BeachLife Festival returned to Redondo Beach, California on the weekend of May 13-15, 2022 with all of the charm, surfside vibes, and satisfying musical bookings we have come to expect. After just eight months since the previous festival took place (due to pandemic rescheduling), there were some changes, but much remained the same. The music rocked and crowds of predominantly Southern California locals had a blast.
The previous edition of BeachLife happened on September 10-12, 2021. Allen Sanford, the festival’s co-founder told us, “BeachLife Festival enjoyed a significant increase in attendance this year from 2021, with a clean Saturday sellout, and Friday and Sunday having close to capacity attendance. Each day, over 10,000 people enjoyed the BeachLife, with a Saturday highpoint of 11,000 Beachlifers.”
This most recent edition still featured two main stage areas that could each accommodate all attendees – one with artificial turf and the other with natural sand. Another smaller stage was set up near a popular craft beer area. Unlike previous years, a large VIP section filled the left side of the sand stage making traffic flow in that area somewhat problematic.
Everyone could bring towels to the festival, but no chairs, umbrellas, or large blankets, so shade and comfortable seating were still scarce. The festival provided a few chairs around the edges of the stage areas, but not nearly enough to accommodate the big crowds. That was the biggest complaint made by attendees.
When asked why guests were not allowed to bring chairs, the festival Marketing Director, Katie Henley told us, “Beach chairs are not allowed due to safety reasons. They block aisles and fire lanes in a way that towels and blankets do not.” It does seem kind of odd that a festival virtually on the beach does not allow guests to bring sand chairs. Perhaps the organizers can come up with a safe, fire department-approved way to allow attendees to bring portable, low-profile chairs next year.
Except for those issues, the laid-back, beach vibe was felt everywhere. People lounged on their towels, drank cold drinks, chowed down on local food provided by area restaurants and food trucks, and played lawn games, all the while, swaying to the music. That music leaned somewhat less toward the relaxed, beachy feelings of the previous BeachLife events and more toward retro and contemporary rock, pop, blues, and jam bands. There were several outstanding performances, including a few announced guest appearances and surprise sit-ins, that kept people entertained as music blasted from the stages.
There are very few artists that bring such joy and energy to performances as Michael Franti. He and his band Spearhead delivered a positive, cheerful, and uplifting show at BeachLife. The band played heartening songs like “I’m Alive,” “The Sound of Sunshine Going Down,” and “Good Day For a Good Day.” Franti jumped into the crowd multiple times and also brought an enthusiastic woman to the stage to sing with him. During the set-closing “Say Hey (I Love You)” he shared the stage with about a dozen toddlers who danced, bounced, and tossed inflated beach balls to the crowd. They almost showed as much delight as Franti himself.
Stone Temple Pilots brought a harder edge to the usually relaxed vibe of the festival. No one complained about it as the crowd whooped, hollered, and sang along with excellent lead vocalist Jeff Gutt. Gutt sounded eerily similar to fallen original lead vocalist Scott Weiland and his powerful voice plus his constant movement around the stage captivated the audience. Dean DeLeo’s guitar riffs and intricate, distorted solos formed the foundation of their familiar hit songs that ranged from grunge to classic to psychedelic rock. In addition to other familiar tunes, the band did outstanding versions of “Vaseline,” “Sex Type Thing,” “Big Empty,” and “Feel It.”
The alternative rock powerhouse Smashing Pumpkins performed a dramatic headlining set. Led by chief songwriter, vocalist, and guitar player Billy Corgan, the band put on a highly theatrical and entertaining show. He screeched and thundered both vocally and with his various electric guitars as smoke and dark, goth-inspired mood lighting filled the stage.
Corgan wore intriguing paint on his face and his aggressive songs like “Bullet With Butterfly Wings” “Cherub Rock” and “Zero” took the energy up a notch with vicious guitar bliss. He took it down a notch for a few tender moments as Corgan brought out his two little kids and held their hands while he sang. He later introduced guitarist James Iha, who has been with Corgan all thirty-four years of the band’s existence, and said, “We’d like to dedicate this song to you all.” Just the two of them were on stage as they played acoustic guitars for a quiet, stirring version of “Tonight Tonight.”
A set before noon called for some mellow, enjoyable tunes. ALO delivered that satisfying sonic meal and then some for the early arrivals. The Bay area four-piece band was led on vocals by keyboardist Zach Gill and guitarist Dan “Lebo” Lebowitz. Their set included trippy, psychedelic guitar and organ solos, but Gill also broke out a ukulele for a catchy, fun tune called “Plastic Bubble” and also played an extremely funky organ solo during “I Love Music.”
Devon Allman Project with special guests Samantha Fish and Ivan Neville brought some fine blues rock and New Orleans funky soul to the beach. Allman started the set with a few of his songs that featured his and Jackson Stokes’ stellar guitar skills along with Neville’s organ mastery. Once Fish came out, the party kicked into a higher gear. She and Allman did a rousing version of the Stevie Nicks & Tom Petty’s iconic duet “Stop Dragging My Heart Around.”
Fish belted out her song “Better Be Lonely” and showed off her considerable guitar skills. After that song, surprise guest Donovan Frankenreiter joined the band on stage and a four guitar throwdown ensued for Frankenheimer’s “Move By Yourself.” The superset ended with a formidable version of the Allman Brothers Band classic, “Midnight Rider.”
Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe took the crowd that filled the sandy stage area on a funktastic voyage. He sang and blew his saxophone on “Biggest Fan,” and “What If You Knew.” The band played a few stirring instrumentals before Denson, referring to current events said, “We gotta stop being so damn stupid.” That led to another heavy, funk tune called “Brother’s Keeper.”
Joe Russo’s Almost Dead (JRAD) played a very satisfying set of Grateful Dead songs as Russo, Tom Hamilton, and Scott Metzger each shared vocal duties. They opened with an extended jam version of “Shakedown Street” that eventually segued into “Dancing In The Street.” Metzger handled lead vocals on a very trippy “Estimated Prophet” that included lengthy alternating guitar solos by Metzger and Hamilton. Marco Benevento laid a sweet, melodic organ solo during the expansive set-ending “Eyes of the world.”
Sheryl Crow knows how to work a crowd. The 90s hitmaker opened her show by telling the audience that she used to live in Hermosa Beach, just a few blocks from the festival. Crow was radiant as the sun shined down on her and the band. She still has that powerful, raspy voice and used it to deliver a cheerful, up-tempo set that included crowd favorites “If It Makes You Happy,” “All I Wanna Do” and “Every Day Is A Winding Road.” During the set, she quipped, “How you doing? It smells like you’re having a really good time.” Ivan Neville did a surprise sit-in on keys for a rousing cover of The Rolling Stones’ “Live With Me.”
Steve Miller Band closed the festival with a crowd-pleasing, greatest hits set. The 78-year-old Rock Hall of Famer still has his famous guitar chops and although his voice is a bit thinner, it remained solid all set. His catalog of classics is eternal and the crowd at the festival nearly drowned out his vocals on every hit. “Jet Airliner,” “Abracadabra,” “Take The Money And Run” and “Rock’n Me” all featured Miller’s impeccable guitar work, while adding several blues-inspired slide and fingerpicking solos.
The BeachLife Festival may be small in comparison to most music festivals, but they are able to book first-rate talent as if they were much bigger. The small size makes it attractive to fans looking for a more intimate experience. The 2022 edition was successful in gathering a popular, diverse group of musicians that appealed to an audience of all ages. The location and chill vibe, along with the safe, well-run operation, make this a festival we will gladly return to next year.
Live photos courtesy of Andy J. Gordon ©2022.