photo credit: Larson Sutton
The third installment of BeachLife, Southern California’s annual three-day fest in the Seaside Lagoon of Redondo Beach, arrived just eight months after its sophomore edition. The quick turnaround returned the romp to its original May spot, and also confirmed the rumor that, indeed, there will be another BeachLife in September: BeachLife Ranch; three days of Country and Americana. So, with everything properly lined and aligned, it was time for the sunscreen and the sounds exactly the way fest organizers envisioned: a weekend slate under swaths of brilliant blue and 85-degree temps.
Day One’s fun in the sun rose with one of the two de facto faces of BeachLife, Pennywise’s Jim Lindberg on the Lowtide stage. Among BeachLife’s hallmarks is its conscientious programming around a loose musical theme each day. Friday afternoon’s lineup clearly targeted the youth movement, swinging between the indie dance leanings of Dreamers and electronic pop stewards, Cannons, then the German rock of Milky Chance and alt-rock stylings of Cold War Kids; each pushing the energy as high as the rising mercury.
The soulful and seductive twilight set from Black Pumas juxtaposed by 311’s raging run was especially entertaining; a workout, too, for swaying hips and nodding heads. Weezer’s headline appearance was as loose and unhinged as expected, maybe more so. Coming early in the near-20 song set was a brave cover of Metallica’s “Enter Sandman,” as only Weezer could do it, but the real charm came in the closing duo of band classic’s “Say It Ain’t So” and “Buddy Holly.”
Day Two offered its own contrasting slices, as Magic! and Sugar Ray kicked off another beautiful afternoon in the sand. The Record Company leaned into its muscular modern rock at Lowtide before the other ambassador of BeachLife, Donavon Frankenreiter, brought the cool and easy to Hightide, welcoming guest Devon Allman ahead of his own Sunday appearance. Riddms and rhymes took hold next, with a bounding set from Matisyahu and a glistening turn from Michael Franti and Spearhead, then the sunny pop of Capital Cities.
‘90s Rock ruled in two of the final three slots- first with a revitalized Stone Temple Pilots, then with Smashing Pumpkins’ headline highlight. In between, a setting sun cleanser from balladeer Vance Joy, offering a breath before the bonfire. The Pumpkins set was easily the most anticipated of the sold-out Saturday, and lead smasher Billy Corgan must have sensed it. With a charismatic and captivating performance, Corgan commanded the moment. Smoldering versions of “Today” and “Tonight, Tonight,” the latter on acoustic, surrounded a memorable take on Talking Heads’ “Once in a Lifetime.” Yet, it was the “1979” finale that forever affirmed it as a truly knockout night.
That left Sunday with a lot to match. And for jamband and guitar-driven classic rock aficionados, nearly every wish was granted. California’s own ALO started the morning under cover of a temperate marine layer, with an equally brisk and rewarding hour (though their BeachLife after-party in Venice that night may have been even better). But the heat came early and stayed for the next nine hours as Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe blistered through a funky soul party, only to see Ozomatli bring its flawless Latin grooves to Hightide in response.
The Devon Allman Project was next, featuring Ivan Neville on keyboards, and returning the favor to guest Frankenreiter, welcoming the surf poet for his “Move By Yourself,” amid a flurry of covers to close their time. Guest Samantha Fish sauntered over and crushed it on Tom Petty’s “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around,” and chipped in on The Allman Brothers Band’s “Midnight Rider.” Back at Hightide was the reconstituted UB40, reunited with Ali Campbell, and a cover-laden hour touching down on gems from Al Green, The Temptations, Prince, Elvis Presley, and Jimmy Cliff that played well to the mostly middle-aged attendees.
It would be easy to link Joe Russo’s Almost Dead into that same ilk, playing a set of Grateful Dead and Jerry Garcia covers, yet anyone familiar with JRAD knows theirs is a unique and intriguing stamp. Filling the 60 minutes with but five songs, yet, with such a vigorous, propulsive, and concentrated approach to improvisation, it played instead like one joyous carnival ride at the seaside, beginning with a lock-tight “Shakedown Street” and closing with “Eyes of the World.”
Lord Huron took over Hightide with an equally arresting presence, only for Sheryl Crow to tilt the dial back to relax at Lowtide. Soaking up the sun and in tremendous voice on her string of neo-classics, Crow was terrific and light, hitting all the hits including “All I Wanna Do,” and “My Favorite Mistake.” The multi-Grammy-winning songstress mixed in a live debut of “Forever,” as well, and brought out Neville for a jabbing version of the Rolling Stones’ “Live with Me.”
In the final position was Steve Miller, who, like Crow has a seemingly endless catalog of chart busters and FM favorites. The Space Cowboy’s impressively stretched-out and funky “Fly Like An Eagle” set the tone on a 90-minute victory lap that showcased his penchant for the blues alongside the essential pleasers, “Swingtown,” “Take the Money and Run,” and the weekend-wrapping encore of “The Joker.” If 2019 established BeachLife as a viable player in the festival game, and 2021 revived it from a pandemic lockdown, 2022’s edition settled it in securely as a community-friendly musical buffet that rapidly has become a circled weekend on the calendar.