack Feinberg, pedal-steel master Ed Williams and saxman Rob Ingraham traded creative solos on “Criminal,” “Don’t Hide From Me,” “Doesn’t Change a Thing” and “Celebrate.” The crowd went crazy for the chart-topping closer “Wish I Knew You.”
  • Larkin Poe features sisters Rebecca and Megan Lovell. The two sang beautifully on blues-based, roots-rock songs. While Rebecca handled the bulk of the vocals and played traditional electric guitars, Megan stunned with her walking lap-steel slide guitar work. She also sang on “Trouble In Mind,” “Beach Blond Bottle Blues,” “Holy Ghost Fire” and “Back Down South” that segued into the Allman Brothers Band’s “Blue Sky.” 
  • The Main Squeeze kept fans desperate for live music happy during COVID -19 with frequent YouTube videos of classic covers and originals. Their actual live show at BeachLife was a soul-funk dance party led by charismatic vocalist Corey Frye. Frye has the soul vocal chops needed to pull off dead-on versions of classics like James Brown’s “Sex Machine” – that one put the crowd in a frenzy. Guitarist Maximillian Newman and keyboard expert Ben “Smiley” Silverstein played delicious solos while guest horn players Professor B and Jules D kept things groovy on “Dr. Funk,” “Whiskey, Wine and Cocaine” and “Pay Day.” Newman dazzled with a long, trippy solo on the set closing “I’ll Take Another.”
Ben Harper & Ziggy Marley
  • Ben Harper & The Innocent Criminals opened their show with Harper alone at center stage, sitting with his lap-steel guitar. The intimate instrumental was a mere appetizer before the main course – the full band came out and Harper led them through a blistering set of his songs. Surprise guest Ziggy Marley bounded out early for a rendition of “Spin It Faster,” the song they recorded together and released this summer. Harper also played wonderful songs from his catalog like “Burn One Down,” “Steal My Kisses,” “Diamonds On The Inside” and “My Own Two Hands.”
  • Melvin Seals & JGB thrilled a Dead and Garcia loving crowd with breathtaking versions of Jerry Garcia Band deep tracks. Seals’ organ playing is legendary and he hasn’t lost a thing. It helped the vibe greatly that guitarist John Kadlecik was onboard for the journey down memory lane. The band played “I Feel Like Dynamite,” “Tore Up Over You” and “My Brothers and Sisters.” A break from the Garcia catalog came with an interesting cover of Van Morrison’s “Stoned Me” before the band closed the set with Grateful Dead’s “Deal.”
  • G Love & Special Sauce always put on energetic, fun live shows. At BeachLife, G Love and his band brought everything except the kitchen sink to their alternative, blues and hip-hop show. Love sang, played slide guitar and harmonica while even throwing in some old-school rap. Lighthearted songs “Peace, Love and Happiness,” “Basketball” and “I Like Coke Everyday” transitioned into heavier ones like “Booty Call” that segued into the Beatle’s “Why Don’t We Do It In The Road.” He also threw in a short segment of Snoop Dogg’s “Papered Up.” 
Dave Navarro

At the end of the set, G Love brought out frequent collaborator Donavon Frankenreiter and guitarist Eric Krasno for a raucous tribute to The Rolling Stones’ Charlie Watts on “Sympathy For The Devil.” Each guitarist took blazing solos and played off each other before finishing the song.

  • Portugal. The Man played another fine set one week after their performance at BottleRock Napa Valley. They repeated the song sequence “Feel It Still” into Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick In The Wall” into “Purple Yellow Red and Blue.” The wrinkle at BeachLife included the band playing a wild and weird version of David Bowie’s “Moonage Daydream.”

While only in their second year, the people running the BeachLife Festival deserve kudos for putting on a safe, well-run, live music weekend with a chill vibe that drew major musical talent. They have already announced that the next festival will be held in May 2022. With the beautiful beach backdrop and first-rate bookings, BeachLife Festival should be near the top of anyone’s music festival wish list.

Live photos courtesy of Andy J. Gordon ©2021.

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